by Rep. Jose Serrano (R-New York), May 23, 2002
Mr. SERRANO. Mr.
Chairman, let me first comment on the gentleman's comments, the last speaker.
We have spent close to $1.5 billion in fighting drugs, and coca production
is up by over 25 percent. Even in what we are supposed to be doing, we
are not succeeding the way we should.
Secondly, I would
like to and I am not being sarcastic here, I would like to commend those
in the administration who have decided now that every time we are going
to get involved somewhere it is to fight terrorism. And so how can you
argue against fighting terrorism?
Well, Colombia is
not about terrorism. Terrorism is my city. I understand it was the people
who attacked the Twin Towers, who attacked the Pentagon, and they wanted
to attack the White House. Yes, there are terrorists groups throughout
the Nation, throughout the world.
We participate wholeheartedly
behind President Bush and this Congress and the Senate in fighting that
war. But this is a civil war. It has been going on for over 35 years.
And history should tell us that every time we get involved in a civil
war, we come out in a very bad situation.
I was thinking as
I was listening to the speakers prior to me that there must have been
folks, historical figures in this House, who sat here and debated this
right before we escalated our involvement in Vietnam. And at that time
they were probably questioned too, after all, were they unpatriotic in
their desire not to fight Communism at that point, the same way some of
us may not be patriotic in our desire not to fight terrorism? But Colombia,
I repeat, is a civil war.
With all due respect
to the people in Colombia who are the victims of this war, it is very
hard on any given day of the week to determine who the good guys are and
who the bad guys are in Colombia. No one can stand here and tell us that
Colombia's governmental history has been one of stellar behavior. No one
can tell us that the FARC is an organization that is respected by anyone.
No one can tell us that the right wing paramilitaries are respected by
anyone. No one fighting that war at one time or another is respected by
anyone because it is very hard to determine who the good guys are and
who the bad guys are.
And I suggest to
you that to go in as we do in the change of language in this bill, and
take sides, is the most dangerous thing we can do at this point.
Let me also make
another comment. For many years now the left in Latin America has been
pretty dormant. My friends, the sight of American troops in uniform on
Latin American soil, as we will surely have as we escalate, would
only invite a backlash of anti-American sentiment that we do not need
at this point. What we need above all is to continue to help in the peace
process of Colombia.
The gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton) said it best, and I know it
upsets some people, this is a Gulf of Tonkin resolution that we are voting
on today. Make no mistake about it. We are moving towards a dangerous
situation here, and we will not know how to get out of it.
Some people have
said that I exaggerate when I say that, when I say Colombia could be a
Spanish-speaking Vietnam for us; and that is the difference, the language
we will have to learn to be able to stay there for 5, 10, 15 years. But
when you have had a situation going on for that long and you cannot get
people to agree on anything, how do you determine that we know how to
handle this? How do you determine that we are the ones who will solve
What we should be
doing is, one, making sure that we try to force the peace process to continue
to take place somehow, somewhere for the Colombian people; and, secondly,
that we stay away from any involvement.
Now, I know that
some people on this floor are going to try to tie this in to other issues
in Latin America. It is a natural for us. Let me just say that there is
no involvement here by any other government. This is a civil war. In fact,
the Pastrana government has said that he has received help from many other
places, including the Cuban Government, on trying to bring about the peace
process. And so no one is in favor of continuing this situation in Colombia.
Now, one last thing
that we need to also remember. We Americans, I, myself included, refuse
every so often to understand that if we use drugs at the alarming rate
that we continue to use, someone will always grow it for us, someone will
always produce it. So rather than to stand here and bash the Colombian
society for what is a major problem and then try to solve that problem
by getting involved militarily, that is a mistake.
A couple of years
ago I said that we would be back here to expand. I hope I am wrong, but
we will be here again to expand. I support this amendment. We should get
out right now.
As of June 19, 2002,
this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/B?r107:@FIELD(FLD003+h)+@FIELD(DDATE+20020523)