Colombia's fight against the FARC and ELN terrorists has become harder,
due to the fact that $55 million in military aid has been frozen by a U.S.
Senate subcommittee led by Senator Patrick Leahy. This freeze holds the
potential to greatly aid FARC and ELN, simply by preventing Colombia from
keeping up the pressure, and shows how the change in control of Congress
affects the global war on terror. How?
The answer lies in the fact that the new
congressional majority is led by people who tend to view FARC and ELN in a more
sympathetic light. The U.S. and
Colombian government consider FARC and ELN to be terrorist
organizations. Senator Leahy is a long-time outspoken critic of aid to the
Colombian government that went for both counter-insurgency and
counter-narcotics efforts as well.
Leahy, though, needed an excuse, and the recent
scandal involving alleged connections to right-wing paramilitaries like the AUC
provided just that. This came about through a leaked CIA report, among other
things, that claimed one senior military leader had connections with the
paramilitaries, a charge that has been leveled against many, including
Colombian president Uribe. Much of the connections were due to officers in the
field taking the view that the enemy of their enemy was their friend.
As a result, there was significant pressure from
groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Both groups have been
major players in the lawfare surrounding Guantanamo Bay, and Amnesty
International sued the CIA in 2001 to force the release of information on
activities of the group Los Pepes, during the hunt for drug cartel leader Pablo
Escobar. The freeze in aid, sought by those groups, could not have come at a
worse time. Why?
The answer is that Colombia's efforts, backed by
U.S. aid, not only have managed to get the AUC to disarm, but they also have
put FARC and ELN on the ropes. FARC has, in recent months, fled across the
Colombian-Ecuadorian border, seeking a safe haven. While a number of
left-leaning parties and officials in Europe have abandoned FARC and ELN,
recognizing their status as terrorists, they still draw a lot of sympathy,
particularly among the American left. In the 1980s, that sympathy manifested
itself in two forms: One was the Boland Amendment and other restrictions. The
other was a series of leaks that were intended to undermine the Reagan
Administration's policy in Latin America.
That residual sympathy, combined with reflexive
opposition to Bush Administration policies, means that FARC now has a chance to
recover. How bad has FARC had it? In recent moths, they had to shift to bombing
attacks due to the need to conserve their trained gunmen. With the reduction in
military aid to Colombia by sympathetic Congressmen, they now have the chance
to replenish their forces. The success the Colombian government has had in
pushing back FARC has also resulted in an economic recovery.
The human rights groups and those in Congress who
support their agenda have once again shown that they have more concern about
terrorists and their support networks than they do about the people that FARC
and ELN kill, kidnap, or maim. This is despite the fact that for years, the
State Department has considered FARC and ELN terrorist groups. This means the
war in Colombia will go on longer, with more casualties. - Harold C. Hutchison