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Speech by Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota), June 21, 2000
Mr. WELLSTONE. I thank my colleague from Illinois for his very gracious remarks. A lot of times there is unnecessary flattery on the floor that may not seem sincere. I appreciate what he said.

At the personal level, I thank him.

I was thinking about what my colleague from Illinois said. I want to raise a couple of quick questions as long as we are having this debate.

First of all, in terms of the explosion of the number of men and women incarcerated, I couldn't agree more.

This legislation, which is all about how to deal with the drug problem and is being billed as legislation that deals with trafficking of narcotics and trying to protect people in our own country, is very one sided. I am trying to take a portion of it and say let's deal with the demand side in our country.

Soon in this debate I will lay out all of the studies that have come out. It is a real scandal.

In the State of Illinois and my State of Minnesota, the big part of the problem is that people are not getting treatment. I am simply saying: Can't we take a portion of this legislation, which is all about trying to protect our citizens and trying to deal with this drug trafficking, and deal with the demand side? There is no real disagreement. I think most people in our country would say: Why don't we put money in the demand side and treating people right here?

My second point is that President Pastrana has made his own judgment about what he needs to do. I have tremendous respect for the President, but I think we also need to make our own judgment. In all due respect, again if we are talking about moving from police to military in a pretty dramatic way, and talking about putting ourselves right in the middle of this conflict, let's understand that we should be having a policy debate about our taking sides in this civil war.

I couldn't agree more about the left or the right. You have an unbelievable number of atrocities and murder being committed by both sides. There is no question about it. The question is whether or not we have now decided we are going to be there with aid and our people supporting the military in this counterinsurgency effort. Are we going to take sides in this military conflict?

I hear my colleague from Delaware say yes. I always respect his directness. But I think that is really what the debate is about. I think probably all of us need to understand, since some who have come to the floor have said they are against this amendment, if they are for the war against drugs, this is not a debate about only a war on drugs, obviously from what colleagues have said. We have been down this road before. Now we are going to say we have decided that we have to support the southern Colombia military, and we are going to put the money into this military effort. If we are going to have Americans there supporting it, we are taking sides. OK. As long as that is clear.

Third, my colleague from Illinois said that the police and the military are in this together, and that they work together. I do not know. Again, I didn't have a chance to visit Colombia. But I do know, at least from sort of the one time I was in Latin America and in my own study, that I always saw in these countries a great difference between the police and the military. You see the police. They are low-level guys who do their job. The military are the `Rambos.' There is a difference in the groups. They are an entirely different group of people and entirely different people.

In all due respect, the evidence we have right now by one human rights organization after another after another after another, much less the State Department report, is that about 70 percent of the violence has been committed thus far by paramilitary groups to which the military quite often is linked. We haven't been able to vet that. All of a sudden, we are going to be able to vet it, monitor it. We are going to be able to control it. I think that is a dubious proposition.

I think by militarizing this aid package we make a big mistake. I think we could support this amendment which permits extensive assistance to Colombia while safeguarding U.S. interests and avoid entanglement in a decades-old civil conflict and partnership with an army that is implicated in human rights abuses. Moreover, I think we could take some of the resources and put them where they could do the most good, which would be providing drug treatment programs at home.

I yield the floor and reserve the remainder of my time.

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