Dana Priest is a great reporter. Her piece on the covert American role in the civil war in Colombia is outstanding. Of course, it’s hard to know how to feel about our country’s role in decimating the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). I think my biggest problem with it is just that it isn’t acknowledged as an official policy of the U.S. government. Congress doesn’t authorize it or even really oversee it. They don’t directly fund it. And, while Langley and the Pentagon take certain steps to distance themselves from the actual assassinations, that’s purely cosmetic. For years, the CIA maintained control of the encryption codes for the smart bombs, which meant that they had to sign off on every mission. Under those circumstances, it doesn’t matter that the planes and pilots are Colombian.
I have no sympathy for the FARC, but I don’t buy the idea that they are a national security threat to the United States. I can understand the concept that large-scale drug traffickers who flood our country with addictive substances are a threat, but FARC is only one of many groups who are shipping drugs to America. We need a more coherent and consistent policy because using Reagan’s presidential finding against drug traffickers to take sides in a brutal civil war is disingenuous. Also, it should be remembered that Colombia’s government has a terrible human rights record and the following hardly seems consistent with our president’s own history.
Since 1986, more than 2,800 labor leaders and union members have been killed in Colombia. In recent years this South American nation has led the world in this grim statistic. And more than 9 out of 10 of these cases remain unsolved.
Colombia’s failure to protect workers was a key reason for the five-year delay in U.S. congressional approval of a free trade agreement with it. It was finally approved in 2011. Amid protests from human rights and labor groups, U.S. officials said Colombia had taken steps to protect workers and their labor rights.
Unions, human rights activists and others say the abuses and dangers persist, and in some case have grown. As a result of attacks on unions and other pressures, the percentage of unionized workers in Colombia has dropped from 15 percent 20 years ago to about 4 percent today.
Teachers have suffered along with others largely because they were seen as social activists and community organizers.
So, basically, I have a lot of problems with our policies in Colombia even though I can say that I am kind of glad that the FARC is taking a beating. I just can’t say that I agree with my country doing the beating.