by Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Washington), June 21, 2000
GORTON. Mr. President, the effect of this amendment would be to strike the
Colombian drug money appropriation of $934 million and substitute for that
number $200 million. In other words, the passage of the amendment would
result in savings--that is to say, not spending--almost three-quarters of
a billion dollars, and by implication using that money to pay down the national
Curiously enough, I think
the justification for the amendment is as eloquently stated in the bill
being managed by my friend from Kentucky and by the committee report--which
I commend to my colleagues--that accompanies that amendment.
I will read one paragraph
now from the committee report:
Historically, INL has provided
support to the Colombian National Police. The Supplemental anticipates
a 7:1 shift in funding from the Police to the Army. Given the past limited
role and resources provided for counter-narcotics activities in Colombia
and the region, the Committee is concerned about the rapid, new, and unprecedented
levels of spending requested. The fiscal year 2000 program level of $50,000,000
for Colombia will now rise to nearly $1,000,000,000. The Committee has
grave reservations regarding the Administration's ability to effectively
manage the use of these resources to achieve the expected results of reducing
production and supply of cocaine while protecting human rights.
I could hardly state my case
better. We have a profound and dramatic shift in focus. We have a huge
19-1 increase in the amount of money in this bill focused on this particular
problem, and we lack even a clue as to whether or not it will have any
positive impact on drug trafficking between Colombia and the United States.
I will read the language found
on page 151 of the bill, section 6106:
LIMITATIONS ON SUPPORT FOR
PLAN COLOMBIA AND ON THE ASSIGNMENT OF UNITED STATES PERSONNEL IN COLOMBIA
(a) Limitation on Support for Plan Colombia: Except for appropriations
made by this Act and appropriations made by the Military Construction
Appropriations Act, 2001, for such purpose, none of the funds appropriated
or otherwise made available by any Act (including unobligated balances
of prior appropriations) shall be available for support of Plan Colombia
unless and until--
(1) the President submits
a report to Congress requesting the availability of such funds; and
(2) Congress enacts a joint
resolution approving the request of the President under paragraph (1).
In other words, let's spend
$1 billion, and after it is spent, let's ask the President for a justification
of why we were spending it and a plan for what we are going to do in the
That is absolutely, totally,
completely backwards. This is a major undertaking, a huge change in our
relationship with Colombia, in what we sometimes fatuously denominate
a war against drugs, with some kind of hope that it will have a positive
impact. My guess is I will very shortly be asked to enter into a time
agreement so we can vote on this amendment no later than 6 or 6:30 p.m.
today. Time constraints will lead me to accept that time agreement. But
is it not equally bizarre and irresponsible that we should put the United
States into another military adventure on the basis of so short and superficial
a debate about both means and ends in connection with this appropriation?
The Senator from Minnesota,
Mr. Wellstone, just proposed an amendment that got very few votes, that
superficially at least was aimed at the same goal. I say `superficially'
because Senator Wellstone did not propose to save any of the money. He
simply proposed to spend about 25 percent of it with priorities that differed
from those of the committee and those of the President of the United States.
The war and all the equipment were still there under his amendment. We
just had a quarter of a billion dollars spent on various social program
His amendment, in other words,
did not go to the heart of the question that is before us. That question
is, Are we prepared casually, at this point, to take the first step in
what has often in the past been an inevitable series of steps toward engaging
in another shooting war?
I grant you there is a limitation
of no more than 250 American military personnel to accompany the equipment
we will be selling to Colombia under the provisions of this bill. But
isn't that almost always the way we begin an adventure of this nature,
with pious declarations that our participation is limited; we are just
helping some other country solve its own problems and challenges in some
military fashion? I think so.
But this is a shift from supporting
a police force in a friendly country to supporting an army engaged in
a civil war, a civil war that it has not been winning, a civil war in
which the other side is very well financed--indirectly, at least, in large
part by Americans who purchase cocaine--but without the slightest real
control over the use of the equipment that the Colombian Army will be
receiving pursuant to this bill.
How long will it be until
we read the first news story about some of this equipment showing up in
the hands of the rebels, by capture or, for that matter, by purchase?
I don't know, but that is what has constantly happened in the past in
almost each of the other adventures of this nature in which the United
States has found itself.
But my fundamental point with
respect to this amendment is that we are voting money first and asking
for the justification later. We should get the justification first and
make the determination as to whether to spend this amount of money or
how much we ought to spend after we know exactly what the plan is and
how the plan promises to lead to any kind of successful conclusion.
But the bill says, right here
on pages 151 and 152, we will spend the $934 million and then the President
will tell us how he is going to spend future money, and we will get a
At a later stage in a similar
adventure, we went through an almost identical debate just a couple of
weeks ago on Kosovo. We voted the money and lacked, by a small margin,
the courage even to say that it had to be justified and authorized by
Congress a year from now. I hope we may have learned something from that
experience. Should we not seriously debate this
matter first--not just in
a couple of hearings in an Appropriations Committee and essentially a
rider on an appropriations bill but seriously and extensively? Is this
the single best way in which to spend the almost three-quarters of a billion
dollars that is the subject of this amendment, even on drug interdiction,
much less on any other potential program in the United States? Will it
help Colombia? Does it really address drug problems in the United States?
Is there an exit strategy?
We know there was not any
in Bosnia. We know there is not any in Kosovo. And we sure are not told
what it is here. One consequence of passing this appropriations bill in
its present form, however, is certain. It will not be a one-time appropriation.
It will not be the only request we are asked to respond to, to deal with
the Colombian military, almost $1 billion in this appropriation--a downpayment.
But it isn't a downpayment we make on a home or an automobile. It is a
downpayment on which we don't know the schedule of future payments; we
don't know the total amount of future payments; we don't know how we will
measure success if, indeed, any success exists. It is simply the beginning
of an open-ended commitment, with the pious statement that the President
must come back a year from now and justify future appropriations and get
a joint resolution of Congress.
I don't think those lines
are worth the paper they are printed on because next year's foreign operations
appropriations bill can just appropriate another $1 billion, and its passage
will be that joint resolution, without any more justification than we
In one respect, at least,
I must interject with this comment: I have been overly critical. In comparison
with the way in which this problem has been treated in the House of Representatives,
this appropriation is a model of responsibility. It includes considerably
fewer dollars and considerably more in the way of conditions--future conditions
though they may be. That means, unfortunately, the conference committee
will end up spending more money than we are spending here and probably
with fewer and less responsible requirements imposed on the administration
in the way in which the money is spent.
But my points in this amendment
are simple. We are asked to engage in another civil war. I repeat that.
We are asked to engage in another civil war with a major commitment to
equipment and training for the Colombian Army. Very rarely does this kind
of commitment get made without escalating into something more, in money
or in personnel or the like. Very rarely are insurgencies such as the
one in Colombia successfully met when those insurgencies have as large
a source of monetary support as this one seems to have.
In any event, I suppose one
can even say that this is a good, thoughtful, and responsible idea, but
we do not know that. We have not had any kind of national debate on the
subject. We have not had anything more than the most superficial justification
for it by an administration whose foreign policy guesses so far during
the last few years do not lend a great degree of confidence to most of
us with respect to the responsibility of this adventure.
In the relatively short period
of time we have available, I ask my colleagues to ask themselves the simple
question: Do you know enough about this idea to risk $1 billion on it
in an open-ended commitment to an entirely new adventure in a campaign
which has rather spectacularly lacked in success for the last 10 or 20
years? Wouldn't you like a little bit more advanced justification? Wouldn't
you like a little bit more time to thoughtfully consider whether we want
to involve ourselves in this particular civil war? Isn't there somewhere
that you can think of that $700 million would be spent more wisely, even
in connection with our struggle against illegal drug usage in the United
States or for some other program entirely or for the reduction in the
national debt to which we all give so much lipservice, except when it
comes up against a new spending program?
What I offer is an amendment
that will still have us spending four times as much money in Colombia
than we are spending during the course of the current year--four times
as much money, $50 million to $200 million--but one that will require
the President to come up to us with the very requirements that are set
out on pages 151 and 152 of this bill but with a difference. He will have
to come up and justify it before we give him the money rather than after
it is over.
Next year, this request will
be a very simple one: Oh, gosh, we have already spent $1 billion. We can't
stop now; it is just beginning to show results; the helicopters have only
been down there for 2 months; we are only asking another $1.5 billion,
or whatever the request; we can't quit now; we won't show constancy; we
won't show purpose. The time to show constancy and purpose is right now.
This spending program, even
with the restrictions and limitations included in this bill, is not responsible.
It is not the right way to spend money. It is almost impossible to conceive
that it will be successful, and we should deal with it today, here and
now, by very simply saying: No; no, Mr. President, not until there is
a far greater justification than any that you have presented so far.
We should heed in our votes
as well as in our words the very words of the committee and show `grave
reservations regarding the administration's ability to effectively manage
the use of these resources.' If we have grave reservations, we should
not be spending the money until those reservations are met and we have
a far greater degree of confidence than any of us can show today that
this spending will be effective.
As of June 25, 2000, this document
was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r106:S21JN0-228: