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    Two actions taken by Bill Clinton in the waning days of his presidency proved, once again, that there is little difference between the Democratic and Republican foreign policy. Before he left 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Clinton admitted that the Colombian military had not fulfilled "human rights" requirements, but that the White House was not legally bound to respect those requirements if national security was at stake. He went on to say that since he had waived this requirement once already, it was not necessary to do so again. This action, which was also supported by the State Department, ensures that all of the original monies in Plan Colombia earmarked for weaponry and other military uses will go to those forces. In one other act, he released funds from the account set up in late 1999 by Congress when it passed the Iraq Liberation Act. If you remember, this law provided the CIA-created Iraqi National Congress (INC -- a coalition of certain pro-Western groups and individuals opposed to Saddam Hussein's rule that includes a Kurdish group and an organization desiring the re-establishment of monarchy in Iraq) with $97 million for weapons, training and propaganda purposes. The funds Clinton released were to finance forays into Iraq by mercenary forces hired to spy, using the cover that they are there to distribute food and medicine to Iraqis who support the CIA's intentions in that country.

         These eleventh hour actions by Clinton will make it easier for GW Bush's staff to push these two programs even further, as is GW's intention. Soon-to-be Secretary of State Colin Powell is on record as saying he supports the current policy in Colombia, but wants to "try to regionalize the approach, (and) get all of the nations in the area to recognize that the problem is theirs as well as Colombia's." What's left unsaid here is that the US intends to make it their problem whether these countries see it that way or not. The recent construction of forward air bases in Ecuador and El Salvador make this clear. If one recalls US involvement in Indochina in the early 1960s, there was also a push to "regionalize" that conflict in order to pursue Vietnamese revolutionary forces into their places of refuge in Cambodia and Laos. In Laos, another aspect of this operation was the hiring of Laotians opposed to the Pathet Lao insurgency to interrogate, torture, and kill civilian supporters of the Pathet Lao. It was the leaders of some of these US-created paramilitaries who eventually helped the CIA set up the heroin dealing operation portrayed in the film Air America and written about in Alfred McCoy's The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Drug Trade.

         Since the infusion of U.S. money as part of Plan Colombia, the role of the right-wing paramilitaries has become more pronounced. In fact, the numerous massacres of "suspected guerrilla sympathizers" by these forces (over 70 killed in the first 17 days of 2001) is reminiscent of the role played by various Vietnamese extralegal armies just before the massive U.S. military involvement in that country back in the early 1960s. There were a number of counterinsurgency programs operating in southern Vietnam at the time under a variety of agencies. Foremost in all of these programs' missions, however, was the isolation of revolutionary forces from the general population and intimidation of the civilian population to prevent them from actively supporting the revolutionaries. These extralegal forces were usually composed of career criminals, former Vietnamese Army troops accused of excessive brutality while in uniform, defectors from the Vietnamese National Liberation Front, and released prisoners. They achieved their goals by psychological intimidation, physical torture, imprisonment, and murder -- all of which they learned from their CIA and US military trainers. Some of Colin Powell's early military career was spent in the jungles of Vietnam leading squads of these men.

         Eventually, the various programs were coordinated under one CIA-managed operation known as Operation Phoenix. This program of planned assassination resulted in the deaths of nearly 50,000 Vietnamese. The modus operandi used in Operation Phoenix was further refined during the US war in Central America during the 1980s. By refined, it is generally meant that the methods stayed the same, but greater US deniability is created, usually by having local troops and agents commit the actual torture and murder. As for Powell, he continues to support this type of operation, calling it the "drain the sea" approach in his 1995 memoirs. Until recently, US advisors were supposedly only in Colombia to train members of the regular army. In fact, various reports from Latin American media have reported the presence of US "trainers" actually helping to carry out raids and other missions in the Colombian countryside. All of this was set up in 1991, under the tutelage of the U.S. Defense Department and the CIA. This was accomplished under a Colombian military intelligence integration plan called Order 200-05/91.

         The role the paramilitaries play is one that supplements the strategy of the regular Colombian army. Indeed, some of the players are members of both. Sometimes the role is purely intelligence -- that is, gathering names of suspected revolutionaries -- and other times their role is much more murderous. To put it succinctly, the paramilitaries commit the war crimes that the Colombian regular army can't due to public relations concerns of the Colombian and US governments. Some officers were trained at the School of the Americas (SOA) in Georgia -- a notorious military training center that specializes in interrogation, torture and other "counterterror" methods. Many of those officers have certainly transferred their training at this school and by advisors in Colombia to their after-hours paramilitary activities. Human Rights Watch reports that at least seven SOA graduates are highly involved with the paramilitary. With the assistance and training of the CIA, DEA, and the US military and their private contractors, these armies conduct search-and-destroy missions in the Colombian countryside, easing the way for the regular armed forces to move in and hold territory. In an article in The San-Antonio Express News, it was pointed out that the most impressive offensive by one of the paramilitaries - the AUC - "has come in Putumayo province, which will be ground zero in the military phase of Plan Colombia - the place where American-made helicopters will land American-trained troops to do battle with forces protecting the coca fields." (1/17/01) In other words, this is where the Colombian military intends to begin its offensive against the revolutionary forces. It is no coincidence that the AUC has concentrated its attacks there.

         As for Iraq, the "humanitarian" forays into Iraq's space will not only intimidate the Iraqi government, any negative reprisals taken by Hussein's security forces against the individuals involved will be used by the US and British media as continuing proof of Hussein's evil, and give GW another reason to continue the sanctions and bombing raids against Iraq. That is, unless he decides to go in with full military force and replace the Hussein government with one created in Washington. Then the forays will be but a precursor for any such military action. It is no secret that GW would like to finish the work his father began ten winters ago.

         As any student of US counterintelligence knows, most of its propaganda activities involve advertising the American way as the democratic way of life. This continues to be the case despite the electoral sham of last November. In Iraq, it is no different. Although most of the members of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) have no desire to bring democracy to that country, the American public is told that this group is the best chance for that to happen. It is the primary group receiving funds via the Iraq Liberation Act referred to earlier. The INC's intention is "to establish itself as a responsible and credible authority with a base on Iraqi soil, to provide for the humanitarian relief of the Iraqi people who are suffering intolerable conditions, and to enlist the support of the international community in the struggle against Saddam." (introduction from the INC website) In short, they hope to become the Iraqi version of the contras -- mercenaries that were funded and trained by the Pentagon and CIA to fight Nicaragua's Sandinista government in the 1980s. How they intend to enact the first two aspects is quite clear - they will do what the CIA tells them to do, despite the fact that doing so has already led to over 100 of their numbers being executed by the Iraqi government after a failed uprising in 1996. It will be a bit trickier for this group to convince the rest of the world that the CIA's plan is one they should support. However, should they fail in any or all of their intended goals, one can be fairly certain that the US policy towards Iraq will continue to be one that meets the imperial demands of the US corporate government while punishing the Iraqi people. After all, if these contras fail, the Pentagon will have minimal opposition to any "regular" warfare plans it might have. Northeast Research Associates Pie in the Sky Farm 93 Dwinell Road United States doing some building for the people, they Marshfield, Vermont