for this article is http://emperors-clothes.com/col/hum.htm
When Human Rights No Longer Matter
By Garry M. Leech [5 June 2001]
Reprinted with permission of Colombia Report
In a throwback to the days of the Cold War counterinsurgency campaigns, the Colombian Senate recently passed a bill authorizing the nation's security forces to wage war against the Colombian people in the name of anti-terrorism. The new bill, now being debated in the lower house of Colombia's Congress, will unleash the army against the civilian population, especially in rural regions, using tactics that violate international human rights treaties to which Colombia is a signatory. The new policy is reminiscent of the counterinsurgency strategies promulgated by the United States throughout Latin America during the Cold War years. Recent decisions by the Bush Administration indicate it will be more than willing to support the re-implementation of such tactics by the Colombian army.
The urban bombing campaign waged by various armed groups over the past month has hit a little too close to home for many middle and upper class Colombians. The recent spate of bombings is reminiscent of the violent urban campaign waged against the government in the late 1980s by drug traffickers fighting to end extradition. In order to prevent a further escalation in this latest wave of bombings, Colombia's urban elite and its congressional cohorts appear to be trying to give the security forces free rein to combat suspected terrorists.
The likely consequences of the military's newfound freedom will be a dramatic increase in human rights abuses perpetrated by the army against the civilian population. The bill would allow an army unit to enter a village and detain citizens for seven days without charging them with a crime. There is little doubt this violation of international humanitarian law would be used against community leaders, human rights workers, union members and anyone else the army chooses to cast as a leftist or guerilla sympathizer.
Secondly, under the new law soldiers would be permitted to force villagers to act as informants and intelligence agents, a tactic that will undoubtedly result in retaliation against the villagers by whichever armed group they are forced to betray. And finally, the law allows soldiers to arrest anyone for subversion based solely on the statement of a fellow citizen--even if that statement is obtained under duress.
Inevitably, the use of such tactics by the army will result in charges of human rights violations being leveled against overzealous troops. However, the new bill foresees this "problem" and addresses it by providing immunity to members of the armed forces who commit human rights abuses while combating "supposed" terrorist groups. The new law also turns over responsibility for the investigations and autopsies of subversives killed in combat--currently performed by government officials--to the military. Furthermore, just to guarantee that soldiers aren't accidentally charged with human rights abuses in spite of these safeguards, The bill has a provision to ensure that all ongoing and future investigations into rights violations by security forces will become a matter for military justice and not civilian courts.
There is little doubt about who will become the principal targets of the military's tactics: any rural villager believed to be sympathetic to the guerillas. Colombia's rural population, already the principal target in the nation's conflict, is now being offered up for slaughter by legislators in Bogota rattled by the war's recent arrival at their doorsteps.
A campesino does not have to do much to be accused of having leftist sympathies in Colombia's volatile political and social climate, least of all anything that would be considered suitable evidence in a court of law. Often, villagers are deemed to be sympathetic to the rebels simply based on the geographic area in which they reside.
Sometimes peasants aid the guerillas out of fear, which also leads to their being labeled as sympathizers. And now, according to the would-be law, any Colombian could be arrested for subversion on the word of a neighbor who may bear nothing more than a personal grudge.
Throughout the 1990s, international pressure resulted in a significant decrease in the number of human rights abuses directly attributed to the Colombian Armed Forces.
However, during the same period the military strength of paramilitary groups increased dramatically as they conducted the dirty war on the army's behalf, often with logistical support provided by the military. The new proposal would remove the constraints on the army, allowing it to once again wage war against the civilian population without fear of retribution. Furthermore, allowing the army to recruit citizens in conflict areas is akin to re-authorizing the military creation of civil self-defense forces that inevitably evolve or are absorbed into paramilitary organizations, which have been illegal in Colombia since 1989.
The military's recent assault against four rebel-held towns in southwestern Colombia may be a foreshadowing of things to come under the proposed law. Last week, 2,500 members of the Colombian Armed Forces "successfully" seized the towns in the department of Narino as part of an anti-drug mission labeled Operation Tsunami. According to Colombian army officials, more than 110 people were killed in the operation. Only 18 of them were guerillas.
Military officials say the rest of the dead were workers in the targeted coca fields and cocaine labs. In other words, more than 90 peasants were killed in the offensive. The operation has been kept under a veil of secrecy as the army has refused to let anyone into the area to talk to survivors and determine exactly how and why so many peasants were killed. The new law, if passed by the house, will only encourage more military operations like this one, in which the wholesale slaughter of peasants is justified in the name of fighting terrorism or, even worse, the drug war.
Colombia's proposed new anti-terrorist law's blatant disregard for international humanitarian law should be cause for concern in Washington. At a minimum, the pending legislation and its de facto conversion of Colombia to a nation under martial law should give pause to those policymakers in Washington who have repeatedly stressed that part of the U.S. aim in the region is to defend democracy. In fact, all future military aid should be withheld while this potential human catastrophe is addressed. All military and civilian contractors stationed in Colombia should be withdrawn and the delivery of Blackhawk helicopters scheduled for July should be postponed until the Colombian government re-aligns its policies and laws with the norms of international humanitarian law, both on paper and on the ground.
However, it is highly unlikely that any of these sanctions will be imposed on Bogota. According to Washington, U.S. aid is going to Colombian army units fighting the drug war, not the counterinsurgency war-regardless of the fact these troops are targeting coca fields and drug labs in guerilla-controlled territory. Also, the White House and the State Department will undoubtedly try to emphasize that U.S. aid is only going to units of the Colombian army that have been "cleared" of human rights violations.
Washington's drug warriors discuss these U.S.-funded and trained battalions as though they were not part of the Colombian Armed Forces. But in reality they operate under the same chain of command as the rest of the Colombian army and there are no safeguards to prevent the transferring of soldiers in and out of these units after they have been vetted for human rights violations.
Historically, the United States has allied itself with human-rights-abusing regimes whenever it served Washington's interests to do so, usually under the guise of the Cold Wa or more recently the drug war. The new Bush Administration is wasting little time in allying itself with some of the world's most abusive regimes. On May 17, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced $43 million in aid to Afghanistan's ruling Taliban. (1)
Not only is the Taliban sheltering Washington's global enemy number one, Osama Bin Laden, but the country's fanatical rulers are also responsible for the gravest state-sponsored human rights violations perpetrated against women in recent history.
Furthermore, examples of the Taliban's religious intolerance have included the systematic destruction of revered ancient Buddha statues and the issuing of a decree forcing Hindus in Afghanistan to wear yellow identity patches.
At a recent press conference announcing the State Department's 2000 list of terrorist organizations and states, acting coordinator for counterterrorism Edmund J. Hull referred to Afghanistan as "terrorist central for the international community," pointing out that "tens of thousands of people" have passed through terrorist training camps there.
Why has the Bush Administration climbed into bed with these repressive fundamentalists? The answer is simple: The Taliban is willing to be Washington's ally in the drug war. Afghanistan's religious rulers declared that the human consumption of opium is against the will of Allah, and apparently that was good enough for the Bush Administration.
Washington's recent attitude towards the Afghan regime regarding the drug war does not bode well for Colombia's peasant population. In all likelihood, as long as Colombian security forces continue to destroy coca fields and cocaine labs while conducting their counterinsurgency operations, then U.S. aid will continue to flow. After all, what are a few human rights abuses when there is an ineffective drug war to wage?
Copyright 2001 Information Network of the Americas (INOTA)
In his eye-opening article, "When Human Rights No Longer Matter", Garry Leech writes that:
It is true that, in the past, both Washington and its clients in the Colombian government and military paid lip service to opposing Colombian death squads. At the same time, it was known that the death squads a) were U.S.-trained, b) were advised by U.S. covert agents and c) were comprised of soldiers from the official Colombian military.
Now, Mr. Leech reports, the Colombian military is to be officially transformed into one big death squad with a plan for "war against the Colombian people in the name of anti-terrorism."
Barry Leech is right that we should oppose all U.S. military 'aid' for Colombia as long as the military engages in 'human rights abuses.' But what does this mean? By its nature, the Colombian anti-drug war has always been a war against the Colombian people. It has always relied on abusing human rights, starting with the particularly important right to stay alive.
This history of abuse, now celebrated in a democratically endorsed plan "to wage war against the Colombian people in the name of anti-terrorism," could not exist without the approval of Washington's foreign policy planners. Because the Washington foreign policy establishment is the true constituency of the Colombian government. Take away Washington, and in short order the Colombian puppet state would collapse.
IS U.S. "MAKING A MISTAKE" IN COLOMBIA AND AFGHANISTAN?
The U.S. Establishment always tries to dominate the language of foreign policy discourse. In this way, critics are maneuvered into accepting premises which limit their field of view and therefore the scope of their criticisms.
For example, Washington argues that it is pouring almost a billion dollars a year into military ''aid'' to Colombia in order to "win the drug war". Similarly it claims it is giving $43 million to the Taliban authorities in Afghanistan to reward them for banning the cultivation of poppy plants used to produce heroin and opium.
Supporters and opponents of Washington's policies tend to accept these claims about the "drug war." Consequently the debate is framed in Washington's terms: "Should the U.S. give aid to anyone, no matter how foul, as long as this helps the drug war?" If they accept this frame of argument, critics are trapped into responses that assume Washington is making a mistake, that it is letting itself be used by monsters.
The premises involved in this frame of argument are lies.
First, Washington is not engaged in a drug war. That's public relations baloney. Washington is the political sponsor of the key forces behind the drug trade.
Second the war on drugs is a cover for waging a real war against forces striving for independence in strategic areas such as Colombia and, more important on a world scale, the Balkans and the Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union.
Third, Washington is the creator and patron of the governing terrorists in Afghanistan (the Taliban) and in Colombia. To say Washington is 'aiding' these forces is like saying farmers 'aid' their crops or parents 'aids' their children.
THE DRUG INTERESTS ARE IN CHARGE OF THE DRUG WAR
Despite all the rhetoric, Washington is not interested in stopping the drug trade. From Iran-Contra to the Afghan anti-Soviet war to the Islamist terrorists currently attacking the former Soviet states to the KLA to the Colombia death squads, Washington's proxy armies are deeply and increasingly involved in the drug trade. Drug gangs provide terrorist-military training and produce vast sums of money. This money enables Washington's proxy armies to mount formidable campaigns against target countries without Washington have to shell out impossibly large sums of money.
A 'Boston Globe' article (an excerpt is posted at the end, see Footnote 4) states that Washington's Kosovo Liberation Army is heavily involved in a drug distribution system that starts in Afghanistan and Pakistan and ends up in Western Europe. This drug business involves 400 BILLION dollars a year. (Not that the KLA gets all this money. But we are discussing gross revenues greater than those of IBM, Microsoft and Intel combined. And that's just the Afghanistan-to-Europe trade.)
Washington sponsors and protects this drug trade because drugs provide crucial money and terrorist personnel for Washington's drive for world domination.
The same is true in Latin America. Take Washington's Colombian 'drug war' for example. If this was aimed at stopping the drug business, Washington would focus on penetrating and jailing the powerful drug interests and their Establishment connections. That is, not just the rich drug cartel gangsters, but the gangsters-in-a-suit in big banks and corporations:
Instead of going after the big fish, Washington directs the 'drug war' against coca and poppy fields and the poor farmers who cultivate these fields in areas controlled by FARC, the Colombian liberation army.
By destroying these particular fields, the U.S. and its Colombian proxies drive up the value of the coca and poppy controlled by Washington's Colombian proxies, that is, by the military men and their death squads who are intertwined with the Colombian drug cartels and through them with major financial interests which 'launder' billions in drug profits.
To justify fighting a 'war on drugs' against small farmers who (conveniently) live in guerilla-controlled areas, Washington and the media pedal the story that the FARC guerillas control the drug trade. This is comic book-level propaganda. Washington's motto should be, "A dumb public is a happy public."
If the U.S. government were "fighting the drug war" to stop the export of drugs to the U.S., as it claims, it would focus on those who organize and profit from the export of drugs, instead of destroying the fields (and poisoning the land, animals, and children) of poor peasants who live in FARC-controlled areas.
The U.S. war against drugs doesn't fight drugs. So what is its purpose?
REAL TARGET OF THE "DRUG WAR"
For a hundred years Washington's Latin American policies have aimed at preventing the formation of a unified block of nations that could challenge U.S. domination. Washington's methods: repress and atomize; install anti-popular oligarchs in small, weak states. Give 'aid' to these little monsters who could not survive a year without Big Daddy Monster to the North. In this fashion, Washington has brought untold misery to the Latin American people.
Currently there is a threat to these policies. The Chavez government in Venezuela is politically independent. It has the temerity - the audacity - to ask: "What is good for Venezuelans?" And then there is the powerful FARC in Colombia.
Check out a map. Venezuela is northeast of Colombia. Colombia is south of Panama. Both Colombia and Venezuela border Brazil, second most populous country in the Americas. And Colombia is north of Peru and Ecuador. Together, Colombia and Venezuela constitute the northern cap of South America.
Both Colombia and Venezuela have oil.
If the Colombian FARC wins, it could mean a Venezuelan/Colombian/Cuban alliance that would attract Latin American people and possibly even some existing government(s), like a magnet.
Both Chavez in Venezuela and the FARC in Colombia call for social justice and national sovereignty. This is a compelling mixture; contagious.
In response, Washington is attempting semi-covertly to overthrow Mr. Chavez. At the same time, Washington is escalating its atrocious counter-insurgency campaign against the progressive nationalists in FARC. The methods being used against FARC are as old as Rome and as recent as Vietnam: punish and murder the ordinary people who support the forces fighting the U.S. Make the cost of independence prohibitive.
The present U.S. Secretary of State, that nice guy, Colin Powell, is no stranger to this strategy:
It's one thing for Powell to admit the murderous character of what the U.S. did in long ago Vietnam. But were Washington to admit it was using the same strategy in Colombia, most Americans would be horrified. Hence the huge public relations campaign, disguising the Vietnam-style operation going on right now in Colombia behind the facade of a war against drugs.
'AIDING' COLOMBIA AND THE TALIBAN?
The "Does the drug war justify us giving aid to monsters?" argument confuses the real relationship between Washington and said monsters, such as the Colombian military/death squads, and the Taliban authorities in Afghanistan.
This confusion is expressed eloquently by Robert Scheer, who once edited "Ramparts," the late great antiwar magazine. A recent article by Mr. Scheer is entitled, "Bush's Faustian Deal with the Taliban." If you remember your Goethe, this would cast Junior as a lowly mortal who makes a deal with the devil, a much more powerful figure. Here's Mr. Scheer:
Bob Scheer thinks the Taliban are a monstrosity of indigenous origin. In his view, it is outrageous for Americans to let themselves be duped into helping these beasts simply because the beasts have (supposedly) banned drugs. If America does this it will become the Taliban's main sponsor. And so on.
The problem is, it is too late for Washington to become the Taliban's sponsor because Washington gave birth to the Taliban in the first place. (2)
The maternity bill? Over six BILLION U.S. dollars. And that was 1980s money, mind you, so we're talking about a much bigger bill in current U.S. dollars. Washington is the monster parent of this monstrous child.
To preserve the mental equilibrium of Americans, the mass media tries to avoid publishing evidence of Washington's Taliban patrimony. Nevertheless, sometimes some of the truth slips out. Take for example a 'NY Times' article published three days after the U.S. bombed some facilities in Afghanistan:
Six billion dollars. And that's what the CIA admits spending. How much more did they spend that they don't admit?
U.S. covert support for the Taliban has continued throughout the middle and late 1990s, mainly through Washington's junior partner, Saudi Arabia.
TALIBAN AID: PART OF THE ATTACK ON RUSSIA
The Taliban aid package coincides with Washington's increasing attacks on the former Soviet Union in general and Russia in particular. The current very public offer of $43 million in aid is a destabilizing warning to the Central Asian states of the former Soviet Union. The message is: you better work with us, not Russia, or we can unleash the Taliban against you.
At the same time, Washington holds out a carrot, offering to provide the Central Asian Republics with military aid. The idea is to offset Russian military ties and increase the U.S. presence in these countries. By having a large contingent of U.S. military (and therefore of course the CIA as well) directly involved inside the Central Asian states, Washington can select the best targets for bribes, thus augmenting the efforts of U.S.- funded "democracy groups" which are presently setting up 'civil society' Fifth Column organizations in these countries.
If the U.S. can make these countries dependent on US military aid (and training, and of course spare parts) Washington can guarantee that their weapons and military plans are insufficient to defeat Taliban-connected terrorists. Moreover, Washington can supply these Islamist terrorists with military intelligence.
-- Jared Israel
1) 'When Human Rights No Longer Matter,' by Garry M. Leech at http://emperors-clothes.com/col/hum.htm
(2) 'Washington's Backing of Afghan Terrorists: Deliberate Policy,' by Jared Israel at http://emperors-clothes.com/docs/anatomy.htm
3) Take the Emperor's Clothes challenge! We at tenc.net are convinced that U.S. newspapers intentionally distort the news to whitewash Washington's actions. Whether you agree with us, are unsure, or would like to see our best evidence so you can prove to yourself that we are just mouthing off, read the detailed study of how the 'N.Y. Times' lied to its readers about the August, 1998 bombing of a pill factory in Sudan. The article is called 'Credible Deception: The Times and the Sudan Missile Attack' and it can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/sudan.html
3a) In countries all over the world, the U.S. has set up "civil society" groups which imitate the 'look' of local activist groups but are in fact trained and funded by U.S. government agencies like USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). It was just such forces which overthrew the Miloshevich government in Yugoslavia.
4) Washington pretends to oppose drugs. But its favorite Balkans terrorist group relies on the drug business for cash. Washington could devastate the drug trade by simply arresting this organization. That would easy to do because the organization is the KLA. It was set up by Germany and the U.S. and it is trained by "Western special forces," that is, by the U.S. and Britain)
Here's an excerpt from a recent 'Boston Globe' article which cautiously - but clearly - links the KLA to the drug trade.
5) Concerning Washington's
funding of both sides in Macedonia, see 'WASHINGTON FINANCES ETHNIC WARFARE IN
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