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Last Updated:8/6/03
Speech by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Missouri), July 23, 2003

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

Mr. Chairman, I am extremely pleased to cosponsor this amendment with my friend and my colleague, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern). We have sponsored a number of amendments over the last several years to take dollars from the American military assistance to Colombia, and I do not do this action because I am unsympathetic to President Uribe and what he is trying to accomplish. I think he is sincerely working to break the stranglehold that drug cartels and insurgency groups have on his nation. But the message sent by cutting this funding, those messages need to reach the Colombian people, this administration and his administration.

It is true, Mr. Chairman, that more is asked of the American soldier that is sent to Colombia than Colombia asks of its own soldiers. This bothers me to no end.

[Time: 20:30]
The Colombian people need to take concerted and consistent steps to help provide for their long-term security. That means providing for a sustained financial base.

Our administration needs to come forward with a long-term strategy for American military involvement in Colombia. Many in this House are worried about the creeping nature of our expanding mission in Colombia, known as mission creep. We need to know what role the American troops will play and for what period of time.

Having this knowledge is even more critically important as we face a long-term commitment. Our troops have the possibility of continued work in North Korea, Liberia, not to mention Iraq. We do not have enough troops to go around the world wearing them out.

We need to increase our end strength, but we have needed to do that for a while. We also need to look carefully at all of our commitments and the decisions.

So I urge my colleagues to vote for this amendment. It does not eliminate all funding for Colombia, nor does it touch the critical programs like IMET, which is developing a more professional military in Colombia.

I said a moment ago that more is asked of the American soldier that is down there helping them fight the rebels than they ask of their own soldiers. Every soldier in the American Army has at least a high school education or its equivalent or they cannot join. If anyone has a high school education in Colombia, they are exempt from their military conscription. If they come from wealthy families, if they have a high school education, they do not have to serve; but Americans down there to train them and trying to help beat back the rebels are more highly educated and are putting themselves on the line, when they in Colombia do not ask the same as we ask of our soldiers who are there to help them.

Mr. Chairman, I resent this. I resent this very much. If they want our continued help, they should prove it by having a conscription law that cuts across all classes and all education. So I urge my colleagues to vote for this amendment. It will not injure the programs that are important whatsoever, and it will cause them in Colombia, as well as our administration, to take a good hard look at what is necessary to win in Colombia.

As of August 6, 2003, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/B?r108:@FIELD(FLD003+h)+@FIELD(DDATE+20030723)

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