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Last Updated:6/25/00
Speech by Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Washington), June 21, 2000
Mr. 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 debt.

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:


[Page: S5512]

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 future.

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 purposes.

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 joint resolution.

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 have today.

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:
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