Colombia Aid Can Only Make Drug War Disaster Worse

Date: Sat, 18 Mar 2000
Subject: Colombia Aid Can Only Make Drug War Disaster Worse

DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 165 Saturday March 18, 2000

Colombia Aid Can Only Make Drug War Disaster Worse


Write a Letter – Make a Difference ——-

DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 165 Saturday March 18, 2000

A few editorialists and columnists have come out against congressional
plans to send $1.6 billion to Colombia, but few have done so with the
clarity of Arianna Huffington. The money is supposed to be used to
fight the drug war, but Huffington showed how the Colombian aid plan
is really a very destructive form of corporate welfare.

In a column from this week appearing in at least three newspapers,
Huffington also illustrated the perversity of current priorities in
the drug war.

Please write a letter to one or all of the newspapers – San Francisco
Examiner, Chicago Sun-Times, or Washington Times – where the column
ran. Remind editors and readers that the plan to send more than a
billion dollars to Colombia, like most plans in the drug war, will
cause a great deal of trouble. Benefits will go only to those who
already profit from the drug war.

Thanks for your effort and support.


It’s not what others do it’s what YOU do


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impact and effectiveness.



Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)


The Washington Times also ran Huffington’s column under the headline
“Latest Priority In The Drug War” (URL:,
while the Chicago Sun-Times ran the story under the headline “Drug War
Comes At High Price” (
on March 15. Please also send your letter to one or both.

Source: Washington Times (DC)

Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)



Pubdate: Wed, 15 Mar 2000
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2000 San Francisco Examiner
Page: A 19
Author: Arianna Huffington


We’re about to spend $1.7 billion to escalate the drug war in
Colombia, while here at home we have 3.6 million addicts not receiving
the treatment they need.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives will vote on an emergency
aid package initiated by the White House and enthusiastically backed
by the House Republican leadership. It’s a product of the drug war’s
perverse priorities and another example of the disturbing link between
campaign cash and public policy.

Let’s start with the cash spread around to help grease the wheels for
the aid bonanza. The Colombian government hired Vernon Jordan’s old
law firm — Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, which he has since
left – to stump for it on The Hill.

Indeed, when the House Appropriations Committee met last week to
consider the White House proposal, a member of the committee, Rep.
Jesse Jackson, Jr. D-Ill, noticed that an Akin, Gump lobbyist was in
attendance. He must have gone away happy. The committee not only
approved the president’s $1.2 billion request but added another $500

The Colombians have other powerful allies in Washington. Most
persistent has been a collection of multinational corporations with
operations in Colombia — including Occidental Petroleum, BP Amoco
and Enron — that has been lobbying both Congress and the
administration for a big-buck package that would serve their business
interests there.

And speaking of business interests, more than $400 million of the aid
will be spent on the purchase of 63 helicopters manufactured by two
U.S. firms — Sikorsky Aircraft, a subsidiary of United Technology
and Bell Helicopter Textron.

In the last two election cycles, Textron and its employees donated
close to a million dollars to both Republicans and Democrats, and
United Technologies gave more than $700,000.

“It’s business for us, and we are as aggressive as anybody,” one Bell
Helicopter lobbyist told Legal Times, “I’m just trying, to sell

Underscoring the incestuous relationship between commerce and drug
policy, Tom Umberg the architect of the administration’s Colombian
initiative, is moving from the White House Office of Drug Control
Policy to the law firm of Morrison & Foster to represent Colombia and
other Latin American countries on trade issues.

Colombia is in the midst of a protracted three-way civil war, pitting
the Colombian army, which has one of the worst human-rights records in
the Western Hemisphere, against leftist rebels and right-wing
paramilitary groups, both largely funded by the drug trade.

The army will receive the largest share of the U.S. money, prompting
senior defense officials to express privately their fear that our
military’s expanding role in fighting the war on drugs could draw the
United States into another Vietnam.

Maybe that’s why the Clinton administration decided to introduce the
Colombian aid as part of a larger emergency-spending package, The
potentially controversial measure is bundled with proposals only a
coldhearted misanthrope would oppose.

Along with the money for Colombia, the bill includes $2.2 billion for
relief from natural disasters such as Hurricane Floyd and $854 million
for military health care.

It’s an old legislative ploy designed to squelch debate and force
politicians to vote for wasteful — or even terrible — measures
just because they don’t want to be painted as being against God,
country and disaster relief.

Jackson is one of the members who will nevertheless vote against the

“It’s absurd,” he told me. “There wasn’t even any language added
tying the aid to human-rights concerns. And (Rep.) Nancy Pelosi’s
(D.-San Francisco) amendment to spend equivalent amounts of money on
the demand side was defeated during the Appropriations Committee
mark-up — even though treatment has been proven to be 23 times more
cost-effective than eradication of crops and 11 times more
cost-effective than interdiction.”

The cost of the helicopters alone would provide treatment for almost
200,000 substance user’s or drug-prevention services for more than 4
million Americans.

When Richard Nixon — hardly one to be accused of being soft on crime
— declared a war on drugs in 1971, he directed more than 60 percent
of the funds into treatment. Now, we’re down to 18 percent. This
despite the fact that drug czar Barry McCaffrey’s budget is expected
to rise to a proposed $19.2 billion next year.

Since 1980, the emphasis has turned to interdiction, crop eradication,
border surveillance and punishment.

It’s been a misguided use of resources. But putting $1.7 billion into
Colombia, in the middle of a civil war, is more than misguided —
it’s nuts. And if it’s not voted down in the House on Thursday, it
needs to be stopped in the Senate.

Arianna Huffington’s e-mail address is Her
new book, “How to Overthrow the Government,” is published by

MAP posted-by: Don Beck



To the editor:

Arianna Huffington correctly describes plans for $1.6 billion in
alleged drug war aid to Colombia as “nuts.” The aid package will not
make drugs disappear from either the U.S. or Colombia. But the average
American will experience no benefits – we’re just along to foot the
bill. Undesirable as that is, it doesn’t begin to describe the
situation for most people in Colombia, where an influx of war related
resources can only result in intensified violence.

The aid plan is attractive only to a few corporate profiteers and
government officials in both countries. They appear ready to use more
force to achieve their goals, whether those goals have anything to do
with stopping drugs or not.

Stephen Young

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