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Speech by Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Mississippi), March 29, 2000
Mr. TAYLOR of Mississippi. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

The CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

Amendment No. 9 printed in the Congressional Record offered by Mr. Taylor of Mississippi:

Page 5, after line 7, insert the following new section:

Sec. 1202. (a) Limitation on number of Military Personnel in Columbia: The number of members of the Armed Forces of the United States in Colombia at any time may not exceed 300.

(b) Exceptions: (1) The limitation in subsection (a) does not apply to members of the Armed Forces of the United States in Colombia for the purpose of rescuing or retrieving United States military or civilian government personnel. The period for which a member of the Armed Forces of the United States may be in Colombia under this paragraph may not exceed 30 days unless expressly authorized by law.

(2) The limitation in subsection (a) does not apply to a member of the Armed Forces assigned to the United States Embassy in Colombia as an attache or as a member of the Marine Corps security detachment.

Mr. YOUNG of Florida. Mr. Chairman, I reserve a point of order on the gentleman's amendment.

The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Florida reserves a point of order.

Mr. TAYLOR of Mississippi. Mr. Chairman, we have been involved in a long debate today about what exactly our Nation should do on the war on drugs. There are some who advocate spending a great deal of money and possibly using the Armed Forces of the United States in the war in Colombia.

Mr. Chairman, as we speak we have Americans, since I have been a Member of Congress, who have been sent to the Gulf, to Haiti, to Somalia, to Rwanda, to Bosnia, to Kosovo and there are now about 200 Americans who are stationed, involved in training the Colombians in Colombia.

My amendment is straightforward. It would reserve the rights and the duties that are assigned to Congress in article 1, section 8 of the Constitution which is to decide where and when Americans get involved in a war to Congress. It would limit the number of United States personnel in Colombia to 300. It would provide an exception to that, that for 30 days the Armed Forces could break this limitation if need be in order to rescue Americans, be they in the military or not.

Mr. Chairman, in testimony before the Committee on Armed Services last week when asked the question, General Wilhelm, our Southern Commander said that he would support a limitation of troop strength in Colombia. I am asking for this country to do this. There is a great deal of fear that there could be unintended consequences.

We all know what happens once Americans are under fire, once they are challenged, it will be the response of this country that we will do whatever it takes to win that conflict. I think that question needs to be asked now rather than later.

As the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Burton) pointed out, this is indeed one of the most dangerous places on earth. We have Seal teams there, we have Special Forces A teams there, we have had submarines off the coast, we have had people involved in riverine operations. In the course of a year, we have about 3,000 Americans transit through Colombia. Yet this Congress has never decided whether or not we are going to get involved militarily in Colombia.

I hear on a daily basis my colleagues lament the fact that time and time again Americans are sent on deployment without congressional approval. This would allow the present situation to continue but would not allow it to grow beyond 300 men without the Armed Forces of the United States coming to Congress and asking for a change in policy.

I am told that in the 1950s, then Senator John Stennis, when the Nation of Vietnam was asking for airplane mechanics asked the question of his colleagues, what happens if the mechanics are fired upon, what happens then? Apparently as a Nation we did not do a very good job of deciding for ourselves the answer then. I would hope we do a much better job of deciding that question now. I would ask my colleagues to support this language and to see to it that we do not get further dragged into this war.

I would also remind my colleagues that as we seem to be getting dragged further into this war, the Colombian people who have the most to lose seem to be doing less. In the past month or so, they have changed their constitution so that people who have a high school diploma are no longer eligible for the draft. They have changed their laws to decrease the amount of money they are spending on defense. One cannot help but be left with the feeling that the Colombians are expecting the United States of America, brave young Americans to fight their war for them. I want to send them a very strong message that this is not the case. We will help you with materiel, we will help you with training, but we are not going to send young Americans down to Colombia to fight your civil war for you.

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