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Chairman, I will not make a point of order against the
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So I withdraw my reservation, and I am pleased to proceed with the debate.
The CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the amendment being considered at this point in the bill.
There was no objection.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern) is recognized for 5 minutes on his amendment.
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to discuss a critical issue of American foreign policy. Tucked quietly into this supplemental is language that will significantly increase United States involvement in the civil war in Colombia. Along with the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton), I am offering an amendment to strike that troubling and dangerous language and restore some common sense to our Colombia policy.
The supplemental bill expands our role in Colombia beyond counternarcotics and into counterterrorism. The problem is that in Colombia, counterterrorism means counter-insurgency.
In short, Mr. Chairman, if the Colombia language in the supplemental survives, the United States will be plunging head first into a grinding, violent and deepening civil war that has plagued Colombia for nearly 4 decades. This House should think long and hard before it gives a green light to such a momentous shift in our policy.
For the past several years, the U.S. has invested billions of dollars into counternarcotics efforts in Colombia. It is difficult to argue that our investment has paid any dividends. Indeed, since the inception of Plan Colombia, coca production in that country has actually increased by 25 percent.
Now, having said that, our amendment will not affect our funding for counternarcotics. In addition, our amendment protects language in the supplemental that allows U.S. resources to be used for humanitarian assistance, including rescue operations.
Two weeks ago, this House unwisely voted to grant the Secretary of Defense the ability to waive the cap on the number of U.S. military personnel in Colombia. When you add it all up, increased U.S. troops plus increased involvement in the civil war equals bad policy. But that is the door that this bill will open.
The majority of U.S. aid to Colombia goes to the Colombian military, a military with an abysmal human rights record, a military that continues to maintain ties to paramilitary groups that are listed on the State Department terrorist list. I do not believe that American taxpayer dollars should be used to fund an institution like that, and I certainly do not believe that we should expand American resources beyond fighting drugs and into fighting guerrillas.
Mr. Chairman, I am also deeply troubled by the timing of this Colombia language. On Sunday, Colombians will go to the polls to elect a new president. Polls show that the winner of that election will be Alvaro Uribe. Mr. Uribe has based his campaign on a promise to expand the civil war, and there are widespread indications that the violent right-wing paramilitaries that are responsible for so many of the human rights abuses in Colombia are actually supporting the Uribe campaign.
Now, I believe it would be a huge mistake to pledge additional U.S. troops and resources to the Colombian government before we see what the Uribe government will look like. Indeed, if Colombia decides to increase its own investment in fighting its civil war, it would be a dramatic shift. Right now Colombia spends less than 2 percent of its GDP on the war effort. People with high school diplomas are exempted from serving in combat roles, leaving the dirty work to the poor and uneducated. Our troops and our resources are simply too precious to be used as proxies in Colombia's civil war. If American personnel are not targets now because of our counternarcotic efforts, you will be sure they will be targets when we pick sides against the guerilla force of over 20,000 well-armed fighters.
Mr. Chairman, we all support the efforts to combat the kind of global terrorism that threatens our interests and people. We all support the campaign to dismantle al Qaeda. But Colombia is not Afghanistan. It is the site of a terrible, terrible civil war. Kidnapping and other homegrown acts of terrorism have been part of this war since the very beginning and used by all sides. There is no new war on terrorism to be waged in Colombia, there is only more of the same.
Mr. Chairman, what is our plan? How many U.S. troops? How much money? What is the end game? Colombia is a huge country, three times the size of Montana, 53 times the size of El Salvador. It is a hideously complex place with widespread poverty and social unrest.
Mr. Chairman, this is a defining moment. Getting directly involved in Colombia's civil war is a mistake, plain and simple. Let us demonstrate the good sense to think long and hard before we plunge ahead.
I urge my colleagues to vote for the McGovern-Skelton amendment.
Mr. KOLBE. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to this amendment. Let me begin by saying what the amendment does. It strikes 2 provisions, and the reason we agreed to the unanimous consent is because it strikes one section dealing with the Defense Department and one much later dealing with the State Department, so a point of order could have been made against this amendment. The McGovern amendment strikes the same language both in Defense and in the State Department chapters that permits the administration to allow U.S. assistance for Colombia to be used in a war against terrorism, not just simply against narco-trafficking.
Mr. Chairman, let me begin by observing that this amendment does undermine a bipartisan compromise that this committee worked very hard to obtain regarding broadened authority for U.S. assistance in Colombia. Similar language with a good deal more conditions is also contained in the Senate bill, so this amendment would negate not only a bipartisan, but a bicameral agreement that has been reached.
The amendment would preclude the U.S. from supporting Colombia's counterterrorism efforts. When the Clinton administration began to seek support for Plan Colombia from Congress about 3 years ago, 1 argument was that the revenues from the narcotics industry were increasing the ability of the FARC, the ELN and the AUC, the guerrilla groups and the terrorist groups that operate in Colombia, to destabilize Colombia.
Now, 3 years later, with Plan Colombia under way, the groups are, unfortunately, stronger than ever, eradication has not kept up with new plantings, and Colombia is facing a more unstable future than it was before. It is time for a change in American policy.
The existing authorities to spend U.S. assistance are narrowly written, too narrowly written, to allow U.S. assets and U.S. trained forces only to be used in counternarcotics activities. I have been to Colombia twice since Plan Colombia was approved, and to me it is patently obvious that we are operating with restrictions that are much too narrow.
The lines between counternarcotics and counterterrorism are not clear anymore; I do not think they ever were. They are certainly not clear today. In today's environment, with terrorists attacking the U.S. and U.S. citizens abroad, this imaginary line between counternarcotics and counterterrorism ought not to be maintained.
With many of my colleagues, I tried to convince the administration a few months ago that by not approaching Congress to clarify the authorities under which the U.S. would provide assistance, they would jeopardize congressional support for U.S. assistance to Colombia. This came after the Colombian Government, President Pastrana, had announced that they were abandoning their plans to try to achieve peace because the many attempts to negotiate with the guerillas
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Starting with the President's request, the committee arrived at a bipartisan compromise. And let me tell my colleagues a couple of things it does not do. The bill language does not extend through 2003, which was requested by the President. We are going to get into a markup of the 2003 appropriations bills in not too many weeks, so we decided to address 2003 in the fiscal year 2003, as I think we ought to. We have included report language that states our intent to use this bipartisan approach in the fiscal year 2003 bill, so we are making clear we probably will do so; and we can have this debate again in a few months if we need to have it, and that debate will take place after the elections and perhaps even after the inauguration of the new President. We want to see what the new Colombian administration will do after it is inaugurated in August.
Further, the committee deletes the broad ``notwithstanding any other provision of law'' provision, which was requested by the President. It was the conclusion by the committee that the authority is simply not needed by the Department of State at this time, given the existing authorities within the international narcotics and law enforcement account. And all existing human rights provisions, the caps on U.S. personnel in Colombia and the prohibitions on visas to individuals with terrorist links, are maintained.
With these conditions in place, with no large increase in the resources requested or provided to the Colombian military, this change in policy is not a major expansion of the U.S. role in Colombia's civil strife. It is a realistic approach to the situation in Colombia to combat terrorists using existing assets.
The Subcommittee on Foreign Operations had a hearing on U.S. assistance for Colombia in March. At that hearing the Under Secretary of State said on the record that the broader use of authorities would primarily make available U.S.-owned helicopters for counterterrorism purposes.
Mr. Chairman, I urge this body to retain the compromise language that is in this bill that has been reached on both sides of the aisle and on both sides of the Capitol building.
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the McGovern-Skelton amendment. I am surprised that the gentleman from Arizona omitted a bit of history, because American troops were sent initially to Colombia and a line was drawn and it was drawn to provide training in antidrug activities only. This is a major step. This is a Gulf of Tonkin amendment that is in the bill that we seek to strike.
Now, Mr. Chairman, I speak today having recalled on so many occasions within the Committee on Armed Services and here on the floor, pointing out the fact that our troops are stretched, they are strained, their families are paying a severe sacrifice on their loved ones being gone so much, and that we have to increase the number of troops that we have. So with that in mind, I think that what is in the bill needs to be stricken. The implication is clear, that American servicemembers would become engaged in a broadened United States military effort in Colombia.
My concerns with the bill are several. Expanded American military activities will embroil us in a civil war that has been raging for 40 years. This is no small thing, as the gentleman from Arizona pointed out. This is a major policy change. We could find ourselves engulfed in a morass that would eat up American soldiers like we have not seen in years.
Second, and perhaps the most important, is that our military personnel are performing more overseas missions today than ever. In just the past several months, our forces have been deployed to the Philippines, to Yemen, to Georgia, in addition to the major operations in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo, not to mention Korea, not to mention the young men and women aboard ships on the seas. If the administration follows through with its plans to invade Iraq, invade Iraq, we simply will not have enough people to perform the missions, at least not to perform them very well.
So we should carefully weigh the consequences before undertaking expanding missions in places like Colombia. The administration has simply not made the case for this expansion of our role. It is well known that the Colombian law allows wealthy and educated youth to avoid military combat. Their own sons are not sent out to fight the insurgence, but American sons can do it. I do not think that is a good policy for the United States of America.
Mr. Chairman, expanding the drug program in Colombia to include terrorist activities is inviting war in Colombia. It runs the risk of embroiling us in an intractable civil war at a time when our military is stretched already. A vote for this amendment is the right policy for Colombia.
The bill says that the Department of Defense funds can be used for a unified campaign. That is a magic phrase. That means, as I interpret it, that it is a license to change the rules of engagement for our troops that allows them to engage in combat or war. If this bill is adopted without this amendment, we could be embroiled in a no-kidding shooting war; and we will know that this is a Gulf of Tonkin effort that we have passed, unless this amendment prevails.
Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
(Mr. PAUL asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of this amendment, and I compliment the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern) and the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton) for bringing this to us. There has been a lot of discussion in the last 2 days, a lot about the deficit; and it strikes me as a bit of an irony, especially because it comes from many, and I have to say on both sides of the aisle, that do a lot to raise the national debt and the spending, and yet the debate went on and on. For some reason, I think there has been a lot of politics in the debate.
The interesting thing about what is going on right now, there is no politics in this. This is about war, and this is important, and this is about policy. It is said that we would like to get things like this through without a full discussion; but this, to me, is a key issue. This amendment is about whether or not we will change our policy in central America and, specifically, in Colombia.
Mr. Chairman, a year or so ago we appropriated $1.6 billion, and we went into Colombia with the intent of reducing drug usage. Instead it is up 25 percent. Drug usage is going up! They sprayed 210,000 acres, and now there are 53,000 more acres than ever before. It reminds me of Afghanistan. We have been in Afghanistan for less than a year and drug production is going up! I just wonder about the effectiveness of our drug program in Colombia.
But the theory is that we will be more effective if we change the policy. Pastrana tried to negotiate a peace and we were going too deal with the drugs, and we were going to have peace after 40 years of a civil war. Now Uribi is likely to become President and the approach is to different. He said, no more negotiations. We will be fighting and we want American help, and we want a change in policy, and we do not want spraying fields; we want helicopters to fight a war. That is what we are dealing with here. We should not let this go by without a full discussion and a full understanding, because in reality, there is no authority to support a military operation in Colombia.
What we are doing is we are appropriating for something for the administration to do without a proper authority. He has no authority to get involved in the civil war down there. We cannot imply that the issue of war is granted through the appropriation process. It is not the way the system works. The constitutional system works with granting explicit authority to wage war. The President has no authority, and now he wants the money; and we are ready to capitulate. Let me tell my colleagues, if we care about national defense, we must reconsider this.
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So I would say, please, take a close look at this. We do not need to be expanding our role in Colombia. The drug war down there has not worked, and I do not expect this military war that we are about to wage to work either. We need to talk about national defense, and this does not help our national defense. I fear this. I feel less secure when we go into areas like this, because believe me, this is the way that we get troops in later on. We already have advisory forces in Colombia. Does anybody remember about advisors and then eventually having military follow in other times in our history. Yes, this is a very risky change in policy. This is not just a minor little increase in appropriation.
So I would ask, once again, where is the authority? Where does the authority exists for our President to go down and expand a war in Colombia when it has nothing to do with our national defense or our security? It has more to do with oil than our national security, and we know it. There is a pipeline down there that everybody complains that it is not well protected. It is even designated in legislation, and we deal with this at times. So I would say think about the real reasons behind us going down there.
It just happens that we have spread ourselves around the world; we are now in nine countries of the 15 countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union. And every country has something to do with oil. The Caspian Sea, Georgia, and why are we in the Persian Gulf? We are in the Persian Gulf to protect ``our'' oil. Why are we involved with making and interfering with the democratically elected leader of Venezuela? I thought we were for democracy, and yet the reports are that we may well have participated in the attempt to have a democratically elected official in Venezuela removed. I think there is a little bit of oil in Venezuela as well. Could that have been the reason.
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