|Incentivizing Murder: Plan Colombia and the Bitter Fruits of Empire|
|Written by Chris Floyd|
|Thursday, 30 October 2008 01:09|
The War on Drugs meets the War on Terror, and the result, inevitably, is stone-cold murder: Colombia Killings Cast Doubt on War Against Insurgents (NYT):
This is the imposthume of much greed and graft, and of the geopolitical power games played by the bipartisan elite in Washington. Any half-sentient person has known for years that the Clinton-Bush policy of lavishing endless cash and weaponry on the right-wing death squads in Colombia -- those in uniform and out -- has incentivized the murder of countless innocent civilians. Anyone who has opposed the Colombian elite, or stood up for the poor and the working people -- even if they have nothing to do with FARC or the narco freebooters, even if, indeed, they have also opposed their depredations also -- has long been at risk of sudden "disappearance" or gruesome death; the serial execution of union organizers, going back for many years, is just one example.
“We are witnessing a method of social cleansing in which rogue military units operate beyond the law,” said Monica Sánchez, a lawyer at the Judicial Freedom Corporation, a human rights group in Medellín. The group says it has documented more than 60 “false positives” — the chilling term for cases of civilians who are killed and then presented as guerrillas, with weapons or fatigues — in the department, or province, of Antioquia..."A government in Washington that validates torture" -- this is the crux of the matter. A government -- or rather, an entire political elite -- that validates torture, wars of aggression, cross-border "incursions," "black ops," a military empire of more than 700 bases all over the planet, and the slaughter of more than one million innocent lives on just one front of the "Terror War" alone, will indeed produce results like the ones we see in Colombia. It is inevitable, unavoidable -- it is precisely what the system is designed to do: put the power of life and death into the hands of brutal elites, who will in turn kowtow to Washington's political, financial, military, and ideological agendas.
The Republicans do this without the slightest qualm, proudly (as we noted here earlier), frankly, without any finesse and very little pretense. The Democrats wring their hands a bit over the "excesses" and "aberrations" of the system, and employ more nuanced justifications, more rhetorical gilding. But both parties are in full agreement on the need to maintain -- and expand -- this massive militarist empire.
And yes, it will continue under Obama. And no, the American empire is not about to collapse any time soon, despite the economic catastrophe and the murderous botching of the Iraq and Afghanistan operations. As Princeton historian Arno Mayer notes this week in CounterPunch:
The United States may emerge from the Iraq fiasco almost unscathed. Though momentarily disconcerted, the American empire will continue on its way, under bipartisan direction and mega-corporate pressure, and with evangelical blessings. It is a defining characteristic of mature imperial states that they can afford costly blunders, paid for not by the elites but the lower orders. Predictions of the American empire's imminent decline are exaggerated: without a real military rival, it will continue for some time as the world's sole hyperpower.Underscoring that point, Jeff Huber notes at Military.com:
Iran's defense budget is less than one percent the size of ours. North Korea's entire gross domestic product is less than ten percent of our defense budget... Russia and China each spend ten percent or less on defense than we do. The Russians already lost the part they sit with trying to run with us in an arms race. The Chinese had sufficient ancient wisdom to learn from Russia's mistake rather than make it themselves. They're both so far behind now they'd never catch up, and they know it. They won't bleed themselves white economically trying to do the impossible.But both McCain and Obama have pledged themselves to a massive enlargement of the American war machine. And they will still have vast resources to draw upon as they advance the cause of empire, as Arno notes:
The US economy, syncretic culture and Big Science are unequalled. Despite huge fiscal and trade deficits, and the Wall Street banking and insurance meltdown, which have unhinged its financial system and rippled across the global economy, overall the US economy remains robust and pacesetting in creative destruction. Never mind the social costs at home and abroad. But its shrinking industrial and manufacturing sectors may be the weakest link.Again, the point is not whether ordinary American citizens will thrive under such a system. For the most part, they will not. But their prosperity and security do not figure into the imperial power equations. They are irrelevant. (Although that's not to say that unruly temper in the herd must not be allayed from time to time, occasionally by genuine reforms that head off popular discontent, or, very often, by promises, feints, fine rhetoric and symbolic gestures evoking hope for change.)
And the sad fact is, once a nation gets a taste for empire, many of its people become emotionally invested in it (not to mention financially invested). As Arno puts it:
This American empire has significant family resemblances with past empires in its grab for critical natural resources, mass markets and strategic outposts. Americans know they have a considerable stake in the persistence of their imperium. Some social strata benefit more from its spoils than others. Still, it is profitable socially, culturally and psychologically, especially for its intelligentsia, liberal professions and media.III.
The murder-for-bonuses scheme carried out by many American-trained and American-funded units in Colombia is just one more bitter fruit of the imperial tree. It was spawned by both the "War on Terror" and its twin in corruption, militarism, lawlessness and vast, needless suffering, the "War on Drugs," launched almost 40 years ago, and still going strong -- albeit without the slightest discernible effect on the level of drug use. As I noted in a column in the Moscow Times -- back in December 2001:
After all, as [the Bush Administration] tells us, the "war on terrorism" is just like "the war on drugs" – that is to say, a never-ending fount of profitable corruption for the ruthless, the murderous and the well-connected.And they will keep going on, even if the bright sun of "pragmatic progressivism" rises on Inauguration Day 2009. Obama has rightly cited the murder of Colombian union activists as a cause for concern, even bringing it before a national television audience in the last debate. But again, this is a matter of nuance, of technocratic tinkering within the framework of the bipartisan consensus for empire. Obama has also supported the Colombian government in its Bush-style cross-border military incursions to "fight terrorism," and back the expansion of the "Merida Initiative," a Bush-created scheme that would essentially expand "Plan Colombia" -- with the "results" detailed in the New York Times story -- throughout Latin America, as the Council on Hemispheric Affairs reports:
Obama supports the extension of the Merida Initiative to create a more comprehensive regional security bloc within the Western Hemisphere. The Merida Initiative was proposed by President Bush as the keystone of his U.S.-Central America security plan, and is focused on the provision of military and police aid to Mexico (with much smaller amounts to Central American countries) to fight organized crime and drug cartels. It is a complete truism that the military and legal structures in Mexico and Central America have suffered from a history of corruption and human rights abuses, and critics of current U.S. policy argue that increasing military aid to the region only increases the capacity of local authorities to abuse power of an already deeply flawed law enforcement system. The Merida Initiative is in many ways similar to Plan Colombia, which provides military and police aid to fight narcotrafficking and organized crime there...The Council goes on to note:
While the complete nature of Obama’s Latin American platform remains to be seen, there is no doubt that Obama’s stance on hemispheric affairs will differ from that of the Bush White House, but not so much from Clinton’s regional policy which was barely discernable from Reagan-era area policy.That is a chilling conclusion indeed from this very mainstream, centrist organization, when one considers the murderous abomination that was "Reagan-era area policy" in Latin America. As I noted in the Moscow Times in June 2004:
Reagan willingly abetted the murder of countless thousands of innocent people throughout Central America, killed at the hands of U.S.-trained death squads and military units -- more than 200,000 civilians murdered in Guatemala alone, Consortiumnews.com reports. Many more were tortured and raped by U.S. proxies -- all this with the connivance of Reagan officials, who lied to Congress about the atrocities. One of these liars, Elliot Abrams, was convicted of perjury; but pardoned by George Bush I, he now directs Middle East policy for George Bush II. (For more, see Robert Parry's "Reagan and Guatemala's Death Files" and his "Reagan's Bogus Legacy.")I don't believe this is the kind of "change" that most Americans are hoping for from an Obama administration. To be sure, Obama has talked about building his Latin American policies around the strengthening of civic structures, protection of human rights and nurturing the rule of law. These are good words; but then again, what American president has not claimed that his policies were designed to advance these noble pursuits? At the moment, Obama seems poised to take away with his right hand what he proffers with his left: bold words on human rights, but at the same time an extension of the murder-producing, elite-coddling "Plan Colombia" throughout the region.
We've said this many times before: within the American militarist empire as it now stands, there are spaces where factional differences among the elite can produce mitigations of the system's malign effects in various ways for a substantial number of people. This is not nothing, especially if you are one of those people. I don't believe in begrudging anyone's desire for relief, however partial and imperfect that relief might be. At the same time, it is clear that Obama fully accepts the logic, the structure and the overall agenda of the imperial system -- a system which inevitably, irresistibly generates atrocities on a mass scale.
Once you accept that -- and not only accept it, but even fight hard to take control of it, to make it yours -- then what won't you do? And how quickly and easily will you cast aside your mitigations if the needs of the system demand it? If you pick up a scepter still dripping with fresh blood, and wield it, will your hand not "incarnadine the multitudinous seas, making the green one red?" blog comments powered by Disqus