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Last Updated:6/25/00
Speech by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California), June 21, 2000
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, listening to the Senator from Delaware, one would think the Wellstone amendment is taking away all the funding from Colombia. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Senator from Minnesota is leaving in place the funding for Colombia; that makes good sense. Here is what is left in this bill after the Senator's amendment: Funding for interdiction; funding for the Colombia police; funds for alternative development and internally displaced people; funds for human rights; funds for regional assistance; funds to rehabilitate soldiers under the age of 18 who have been involved in armed conflict.

The only thing the Senator from Minnesota is doing in his amendment is making sure this country doesn't get involved in a conflict that could hurt our people eventually. The Senator from Minnesota is saying we are going to help President Pastrana, we will help this country, we will help this region, but we are not going to get involved with the military.

I thank the Senator from the bottom of my heart for this amendment. I don't care if the Senator gets 2 votes or 22 votes; he is doing the right thing.

I clearly understand the threat that illegal drugs pose to our country, to my State of California, and I clearly understand that Colombia is a major supplier of the cocaine and heroin that reach our shores. But let me tell my friends in the Senate, we need a balanced approach to this horrible problem of drug abuse. You could have a big supply, but if no one wanted to buy it, it would not hurt anyone. The fact is, the people in this country want to buy it. And there is not 1 cent in this bill, out of $1 billion--not 1 cent to help us with education, treatment on demand, prevention. This is a lost opportunity. What my friend from Minnesota is saying is, if we in this Chamber are sincere about fighting drugs, and a war on drugs, then we do not put $1 billion into a foreign country and ignore what is happening here at home.

Let me tell you what happens in California and all over this country when someone is arrested for a violent crime. Mr. President, 50 percent to 75 percent of those perpetrators of this violence are high on drugs. I cannot tell you how many times when I have been in my State--maybe it is because my State is a large State--that I have someone come up to me, a parent, saying: I have a son or a daughter who wants to get off drugs; there is no room in a treatment center; we don't have money; we have to spend a lot of money; what are we going to do?

I look at that person and all I can say is: Send me a letter and let me see if we can help you find some treatment program that might have a slot.

Does it make sense to spend $1 billion, as this bill does, and ignore the emergency here at home? We are so quick to find the money to send somewhere else, but what about our people who are ready, perhaps, to take that step to get off drugs? Telling them they have to wait 6 months to get into a program is consigning them to more months of addiction. What happens if we can stop this whole thing before it starts, with education, with prevention? I do not quite understand the enthusiasm for a bill that does not spend a penny here at home.

My friend from Delaware is as eloquent as anyone on this floor. He says, `Yes, we are spending more.' Yes, we are spending more in our regular appropriation, but if we are facing such a horrible emergency that we have to go in, with $1 billion, I have to say to my friend, why can't we see this emergency here at home, when people cannot get treatment on demand? You don't have a sale if you don't have a willing buyer. Unfortunately, the addicts are here, in this country.


[Page: S5499]
Mr. BIDEN. Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mrs. BOXER. Yes, I am happy to.

Mr. BIDEN. Why doesn't the Senator have an amendment to take $1 billion out of the highway trust fund or $1 billion out of the education budget or $1 billion out of NIH or $1 billion out of the Department of Energy?

Mrs. BOXER. I will be glad to answer it. Because this is $1 billion to deal with the drug problem specifically. That is the point of it. The Senator made that point. The Senator from Illinois made that point. This is money that we are spending because we are stunned at the drug trafficking that is going on--and we should be. All the Senator from Minnesota is saying in his amendment, which I am proud to support, is we will leave 75 percent of that money intact to do the things we want to do to help the good President of Colombia. But all we are saying is before we get our advisers caught in a situation over there--you know, you may be right. Maybe nothing will ever go

wrong with it. But all we are saying is, how about fighting a drug war here at home for a change instead of always spending the money outside of this country?

Mr. BIDEN. Will my distinguished colleague yield for another question, just 10 seconds?

Mrs. BOXER. Yes, I am happy to yield.

Mr. BIDEN. The Senator is aware the President's budget calls for spending $6 billion in drug treatment and prevention, including $31 million for substance abuse block grants; that is $54 million on targeted capacity expansion programs, $37 million for research and treatment, $5 million--the list goes on. The Senator is aware of that?

Mrs. BOXER. If I may take back my time, and I will not be able to further yield because I have such a restriction, I stated that. I gave my friend absolute assurance I understand that. We are not doing enough when 50 percent----

Mr. BIDEN. I agree.

Mrs. BOXER. Of the addicts in my State are not getting treatment. Only 50 percent can get treatment. The other 50 percent, unless they are rich, cannot get the treatment on demand.

Mr. WELLSTONE. Will the Senator yield for a moment?

Mrs. BOXER. Yes, I will.

Mr. WELLSTONE. For my colleague from California, just so she knows, the particular program we are talking about, which is the block grant, the SAMHSA block grant program to our States and communities for treatment programs, is $1.6 billion.

My colleague's figure lumps everything and anything together.

Mr. BIDEN. On treatment.

Mr. WELLSTONE. I am talking about direct treatment out in the community. When 80 percent of the adolescents in this country get no treatment whatsoever, and 60 percent of the adults get no treatment whatsoever, it is hard to come out on the floor and say we have already made this tremendous commitment, there is no reason to talk about some additional resources.

Mrs. BOXER. Again, I represent the largest State in the Union. My friend represents a smaller State. I would just say, maybe it is my State, but when I see these figures coming back--and my friend is a leader in the whole issue of crime prevention and being tough on crime and all the rest, and he knows it is true that if you look at the arrests for violent crime in our country--I could say particularly in California, 50 to 75 percent of the perpetrators are high on drugs. So all my friend from Minnesota is saying in his amendment is everything the Senator said about President Pastrana, everything he said about the need to help his country--I don't argue with that. That is why I am proud of this amendment. Everything is left in except getting us involved in this counternarcotics insurgency, which may well put us in a situation where we find ourselves between two bad actors: the FARC on the one hand, with a horrible story of violence and human rights violations, and the paramilitary on the right-hand side here, with the same horrible record. Unfortunately, it ties to the military in Colombia.

So here we are, giving us a chance to do all the good things in this appropriations bill that we are happy are in

there, but to take out the one for $225 million, that could lead us into trouble.

Here is the Boston Globe. They talk about targeting addiction. They say:

The Clinton proposal for U.S. intervention in Colombia's Civil War----

And that is what is being supported on this floor. They say it really isn't going to work. They finish saying:

History suggests that increased funding for treatment of addicts and programs for prevention--treatment on demand for drugs--can accomplish more to ameliorate the individual and social pathology associated with the endless war on drugs.

This is the Boston Globe. We have a number of editorials that are very strong on this point.

This is the St. Petersburg Times. We have these from all over the country:

Have we forgotten the lessons of our involvement in Central America in the 1980s . . .?

They talk about the fact:

In an attempt to contain communism, our government provided support to right-wing governments and paramilitary groups that used the aid to slaughter thousands of innocent civilians. This time, America's stated public interest is stopping drug trafficking.

But, it says:

It could, however, draw us into a brutal civil war in which civilians are a target.

This would be a tragedy if we repeated that kind of scenario. We have to learn from history. I think the amendment of the Senator is protecting us from just this problem.

Washington should have learned long ago that partnership with an abusive and ineffective Latin American military rarely produces positive results and often undermines democracy in the region.

That is from the New York Times. It talks about the fact that President Pastrana is well intentioned, but all of the programs he faces, we are going to be faced with them as well.

Then, from the Detroit News:

Colombia: The Next Quagmire?

The Clinton Administration's proposed aid package intends to break the choke hold of the guerrillas by training and arming Colombia's military. The hope is that returning control to a legitimate government will help curb the illegitimate narcotrade. But this is a naive hope that ignores the other half of Colombia's gritty ground reality. The military is a corrupt institution with close links to the outlawed paramilitary groups that control the drug trade in urban areas.

It goes on. This is not Senator Boxer speaking or Senator Wellstone. These are editorial boards from all over the country.

We have others from California that I wanted to have printed in the Record. I ask unanimous consent they be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:


[Page: S5500]

From the Sacramento Bee, View Related Topics July 31, 1999

[FROM THE SACRAMENTO BEE, VIEW RELATED TOPICS JULY 31, 1999]
Five American soldiers were killed in a plane crash the other day in a mountainous region of Colombia. They were on a reconnaissance flight as part of an escalating U.S. effort in support of the Colombian government's war against heavily armed narcotics traffickers.

The deaths call attention to a U.S. aid program that has grown rapidly, partly because Washington has more confidence in Colombia's new president, Andres Pastrana, than in his corrupt predecessor, and partly because of a perception that the threat to this country posed by Colombian traffickers is increasing.

That perception is strongly held by Gen. Barry McCaffrey, President Clinton's anti-narcotics chief, who says cocaine production in Colombia has doubled in three years, that 80 percent of the cocaine and heroin entering the United States comes from Colombia and that traffickers have amassed so much wealth that they can buy all the weapons and recruit all the fighters they need, especially in a time of economic hardship for most Colombians, to fend off poorly trained and underarmed government forces.

McCaffrey has called for $1 billion in emergency U.S. aid to combat the drug trade in Latin America, most of it for Colombia, which is getting $289 million this year--triple last year's total. (Colombia now ranks third, behind Israel and Egypt, as a U.S. aid recipient.) The money would pay for technical and intelligence assistance, and training by U.S. advisers of a newly created anti-narcotics army battalion whose mission is to attack guerrilla units, clearing the way for police (who get most U.S. aid) to move in and eradicate coca crops.

But there are serious obstacles. For one thing, U.S. aid has been meager in the past not only due to corruption but because of rampant human rights violations by soldiers and right-wing paramilitary groups. Thus the new battalion has been carefully recruited and will receive human rights training.

A larger problem is that U.S. aid is meant to target only Colombia's narcotics traffickers, not a 35-year-old leftist insurgency. Yet the two have become virtually indistinguishable as guerrillas extort tribute from coca growers and traffic in drugs as well. The largest guerrilla group now controls much of the southern half of the country thanks to Pastrana's policy--deemed naive by many Colombians and by some U.S. officials: of keeping troops out of the region as an inducement to the rebels to negotiate a peace settlement. But the rebels, while enjoying their immunity, have stalled negotiations.

Despite such troubling signs, McCaffrey appears to have strong support in Congress, and to some extent from the White House, for increasing U.S. aid even as drug prevention and treatment programs at home are given only minimal funding. Those priorities are misplaced.

The Pentagon insists that U.S. combat troops will not be used in Colombia. Good. But Americans have heard that before, about Vietnam, and rebels say they regard U.S. advisers as targets. While it may be premature to sound an alarm, it's not too early to begin a debate about U.S. interests in a conflict that has at least the potential to suck Americans into another quagmire. Congress and the administration owe it to the country to clarify what's at stake, what is contemplated and what is not, and the sooner the better.


--

--

From the Fresno Bee April 5, 2000

[FROM THE FRESNO BEE APRIL 5, 2000]

Anti-Drug Folly: U.S. Aid Plan Would Raise Stakes in Colombian Conflict
By a wide margin, the House of Representatives has approved $1.7 billion to aid Colombia in its fight against drug traffickers who supply the bulk of the cocaine and heroin to the United States. The aim is laudable, but the chances of success seem slight. Before the Senate takes up the measure, which the Clinton administration strongly supports, there must an intensive national debate.

The legislation bans the use of U.S. combat troops, but allows that U.S. advisers be sent to train Colombian forces in the use of U.S. helicopters and other equipment and to ensure that American aid is used properly--in particular, that human rights are respected by specially trained Colombian anti-narcotics battalions. Such constraint is important.

But staying within those limits will be difficult, given the immense terrain involved, the history of human rights abuses in Colombia and the legislative mandate that aid can be used only against drug traffickers and not against leftist guerrillas who often collaborate with them. And if right-wing death squads that have been closely linked to elements of the Colombian military continue to operate, some of the blame will inevitably accrue to the U.S. program, fairly or not. Add to that Colombia's endemic corruption, deadly political intimidation and the ease with which drug crops can be shifted from areas eradicated and the task seems overwhelming.

Undaunted, U.S. officials want funding to be expedited. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott objects, not to aid for Colombia but to folding it into a $12.7 billion supplemental appropriations bill that includes other military aid, domestic flood relief and various pork-barrel projects. He's right; the Colombian program is too critical to be obscured by typical election-year log-rolling.

Opponents fear, reasonably, that the United States could become ensnared in a foreign civil war that is not a vital U.S. interest and that is probably unwinnable without far more intervention than most Americans would support. Backers say that Colombia's plight is a vital U.S. interest because of the impact among drug-addicted Americans. But every study, and common sense, tell us that the solution lies mostly at home--in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs that badly need more funds.

In short, the onus is on the administration to persuade Americans that this program is not the beginning of an open-ended commitment.

U.S. aid to Colombia may be justified, but only if it is carefully defined and performance-based in terms of military success and democratic reform. Otherwise, it could turn out to be another nightmare that might have been avoided had we paid closer attention going in.


--

--

From the Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2000

[FROM THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, MAY 15, 2000]

Colombia Aid Bill Would Escalate a Failed Policy; Drugs: Treatment and Reducing Cocaine Consumption is a Better Way To Go

(BY ROBERT DOWD)
U.S. demand created the drug crisis situation in Colombia, and our military intervention there merely places American troops and civilian contractors in harm's way in an effort to salvage our failed drug policy.

The Clinton administration has proposed, and congressional Republicans seem prepared to accept, a $1.7-billion military aid package to Colombia. This formiable expenditure builds on existing aid--Colombia is already the largest recipient of U.S. military aid outside the Middle East--and involves us more deeply in a 4-decades-old civil war, as well as perpetuates programs that have failed to control drug production.

As a veteran, I know the importance of a clear military objective, of having the resources needed for success, and a clear exit strategy. In Colombia, we are sending a handful of helicopters and a few hundred of troops. Yet we were unable to control a smaller Vietnam with hundreds of helicopters and half a million troops.

The Colombia military intervention seems poorly planned, unrealistic and doomed to fail. After a few years of military support, we will face the choice of accepting defeat or gradually being pulled into an expensive military quagmire in which victory is unattainable.

The reason the U.S. is becoming more involved in Colombia's internal affairs is that our government's efforts to reduce cocaine availability have failed miserably, and drug money has strengthened the rebel armies. We already spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually to eradicate crops in South America, especially in Colombia. According to a 1999 report by the General Accounting Office, `Despite two years of extensive herbicide spraying, U.S. estimates show there has not been any net reduction in coca cultivation--net coca cultivation actually increased 50%.'

Rather than escalate a failed policy, we should recognize that the present strategy cannot succeed and look for new approaches.

According to the Rand Corp., eradication is the least-effective way to reduce drug use. Rand's research found that $34 million spent on drug treatment in the U.S. would have the same effect as $783 million in eradication expenditures. Naturally, the less cocaine the U.S. consumes, the less incentive growers in Colombia will have to grow coca. That would be the best eradication policy.

Further, we need to face the difficult and politically controversial question of whether prohibition enforced by the drug war provides better control of the drug market than regulation enforced by administrative law. If we want to get international cartels and urban gangs out of the drug market we must determine how to control the market through civil law rather than criminal law.

The administration's most frequent rationale for pumping millions of dollars in aid and tons of military equipment into Colombia is the need to fight `narco-guerrillas.' In fact, there are reports that all sides--including the side the U.S. supports, the Colombian military--have been tied to the drug trade. It seems that we are supporting one group of drug traffickers while opposing another group.

The Colombian aid package is nothing more than an introduction to a quagmire and an escalation of failed drug policy.

The administration and Congress should step back and formulate goals they want to achieve in Colombia and then determine how best to achieve them without promoting bloodshed and lawlessness.

Mr. WELLSTONE. Does my colleague need more time?

Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, how much time do I have remaining?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has 2 1/2 minutes remaining.

Mrs. BOXER. I ask the Senator from Minnesota for an additional 5 minutes.

Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, I yield my colleague an additional 10 minutes.

Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I thank the Senator.

I will continue reading from some of these editorials. These are newspapers that have very different editorial policies, usually, from one another.

The Sacramento Bee:


[Page: S5501]
A larger problem is that U.S. aid is meant to target only Colombia's narcotics traffickers, not a 35-year-old leftist insurgency. Yet the two have become virtually indistinguishable as guerrillas extort tribute from coca growers and traffic in drugs as well. . . .

The Pentagon insists that U.S. combat troops will not be used in Colombia.

The newspaper says that is good.

But Americans have heard that before, about Vietnam, and rebels say they regard U.S. advisers as targets.

We have the rebel groups already saying U.S. advisers will be targeted.

This is what the Sacramento Bee says. I associate myself with their conclusion:

While it may be premature to sound an alarm, it's not too early to begin a debate about U.S. interests in a conflict that has at least the potential to suck Americans into another quagmire. Congress and the administration owe it to the country to clarify what's at stake, what is contemplated and what is not, and the sooner the better.

The L.A. Times says:

The administration's most frequent rationale for pumping millions of dollars in aid and tons of military equipment into Colombia is the need to fight `narco-guerrillas.' In fact, there are reports that all sides--including the side the U.S. supports, the Colombian military--have been tied to the drug trade. It seems that we are supporting one group of drug traffickers while opposing another group.

Let's look at this one. What are we doing? We have the left wing on one side killing people, human rights violations, and violent. We have the right wing on the other side, with which the Colombian military oftentimes sides, and they are doing the same thing from the right. In comes the United States of America advisers--and I know we have some advisers there already; I am aware of that, but this is clearly an escalation of our involvement through the donation of these helicopters and advisers--and they are going to become targets in the middle between the left and the right wings.

Even though we say they are there to fight drug trafficking, which is laudable, they may well go into the jungles and encounter some of the left-wing guerrillas and find themselves in a pretty horrible situation, which is something about which we need to be clear and why I am so proud to be a cosponsor of this amendment and why, quite frankly, I am a little surprised there is not more concern in the Senate.

There is a Fresno Bee editorial that is excellent. It says in part:

[This amendment] allows that U.S. advisers be sent to train Colombian forces in the use of U.S. helicopters and other equipment. . . . And if right-wing death squads that have been closely linked to elements of the Colombian military continue to operate, some of the blame will inevitably accrue to the U.S. program. . . .

That is another fear. What could be more important to us as Members of the Senate than making sure people do not get hurt in our country, in the world, that we work for peace and all the right things? If somehow our dollars wind up helping paramilitary groups and they commit human rights abuses and killings--and we know the list of these abuses; they are horrible--somehow it is definitely going to come back to us. It is going to come back to us, and I do not want that on my hands. I do not want that on the hands of the people from my State.

The Senator from Minnesota is giving us today an opportunity to do all the good things we should do in Colombia. I will go through them again. There are important things he has left in this bill.

He is only taking out 25 percent of this money and transferring it to this country to help us in a war on drugs in our Nation.

He is leaving in interdiction, $132 million to pay for new aircraft, upgrades for existing aircraft, secure communications, sea- and river-based interdiction.

He is leaving in $93 million for Colombian police to pay for spray aircraft, helicopter upgrade, communications, ammunition, equipment.

He is leaving in funds for alternative development for internally displaced people, $109 million--funds to help displaced people.

He is leaving in human-rights-boosting government capabilities. This funding would provide for the protection of human rights workers, judicial reform, training of judges, prison security--all the things President Pastrana needs to strengthen the institutions in Colombia.

He is leaving in regional assistance for Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. This funding would be used for alternative development programs in these nearby countries.

He is leaving in $5 million to help rehabilitate child soldiers, children who got involved in this conflict.

For people to talk against this amendment as if it is eviscerating aid to Colombia, eviscerating aid to President Pastrana, they have not read the Wellstone amendment. The only thing he is taking out is this involvement on the ground with this counterinsurgency against the narcotics.

As I look around my State and I read the studies from my State--for example, in Ventura County, CA, a beautiful part of our State where there is a lot of agriculture and open space and it looks like paradise, 40 percent of the county's homeless population is related to drug abuse or alcohol abuse. A San Francisco study found in 1998 that drug abuse was the leading killer of the homeless. There are over 500,000 drug-related emergency room episodes every year.

In 1995, nationwide, drug abuse cost $12 billion in health care--$12 billion in health care costs--and the good Senator is suggesting $225 million so we can cut down on those expenses. It is an investment to cut down on these costs.

The loss of productivity in 1992 has been calculated at $69.4 billion. That is a 1-year loss of productivity.

In summing up, I consider myself someone who is good at solving problems, and the way one solves problems is not putting blinders on and going in one direction, but looking at the whole problem. With the Wellstone amendment, taking $225 million and putting it in this country so we can stop people from becoming addicts and, if they are addicts, help them get off drugs,

this is going to be a really good and balanced bill, one that I will be proud to support.

Again, I thank him for leaving in this package the kinds of things we need to do to build democracy in Colombia, to make sure that regime succeeds, to train the people who need to be trained in judicial reform, to help human rights, to help the child soldiers, and to take that $225 million that will involve us, unwittingly, in what I consider to be a civil war, to take that out, bring it home--bring it home to California, bring it home to Georgia, bring it home to Minnesota, bring it home to New Hampshire, bring it home to our cities and our counties--and let people get the help they need, the help they deserve.

So I say to my friend, thank you for your courage in offering this. I am proud to stand with you.

I reserve the remainder of my time and yield it back to the Senator from Minnesota.

As of June 25, 2000, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r106:S21JN0-36:
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