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Last Updated:6/19/02
Speech by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois), May 23, 2002

Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

I rise in strong support of the McGovern-Skelton amendment, and I want to thank my colleagues for their leadership on this important issue.

The Bush administration and the Republicans would have my colleagues believe that a change in our control policy, a shift from the policy of a counternarcotics to that of counterinsurgency is a logical part of our plan to eradicate the global terrorist network.

Last year's supporters of Plan Colombia were promising us that our efforts in Colombia were just about reducing the flow of drugs. They had many Members convinced that the policy was justified and that it was going to be successful. To date, our policy has been a spectacular failure and now it is even less justified.

It is a fact that despite our aggressive drug eradication efforts, coca cultivation has actually increased by 25 percent in Colombia. Despite our efforts, human rights abuses continue. Paramilitary death squads continue to brutalize innocent Colombians, and they operate with impunity from the military, and perhaps most disturbingly, military officials implicated in the deaths of the very people they are supposed to protect remain unpunished and on the Colombian government's payroll.

Anyone who thinks that the links between military and brutal paramilitary

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forces have been severed are simply ignoring the realities on the ground, which I was able to see myself when I went with the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern) to Colombia and listened to the people.
The May 6 Chicago Tribune editorial on this subject had it right. ``There is no advantage to the United States getting deeper into the 40-year old Colombian civil war. Money spent on drug interdiction there would be much more productively used for treatment of addicts here. And more American military aid is hardly going to advance chances of a political solution to this multi-headed conflict. This failed foreign policy cannot be salvaged, certainly not by pouring good money after bad. The House has an opportunity to put a stop to this.''

In 1999, I stood here in this Chamber and I warned my colleagues that Plan Colombia would be just the first in a series of blank checks for the war, with no foreseeable future.

Along with the sponsors of the amendment, I appreciate that the committee worked to narrow the parameters of the administration's original wide-open request to expand our role in Colombia. However, this bill still opens the door, and we all know that once a door is opened, it is very hard to shut.

This language reaches back and allows all fiscal year 2002 military aid, personnel and equipment to be used for counterterrorism, including any additional aid that might be sent under a continuing resolution later this year. Military escalation is built into this appropriation bill, but an exit strategy is not. Once we cross into counterinsurgency we are committing the might and the resource of the United States to a 4-decade old war that cannot be won militarily.

All of my colleagues should be reminded of President Johnson's agony and his inability to extricate the United States from a jungle quagmire in Vietnam. I would not wish that on a president of any party.

I want to also say in closing that I understand that tonight that the Republican leadership is going to adjourn at midnight, start a new legislative day, and it is just another strategy to shut down debate, and even as we argue the supplemental budget and wave the flag as we should for our military forces around the globe and for strengthening our fight against terrorism here at home, and even as we talk about strengthening democracy in Colombia, the leadership here is working furiously to be able to curtail democracy here on the floor of this House. We should not be so hypocritical as to be waving the flag and promoting democracy in the supplemental and then saying but we cannot have democracy here to debate what is legitimate debate here on this floor of the House of Representatives.

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