Colombia: Patterson and Graham Play the Terrorism Card

Even as Congress grows increasingly queasy about the US drug war adventure in Colombia -- the Senate last week voted to slash President Bush's Andean counter-drug budget by 22 percent -- Bush administration officials and congressional drug war diehards are turning up the "terrorist" rhetoric in an effort to strengthen their cause.

Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, pleaded with his colleagues to vote for more Colombia aid because the Andean nation is one of the theaters in the global "battle against terrorism." A very "discouraged and disappointed" Graham told the Miami Herald after the vote that the counter-drug program in Colombia should be broadened to include anti-terrorist activities.

Speaking at a luncheon last week, Graham elaborated. Some 500 acts of terrorism were committed against US citizens or economic interests last year, he said. "Of those almost 500 incidents, 44 percent were in one country. Was that country Egypt? No. Israel? No. Afghanistan? Hardly a tick. Forty-four percent were in Colombia," Graham explained. "That's where the terrorist war has been raging."

Graham must have been heartened by US Ambassador to Colombia Anne Patterson's announcement last week that the Bush administration plans to provide Colombia with "counter-terrorist" aid as part of the new US war on terrorism. Patterson told the Associated Press that Washington plans to help Colombia guard (US-owned) oil pipelines, assist civilian and military "counter-terror" investigators, and train and equip elite anti-kidnapping and bomb squads.

"Colombia has 10 percent of the terrorist groups in the world, according to our [State Department] list," Patterson told the AP. Patterson did not discuss how she defines terrorist groups, vs. insurgencies or armed national liberation movements, or how one might differentiate one from the other.

"There's no question we are now focusing more on terrorism in Colombia," Patterson explained. "Certainly, September 11 has enabled us to do more of these kind of things," she added, referring to broader assistance to the Colombian state.

Another one of "these kinds of things" that Patterson has in mind is to attempt to extradite and try Colombian guerrillas and paramilitaries on drug trafficking or money laundering charges in the US. "We have focused our attention on all types of international organized crime, including money laundering," she told a conference on the topic in Cartagena.

Drug traffickers have faced extradition to the US in the past, but the US has never previously attempted to criminalize participation in Colombia's civil war. Now, in the name of the war on terrorism, the Bush administration is preparing to turn up the heat on the Colombian pressure cooker. Stand back.

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