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Wednesday, 6 September, 2000, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Should the US stay out of Colombia?
President Clinton visits Colombia on Wednesday to show support for a controversial multi-billion dollar effort to curb the flow of cocaine out of the country.
The US is contributing $1.3 billion to Plan Colombia, most of it in the form of military aid to train and equip three counter-narcotics battalions of the Colombian army.
Critics of the plan say it will exacerbate the country's long-running and bloody civil war. They argue that the US should not get involved with a military establishment widely accused of human rights violations.
Should the US be providing all this military aid to Colombia? Will it make any difference to the northward flow of cocaine? Or will it be, as some fear, the beginning of another Vietnam for the United States?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below/
The US Government uses taxpayers' money to fund the Colombian Government while US taxpayers use their own money to fund the drug barons. Learning nothing from alcohol prohibition, the US continues Canute-like to attempt a repeal of the laws of economics. This time, as well as shooting each other in the streets, they're sponsoring proxy wars in other countries.
Aaron Wilson, USA
I don't understand why the biggest 'free-market' governments in the world ever thought that they could seriously stop the drugs trade. It is a violation of my right as a free human being to take any substances I want. Also, why hand one of the biggest trades in the world over to illegal cartels to make all the profits?
I've been to Colombia a few times and have friends there but it is getting too dangerous to go anymore because of the problems. It is not all Colombia's fault - it's a classic case of supply and demand.
Is this a war about drugs or is it a war about oil?
The US should mind its own business. It would be more useful to spend money
on reducing drugs consumption and facing the problem head-on in their own backyard.
Yet another chapter in the complete failure of the war on drugs.
Adam Parker, Portland OR, USA
Believe it or not the Americans are already here. Will it change anything for the good? Why should it - it never has before? Will it help end the war? I do not think so.
Colombia, however, needs the international community to take an interest in its problems. But, maybe this conflict is not sexy enough, and in a few weeks time it will be forgotten again.
The war on drugs in not only wrong - it's unconstitutional. The Federal Government has proved, time and time again, that prohibition does not work. I wonder if Clinton, Bush, or Gore would have come out a better person, if they had served ten years in prison for one their youthful indiscretions? In the next election, I'll be voting Libertarian - it's time to make a change for the better.
US aid to Colombia - in her battle against drugs and leftist rebels - is probably just as defensible as Russia's aid to Uzbekistan to fight Islamic rebels. This is yet another example of absurd and insecure America bashing.
The drug problem cannot be solved unless those using this poison can be persuaded to change their "drug culture" lifestyle. The US is a major consumer of this product. Since we have now designated ourselves to be "The High Sheriff of Planet Earth" we should make an effort to heal this, our own national sickness. This issue shows how many Americans can spend so much money to use these substances while half of mankind is said to be hungry.
Hugh Gleaves, UK
Let the US close down its own tobacco industry, before it starts spraying poisons on the farms of impoverished Colombians. Tobacco causes more deaths, by orders of magnitude, world wide than cocaine. The "War on Drugs" is the longest-running political fraud in history. It has no basis other than racism and commercial vested interest.
The war on drugs is not a war that can be won by force of arms. As long as there exists a demand for cocaine someone will supply it. Not only should the Americans stay out of Columbia, but the whole of the western world would do better to spend it's time and effort on combating the social problems that lead to people choosing to take drugs.
Internationally, there seems to be a large contingency of critics to Plan Colombia. In a recent review of opinion and comments columns in leading US newspapers, 75% of articles were found to be anti-Plan Colombia. But in Colombia the opinion is the exact opposite. In a recent poll 75% of the population were found to be PRO Plan Colombia. The root of the support in this country boils down to people wanting a change rather than pure agreement with military intervention. After 50 years of civil war, Colombia has failed to resolve the problem itself, so is clutching at straws for a quick solution. Plan Colombia will not change a thing. Back to the drawing board in my opinion.
If your neighbours create excessive noise you ask them to stop. If they don't stop you call the police. Why should America put up with something that it does not want? I am tired of all the comments about removing the demand. How did the smallpox get eradicated? Did we remove the host demand (i.e. people)? No, it was eliminated at the source. If Columbia can not/will not do anything about it than it is time that the US solves the problem for them.
I definitely think the US have better staying out of this Columbia mess.
The world is a chessboard and the USA is the king. Game over.
Yes. just leave the people to their fate. Why does the US have to police the world?
donate money to poor but stop interfering in their politics.
The war on drugs is the biggest waste of time and money. The more you fight it, the higher the price goes! In turn, the bigger the profits... DUH! so living in California, it is my right after working a hard day at work to have a beer, a smoke, or a big fat line of coke and the government can't stop it. They should join it make a profit off the tax.
Could it be that the US needs to control an oil supply now that Chavez and OPEC aren't playing ball? - Oh, and isn't Gore a major shareholder in Occidental Petroleum, a supporter of the Colombian paramilitaries/Army/Major human rights violators?
It doesn't matter what non-Americans think, does it. American policy is set by American priorities, not the whim of whinny Europeans.
The US is sending 1.3 billion dollars along with the supplies to curb the amount
of drugs being delivered throughout the world. If I'm not mistaken
every country has drug addicts. That 1.3 billion is for exactly
that, solving the farmers issues of switching what they grow
(I don't see Europe jumping at the chance to send some much needed
support). As for the military issue, you didn't mind us
sending troops when it was your families lives that were on the line. One last thing: take the American companies out of Europe and you have what? Latin America!
It is about time that someone was assertive in the war on drugs. It is better to eradicate a problem from it's origin rather than trying to deal with it at a later stage; in this case when the drugs arrive in the US. I hope that European countries also try to ameliorate the abundance of drugs in Colombia instead of pretending that drug problems do not affect Europe.
In Colombia the country people are poor and don't have other opportunities to make a living, coca is the only choice in the marginal areas. The USA solution is guns and poison to help Colombia find solutions. In these days Clinton visit Colombia and smile the stupid hypocrite smile and Pastrana and rich Colombians clean the streets of the poor homeless and only present rich children in nice clothes trained to speak correct words. All is lies, meanwhile poor people drink poisoned water, see food crops dead from fumigation and the jungle destroyed. Is this a good solution? No, Clinton and USA only want war because the business of USA is war: selling weapons to guerrillas, to paramilitaries and to the army.
The only solution is make drug legal, other than that is stupidity or particular interests: arms dealers, money power or bureaucracy (DEA, CIA, etc)
Its not about drugs; its about asserting the US' complete military, economic and ideological domination. The billion dollars is being spent to crush the FARC - the real challenge to the US as they offer a different set of values by which to organise society. We know that the US will do anything to crush alternatives to capitalism (Cuba, Vietnam, El Salvador et al) and Columbia is following in this pattern. Long live the FARC!
America and its drug policy advisers must understand that the fight against drugs cannot be won by force. Common sense dictates that every social vice has its roots. And to tackle any vice one must first diagnose the problem. America must look at the factors that lead to the demand for drugs. But if America can't reduce demand, let her try to encourage the growers of drug to divert to the cultivation of other crops by giving financial and other incentives. Any package that will increase their standard of living might be acceptable.
Victims of the war on drugs: the homeless, minorities, elderly, the unemployed, single poor women raising children alone, hundreds without healthcare insurance, and the possibility of troops coming home in a box. There is a better way spend 1.3bn.
Very seldom do commentators ask what the Colombian people would like. Do they want help from the USA to try to resolve their problems? The US aid has one value as far as I am concerned: bringing the issue into the media world-wide. Up until now the industrialised countries have just been ignoring the effect of the drug trade in Colombia. In the past 10 years the murder rate per annum in that country has risen to the highest in the world -- possibly 30,000 this year in a population of 35 million. Nobody doubts the reason for it - it is the effect of the corrosive influence of the drug business.
John B, UK
I think as a U.S. citizen, America should stay out of Colombia and man our own borders.
If one wants drugs in the USA, has the money to afford them, they're available. The drug trafficking trade is a phenomenal, multi-billion dollar business, When ruthless Colombian drug lords profit at the expense of people's lives, what choice does anyone have? Would you rather the USA ignored the issue? Why not let cocaine be infiltrated throughout the world? The only profit there would be then would be in the pockets of dealers, while the rest pay more with crime and taxes to take care of the consequence.
If Columbia wants cocaine, keep it there.
The war on drugs, as it is currently fought, cannot be won. I'm all for helping Colombia fix its myriad of social problems, but our country should have learned from Prohibition that you can't outlaw a vice.
Of course, it's political suicide over here to speak against the war on drugs, so I'm not optimistic for change.
Maybe I'm a bit naive, but its not as if the US is ramming a billion dollars down Colombia's throat against its will.
Personally I do not believe that the military aid will have much effect on the flow of drugs to the US. But I think too much is being made about the possible impact of such aid on the internal affairs of Colombia.
Firstly, this war on drugs is a ridiculous idea. In the 1920s we had Prohibition on alcohol which was a major disaster and led to the birth of organised crime. This war on drugs has created nothing but a bloated bureaucracy and an overflowing prison population. After a certain age, if people choose to better (or ruin) their own life, the government should have no right to interfere.
No, anything that happens in Colombia will eventually affect US Domestic issues. If the FARC or the Narcos take over I am certain that it would trigger a refugee crisis in the region and in the United States. The solution is two-fold. Curb the demand for drugs in the United States and cut the financial support of the FARC and the Narcos.
Any measure that reduces the worldwide supply of drugs and reduces the vast profits of drug barrons is to be welcomed. Some finances should be used to encourage growers to divert to alternative crops
The only thing Clinton knows is WAR but he calls himself a man that offer peace to the world. He's already killed a million kids in Iraq. Not forgetting hundreds of civilian in Serbia. Now he want to do it in South American continent. What sick man he is.
The US should definitely stay out of Colombia and other "producing" countries try to seek a constructive solution. It is very obvious to anybody that legalising drugs brings them under similar control as tobacco and alcohol and will remove crime and the Colombian lords by making them simply bankrupt. Since there is too much opposition to complete liberalisation, I recommend finding a compromise that would at least partly tackle the problem instead of mindlessly spending money on a lost cause.
If the US really wants to reduce drug abuse and drug-related violence it should focus on eliminating the demand for drugs, not the supply of them. There will always be drug suppliers, no matter what the US does; but if there is no demand, the suppliers will have no incentive to produce and smuggle drugs. Since most of the demand for Colombian cocaine exists in the US, it would make more sense for the government to use its resources in its own country to educate and discourage drug abuse.
Why do the Americans always get involved in the internal affairs of other countries? They should bother about themselves and try to solve the problems in their country rather than keep blaming others for them. The high rates of crime in USA are not the fault of Colombia but of USA society.
Is it just me or do other people tire of the United States acting as the world's police? The situation in Colombia is their problem. Perhaps if some of their politicians were not in the pocket of the drug suppliers the situation could be adequately controlled by their own military and police. I get tired of the US 'holier than thou' attitude, and they should spend more time looking at their national issues than other peoples.
If the US really wants to deal with the problem of Colombians growing coca it needs to address the root of the problem: economic necessity. The US should try to help the Colombian government to improve the lot of the farmers so that they can provide for their families without needing to grow illegal crops, apart from any security aid that is considered necessary
The drugs trade has infiltrated every part of society in every country in the West and probably the world. The attempt to use military force to curb supply is to be welcomed, provided that it forms part of a wider operation to target the organised crime gangs that feed off the vast profits and reduce the growing consumer demand. The US has a habit of starting things and not seeing them through. If this is another example then it is clearly a waste of time, but as part of a well thought-out strategy it may help to halt the increasing drugs traffic or even reduce it.
You can't buck the market - be it the external value of a currency or cocaine!
Another $1.3Bn to fight a war that was lost 20 years ago?
The USA is a major consumer of drugs. We have a problem: weak borders and huge demand. Stronger efforts have to be made on both sides of the equation. I think it is a good thing for the US to try and stop the creation of the drugs but we also need to do more in our own country to combat it. The US is the light that all of the moths flock to but the problem cannot be solved by trying to kill all the moths, there will always be more. The light itself must be turned off.
This is a decision for the Colombian people and government to decide, not the armchair diplomats who live to deride the US.
Believe it or not, fear of "another Vietnam" doesn't keep people awake at night here in the US. Relax, Clinton is merely going to Columbia to work on his legacy, sightsee and meet his connection... I mean visit some old friends from his days as Governor of Mena Arkansas.
The time of this is amusing. It's just another attempt by Clinton to make himself look better. Perhaps the US will send its children to the slaughter just to keep the incumbent party in power, as they have done before. The US needs to look at itself and remove the causes of drug abuse rather than blame external agent for its own decaying society. If I were a Colombian MP, I'd refuse US aid. US troops seem to be better at killing themselves or their allies than defeating the enemy.
Considering that the US suffers the brunt of the supply of cocaine and has to pick up the cost in both financial and human costs relating to drug abuse then they are well within their rights to support the eradication of the drug trade.
Another US backed interventionist policy designed to control the third world. I fear it will be doomed to failure like so many other American military exploits.
This money would be better spent helping the Colombians provide industry and better living standards for themselves. A new civil war with the drugs barons on one side, the Colombian/US forces on the other with FARC in the middle will benefit nobody. Except of course the armaments industry.
Clinton should not get involved in Colombia. It sickens me that the US Government thinks it can use Latin America like a footstool. The US is only interested in placing its cronies there to keep control (such as funding Pinochet's fascist coup). Nixon tried to contain
Latin America through his "big stick" policy and look what happened to him. Stay out of it!
Steve Wehrle, UK
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