October 1, 2001
Narco News 2001
Road Through Afghanistan
Leads to Colombia
By Al Giordano
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
II of a Series
end until every terrorist
group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated
Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either
you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day
forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism
will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime."
W. Bush, Sept 20, 2001
historic blunders by United States
officials are converging into a boomerang upon all América.
The first is Washington's confusing and
arbitrary definition of "terrorists," and the State
Department's hodgepodge blacklist of "foreign terrorist
organizations." That list fails to distinguish between groups
that cross international borders to do violence and those that
do not. It mixes national liberation or independence movements
with others that wish to eliminate governments that are not their
own. In some cases, the accused "terrorists" are no
different from the American colonists of 1776 who fought for
independence from the British Crown. But the "war on terrorism"
drifts inexorably toward aggressors and defenders alike, constituting
a betrayal of the very principles of self-determination upon
which the United States of America were founded.
The second official blunder shall be the
nitrogen added to the glycerin of the first: It is the U.S.-forced
export of a prohibitionist drug policy upon the nations of the
world, a policy that is, as Dan Gardner of the Ottawa Citizen
noted, the "root and branch of terrorism" because it
funds and arms violent political factions on all sides of this
Much ado will now be made of the poppy
fields of Afghanistan that supply 75 percent of the world's heroin.
The crop-dusters that take-off from Afghan runways, however,
are likely to land on this side of the ocean and the rebirth
of a plan that already failed once, and now seeks its second
fracas: Plan Colombia.
Washington's biggest, most expensive,
foreign military project before the September 11th attacks was
the so-called Plan Colombia. Two billion dollars - mainly for
weapons and helicopters - had already been budgeted to combat
a 40-year-old South American insurgent movement, abusing, once
again, the pretext of the drug war to serve other agendas.
Although the Colombian insurgents do not
attack U.S. or foreign soil, two rebel armies - counting with
an estimated 20,000 guerrilla troops - have been classified by
the U.S. government as "foreign terrorist organizations."
This classification is simply wrong, and has profound consequences
for democracy, human rights, the fragile Amazon eco-system, public
health and peace with justice. It also promises dire consequences
for the economy of the United States and all America.
Disorder in Washington
Colombia was not going well for its
sponsors. The United States project - recently renamed as "the
Andean Initiative," had been isolated by Europe and by the
rest of America for stated reasons that included Plan Colombia's
lack of defined goals, its aerial spraying of herbicides destructive
to the environment and human health, and its dishonesty: Few
in the world believed that Plan Colombia was, in fact, an "anti-drug"
campaign, but, rather, a Cold War style meddling on behalf of
a corrupt regime against a national liberation movement.
Since the launch of Plan Colombia, civil
society in Colombia and the rest of America, North and South,
including in Canada and within the United States, took a sharp
turn against the Plan's foundation: the U.S.-imposed policy of
drug prohibition in Our America and across the globe.
has offered extensive coverage throughout
this immediate history: In the past month, we have reported that
the Colombian Congress,
its 31 governors, the Andean
Parliament, and even Colombia's
president have now publicly questioned the drug prohibition policies
that cause the harm that Plan Colombia claimed to combat. We
have also translated the tantrum by
U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson and her threats against Colombian
society if it makes democratic decisions that disagree with U.S.-imposed
Precisely because the "anti-drug"
pretext has faded as a credible justification for this military
intervention, Washington - prior to September 11th - increasingly
cited opposition to "terrorism" as the Plan's new reason
The U.S. Department of State classified
the country's two major insurgent groups, the FARC (Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia) and the ELN (National Liberation Army)
as "terrorist organizations." More recently, in a bizarre
twist of double-speak, the State Department added the insurgents'
paramilitary opponents - the AUC (United Self-Defense Forces
of Colombia) - to the "terrorist" list; even as it
continued to back a government narco-regime in Colombia that
protects the paramilitaries in their massacres of civilians.
Although U.S. President George W. Bush
did not mention Colombia in his post-attack remarks, his vow
to defeat "every terrorist group within global reach"
and defining of any government that "harbors or supports
terrorism" as a "hostile regime" could not have
been more thinly veiled in its threat upon Colombia and Latin
The "war on terrorism" is already
the excuse to push legislation to strip civil liberties within
the United States and justify a more interventionist policy abroad.
The railroad quality of policy-making in wartime America was
never clearer when, last weekend, administration officials warned
of new terror attacks on the United States and pressured Congress
with a Friday deadline to approve domestic surveillance and judicial
shortcuts that, as proposed by the administration, can be abused
even against doctrinaire pacifists who have any contact at all
with the peace process in Colombia.
Washington today speaks mainly of enemies
in the Middle East region, because it has succeeded - without
clear evidence - in convincing the public and press to blame
the attacks on U.S. soil upon groups from that region previously
defined as terrorists by the State Department.
The human anguish and outcry against the
massacre committed in New York by suicide bombers is being manipulated
by government and media to cause a sweeping new set of laws and
expenditures that, based upon the wording of their legal texts,
can and will be swiftly applied to other agendas, such as Plan
Colombia and the drug war, foreign and domestic.
Nothing in the recent executive orders
by the White House or the legislation and multi-billion dollar
expenditures being rammed through Congress limits their scope
to combating the culprits of the September 11 attacks. To the
contrary, the reversal of domestic liberties and foreign policy
doctrines can and will be used for other purposes that are not
stated by their sponsors today.
Given that Washington never gave up on
its failing Plan Colombia, all the current official maneuvers
must be analyzed with an eye on how they will apply to the Andean
has spent much of these weeks analyzing the potential consequences
of current moves in Washington for the region that we cover:
North, South and Central America, and upon the policy issue that
we report on; the "war on drugs."
We begin with the U.S. State Department's
official list of "terrorist organizations," the fountain
that feeds today's rhetorical cascade.
official list of "foreign terrorist
organizations" by the United States government - prepared
prior to the September 11th attacks on U.S. soil - includes groups
in at least 23 countries. And it accuses 14 national governments
of backing, to various degrees, the organizations on the blacklist.
But a majority, 25 of the 43 organizations
declared as "terrorist" by Washington, are not located
in the Middle East. Yet the new executive orders, legislative
programs and massive government expenditures are designed in
such a way to apply to all of them, from the Irish Republican
movement, to the Basque liberation movement in Spain, to domestic
insurgents in Japan, the Philippines, Greece, Africa and here
in Latin America.
Of the 18 officially-designated "terrorist"
groups from the Middle East and Persian Gulf regions, a half-dozen
are Palestinian liberation organizations that are not Islamic,
but, rather, made up of members who are Christian and Druze.
In a hypocritical slight of hand, the
list singles out governments that support "terrorist"
organizations, with nary a mention of governments that themselves
engage in the exact same acts of violence and brutality that
define terrorism. Unspoken but obvious in Washington's definition
of "terrorism" is that, whatever it is, it does not
include actions by governments themselves.
Current events also demonstrate the shifting
fidelity by Washington to its own list. Among the states it listed
as backing terrorist groups are newfound "allies" in
today's version of the "war on terrorism." They include
Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Lebanon.
An executive order by President George
W. Bush on September 24th - "Blocking Property and Prohibiting
Transactions with Persons Who Commit, Threaten to Commit, or
Support Terrorism" - defines the T-word broadly:
According to the presidential dictate,
"the term 'terrorism' means an activity that (i) involves
a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, property, or
infrastructure; and (ii) appears to be intended (A) to intimidate
or coerce a civilian population; (B) to influence the policy
of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (C) to affect
the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination,
kidnapping, or hostage-taking."
The definition is not limited to groups
or individuals that do all these things, but, rather, is expanded
to include groups or individuals that engage in any one of them.
In the Colombian civil war, the rebels
and the government have each taken prisoners of war. The peace
process has included exchanges of these hostages; Colombian police
and military officials for rebel soldiers. There have also been
kidnappings, for ransom, of members of upper classes by rebel
forces. Whatever one thinks about this kind of aggression, it
demeans the battle against whoever was responsible for the September
11th massacre by shoehorning a national liberation movement into
the same "terrorist" category of the suicide bombers
and their possible intellectual authors.
Yet, there it is: the justification, by
presidential decree, to expand the Hunt of Black September into
Hemisphere War I.
Factor I: Oil
are two key mitigating factors that
would, in a sane administration, give Washington a healthy hesitation
before jumping anew into Plan Colombia. The first is oil.
U.S. officials are today caught between
a public furor that they themselves helped to manipulate - the
raging public impulse for military retaliation - and the difficulty
of all retaliatory scenarios. Invading impoverished Afghanistan,
at first blush, seemed like the easy way to comply with the manufactured
thirst for revenge. But - ask the Russians and every other world
power throughout history that has tried it - taking and holding
Afghanistan is not as easy as it sounds. The potential for counter-productive
reactions in Pakistan, in Iran, even in Russia, is high. So is
the possibility of provoking a region-wide hardening of the Islamic
world against the United States that could cut off major oil
imports to the West.
Latin American oil - particularly from the Andes - thus takes
on new geopolitical importance.
More than half the oil consumed in the
United States - 57 percent - comes from other countries. But
many Americans would be surprised that the Persian Gulf supplies
only 11.6 percent of their oil. The majority comes from the rest
There is one nation on earth that supplies
more oil to the United States than any other country, more than
Canada and more than the monarchy of Saudi Arabia (a government
without a parliament, elections or even a pretense of democracy).
That government is Venezuela.
Color Code: Country
Imports (Million barrels
Percent of Import Percent
of Domestic product supplied
3. Saudi Arabia..............1,386..........13.1%...........7.5%
8. United Kingdom..........373.............3.5%............2.0%
10. Virgin Islands...............288.............2.5%............1.4%
Persian Gulf Countries.......2,153..........20.4%.........11.6%
we see how short-sighted and regressive
U.S. foreign policy has been in recent years. Part and parcel
of Washington's bellicose plans for the Andes has been the vilification
of Venezuela's democratically elected president Hugo Chavez.
Surrogates for the State Department have frequently accused Chavez
of being a sympathizer with, or directly supporting, the Colombian
guerrilla movement. Venezuela opposes Plan Colombia and forbids
use of its airspace for warplanes by any nation. Chavez, a believer
in social justice, has been a particular thorn in the side of
Washington's imperial dreams over South America. He has constructed
a strong alliance with Cuba, and worked with the presidents of
Brazil, Argentina, Chile and other nations to plant the seeds
of a European Union-style renaissance for Simon Bolivar's dream
of a Latin America united against the impositions from above.
Yet in the aftermath of September 11th,
Chavez, competent, practical and a shrewd statesman, condemned
the attacks and pledged support for the United States.
An escalation of Plan Colombia as annex
to the "war on terrorism" could jeopardize the United
States' most reliable oil import source not only from Venezuela,
but also from Colombia (which supplies 3.3 percent of US oil
imports), and even from Mexico (the fourth largest supplier offering
13 percent of US oil imports), where a Latin American ground
war sponsored by the United States could well cause a chain-reaction
with severe consequences for the government of a key U.S. ally,
President Vicente Fox. A third of U.S. oil imports - more than
supplied by the entire Persian Gulf combined - is at play.
On the other hand, a war scenario in the
Andes could also serve as the pretext for a Pinochet-style U.S.-backed
coup in Venezuela, or, if the U.S. Congress restores the CIA's
permission to assassinate foreign leaders - a shift recently
called for by Washington hardliners - the most nefarious scenarios
could become reality.
The retaking of the Panama Canal, reported
by Narco News hours after the September 11 attacks, indicates
the concern in Washington over Andean oil supplies. A renewed
Plan Colombia could make Andean oil wells a new target, and jeopardize
those supplies. A subsequent attempt to take Venezuela's oil
fields militarily would spark all-out war in this hemisphere.
Factor II: Opium
In addition to oil, there is another possible
mitigating factor: Opium supplies.
Students of narco-history recall that
during World War II, Japan controlled most of the world's opium
supplies. In wartime, morphine, a product of the same poppy plant
that produces opium and heroin, is not a demonized drug but an
important medicine for wounded soldiers and civilians.
As Jake Bergmann reported for the PBS
Japan gained control of
the Asian opium supply and the U.S. military needed morphine
for its soldiers. So the U.S. turned to Mexico for help. "We
were concerned that our supply of opium or morphine would be
cut off because the world was at war. So we needed a supply close
by. But,that was one of those black box things. Who knows when
it happened, who did it, and why." says Edward Heath. During
this period of a government-tolerated opium trade, many Sinoloans
made their fortune. "Everybody was growing it, it was institutional.
Some government officials bought the harvest from the farmers
to export themselves. There were even soldiers up in the hills
caring for the plants," explains Dr. Ley Dominguez, a 77-year-old
life long resident of Mocorito, one of Sinaloa's most notorious
opium regions. After Japan's defeat, however, the U.S. no longer
needed Sinaloa's inferior strain of opium. But many farmers continued
to produce opium and heroin; operations became more clandestine,
and a smuggling network was set up.
A protracted U.S.-fought ground war in
Afghanistan or anywhere in the world would cause a greater demand
for morphine. Mexico, Colombia and Peru would be the logical
lands to produce it.
Although the behavior of the U.S. government
toward its soldiers and veterans - from Vietnam to the Gulf War
- suggests that Washington is not above experimenting pharmacologically
on its own, or of getting a new generation of G.I.s hooked on
synthetic pain-killers like Oxycontin, a morphine drip is still
the preferred post-surgery treatment. If there is war, Washington
will need opium.
A sensible response by the U.S. government
would, of course, be to call off the drug war and stop wasting
resources upon its criminal and military elements. One could
even imagine a crop substitution program of Andean coca for production
of morphine medicine. However, unless the root-cause prohibition
policy is reversed, Washington would merely end up repeating
the lessons cited above from the Mexican state of Sinaloa: after
the war, American hemisphere heroin production would merely be
strengthened in its illicit basis.
This scenario - of "Opium for Victory"
- has not been reported elsewhere and thus may seem far-fetched
to those who do not remember history. However, the realities
of World War II remind us that there was an urgent need for hemp
fiber for battleship ropes, sails, parachutes and other material
of war. This crop, too, was controlled at the time within the
territory of the Japanese empire. Although the U.S. government
had prohibited marijuana - the plant that produces hemp fiber
- in 1937, by 1942 the U.S. Department of Agriculture had enlisted
farmers in Kentucky and other states to plant 36,000 acres of
seed hemp; and 50,000 acres by 1943. After the war, upon return
of marijuana prohibition, these regions continued, through the
present day, to be major domestic marijuana producers.
serious policy to prevent future atrocities
like those of September 11th must, if waged intelligently, now
cancel the "war on drugs."
Every dollar and piece of military hardware
that continues to be wielded in a foolish and unwinnable drug
war is a resource robbed from more pressing needs.
The prohibition on drugs - a global underground
economy amounting to an estimated $300 billion to $500 billion
dollars annually - is precisely what funds the buying of arms
by organizations that can honestly be defined as terrorist, and
also by rebel and paramilitary organizations in all lands. It
is the aforementioned "root and branch" of violence.
The recent wave of press coverage of the Taliban and Afghanistan's
near-monopoly on opium production underscores the counter-productive
nature of the drug war. Fools will blame the drugs themselves.
But even if the Taliban was responsible for the September 11th
attacks (a speculation, not a proven fact) mere poppy plants
do not fund suicide bombers. It is their prohibition that artificially
inflates the price to wreak havoc in so many ways.
And the rhetoric of the "war on terrorism"
drifts so inexorably toward Colombia and the Andes that it now
jeopardizes domestic oil supplies in the United States and stability
in the hemisphere.
But Washington is stuck between the thinking
of the past and the realities of the present.
If serious about preventing future atrocities
like those of September 2001, U.S. policy and its commander-in-chief
must issue two immediate orders of "about face."
First, it must pull back its definition
of "terrorism" so that it no longer includes national
liberation movements or insurgents who are only fighting within
the borders of their own countries. To fail to order this redefinition
is to leave a fuse burning toward Colombia and an explosion that
will backfire upon the U.S. economy with irreparable consequences.
Second, Washington must stop, now, the
foolish policy of drug prohibition, that fuels the violence and
institutional impotence on all sides.
A writer to Narco News recently summed
it all up: "All politicians should be asked this question:
'Are you for the drug war because it supports criminal organizations
at home or because it supports terrorist organizations abroad?'"
A nation that does not have the will to
correct these two destructive mistakes in the definition of its
"wars" against drugs and terrorism lacks the will to
win either war.
The United States must change course.
The citizenry must grab the controls of its government, its media,
and itself, and steer away from a suicide mission against its
own twin towers of Civil Society and Economic Health. The current
flight plan is a thoughtless, undefined, trajectory that promises
success in rhetoric, but brings about failure in deed.
Part I of this Series:
For more Narco
News, click here
Reality for Hard Times