Colombian aid needs substance not rhetoric

The mere rumor of U.S. involvement in Colombia threatens stability in all Latin America, making neighboring leaders nervous, to say the least. President George W. Bush’s action to expand U.S. involvement in Colombia’s civil war should have the same effect in the United States.

In the 2003 budget proposal, the Bush administration included $98 million in aid to Colombia to protect a vital oil pipeline from sabotage. Bush is also building congressional support for increased Colombian aid, deeming the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and two other insurgent groups terrorists. Colombian President Andres Pastrana is asking for increased U.S. support, allowing the U.S. military to take direct action against guerilla troops and playing up terrorist rhetoric.

Current U.S. involvement is strictly limited to counter-drug efforts, with $100 billion dollars in U.S. aid, mostly military, committed to Colombia in the 2-year-old “Plan Colombia” anti-drug legislation. When that legislation passed, Congress specifically banned support to put down rebels, deeming the 38-year-old civil war unwinnable and Colombian military leadership corrupt and weak. But the war on terror is causing some members of Congress to re-evaluate, and White House spokesman Ari Fleischer is attempting to influence public perception, repeatedly referring to the FARC as terrorists.

The government needs to draw the line in the “war on terror.” It is already expanding operations to Yemen, Georgia and the Philippines, and Colombia is extorting this to procure U.S. money and troops. Known previously as “guerillas or rebels,” FARC troops are now terrorists. Said Colombian Gen. Gustavo Porras, “The army is good at fighting guerillas, but we don’t have the resources to fight terrorism.” The United States cannot be baited into fighting someone else’s civil war.

Expanding aid beyond what is already designated to ebb drug flow is illegal. “We do have legal constraints,” Bush said. “We are providing advice to the Colombian government as to drug eradication, and we will keep it that way. The law is very clear.” But through the “war on terror,” Bush is looking to circumvent legal boundaries and sink the United States into potentially disastrous overextension of money and troops.

U.S. intervention in Colombia has never yielded definitive results. Despite the fact Colombia receives the largest amount of U.S. aid outside the Middle East, 90 percent of cocaine and 70 percent of the U.S. heroin supply come from that nation. Further military action will alienate neighboring countries and breed resentment of the United States. Peru, Panama and Ecuador are already feeling the effects – coca production in both nations has increased, undoubtedly due to displaced Colombian coca farmers.

The U.S. position against involvement needs no re-evaluation; rather, it needs fortification. In light of regional instability involvement in Colombia produces, the precedent it sets for the “war on terror” and lack of effect on drug production, U.S. citizens and members of Congress must remain adamantly against this involvement, and must not be swayed by anti-terrorism rhetoric.