ATRC Updates November 22, 2000 World Policy Institute – Research Project


CURRENT UPDATES: November 22, 2000

In this update:

Abolition 2000 issued its “Annual Progress Toward a Nuclear Free World” report card late last month, announcing an abysmal total grade of 20 out of a possible 120 points. I would be afraid to bring those grades home to mother. The report card tracks progress on Abolition 2000’s eleven points. On many key issues, namely ceasing to produce and deploy new nuclear weapons, ratification of a Comprehensive Test Ban treaty, prohibitions on new nuclear research and testing in the laboratory, countries were given a 0 out of 10 grade.

On a few issues, the nations of the world made progress and were rewarded with higher grades. Progress was made in recognizing and upholding the 1996 World Court decision on the illegality of the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, and for that a 6 of 10 grade was given. The report concludes with a quote from Albert Einstein, “For there is no secret and no defense, there is no possibility of control except through the aroused understanding and insistence of the peoples of the world.” Abolition 2000’s report card is a great tool for arousing that understanding.

You can download the Report Card at or email Pamela Meidell at Atomic Mirror to request a PDF file at

The current issue of this Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) publication is centered around the theme “Nonviolent Resistance to War and Injustice.” There is not enough room to list all the great articles and resources in this issue, but suffice it to say it is worth picking up. People’s historian Howard Zinn has an article entitled “A Noble Tradition of U.S. Nonviolent Resistance,” Gener Sharp from the Albert Einstein Institute writes on “Methods of Nonviolent Action.” If you’d like to learn more visit COAT’s website at or contact Richard Sanders at 613-231-3076,

One of the most exciting post-election web gleanings is the transcript of Democracy Now host Amy Goodman’s impromptu half hour interview with President Bill Clinton. She “caught” Clinton as he was making election day tree shaking calls to radio stations. The full transcript can be read or listened to at

President Clinton answered a barrage of questions on the death penalty, the Middle East violence, but finally lost his temper when Goodman suggested that he was partly responsible for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader’s popularity “for having driven the Democratic Party to the right.” “Now you listen to this,” Clinton fumed, “the other thing that Ralph Nader says is that he is as pure as Caesar’s wife on the environment,” and proceeded to rattle off the administration’s accomplishments. Goodman then countered with questions on the administration’s passage of NAFTA and its continued support of sanctions against Iraq. The questions came fast and heavy, and were challenging, well informed and refreshingly “combative,” suggesting that Amy Goodman would have been a breath of fresh air as moderator of the Bush/Gore debates.

New Report from GAO Highlights Difficulties with Plan Colombia
In October of 1999, at the urging of the U.S., Colombian President Andres Pastrana unveiled his ambitious $7.5 billion counternarcotics effort known as Plan Colombia, with hopes of reducing drug production by 50% over 6 years. Pastrana indicated that Plan Colombia would also focus on advancing the peace process, improving the economy, reforming the judicial system, and supporting democratization and social development. But as the Center for International Policy has pointed out, while Pastrana has stated only 25% of Plan Colombia would benefit Colombia’s armed forces, so far 75% of the US contribution has been targeted for the military.

The Colombian government pledged $4 billion of its budget to the plan (which, considering Colombia’s economic situation is an astronomical figure), and pleaded with other governments to assist with the remaining $3.5 billion. Now, more than a year later, the U.S. has agreed to provide $1.3 billion for counter-drug activities, of which $862 million will go to Colombia, while European nations have pledged, at best, $200 million in aid.

Yet despite record increases in U.S. military assistance to Colombia over the past five years, a new report from the General Accounting Office (GAO) reveals that coca cultivation and production have more than doubled during the same time period and Colombia has also become a leading producer of heroin. As for Plan Colombia, “the total cost and activities required to meet the plan’s goals remain unknown, and it will take years before drug activities are significantly reduced.” Winifred Tate, senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), points out, “Instead of learning from past decades of misguided military follies, U.S. policy towards Colombia continues to focus on expanding military operations.”

The GAO report focuses on the U.S. aid package for Plan Colombia (and previous counternarcotics efforts) and details the difficulties and problems encountered. Some of the report’s findings include: (see link to report below in resources)

  • U.S. assistance has been of limited utility because of long-standing problems in planning and implementing this assistance. For example, helicopters provided to the National Police and the military have not had sufficient spare parts or the funding to operate and maintain them to the extent necessary for conducting counternarcotics operations.
  • The Colombian government has not demonstrated that it has the detailed plans, management structure, and funding necessary to effectively implement its programs and achieve stated goals.
  • The challenge of reducing drug-related activities has become more difficult as the two largest insurgent groups (FARC and ELN) and paramilitary groups have expanded their involvement in drug trafficking.
  • U.S. Embassy officials stated that the National Police have not always provided necessary documents, such as budgetary and planning documents, to determine if the National Police are using the resources in accordance with eradication and interdiction plans.
  • According to U.S. Embassy officials, despite extensive training and other efforts to have the Colombian National Police develop a management program that would ensure a more effective aerial eradication program, little progress has been made.

The report’s findings are nothing new: a multi-billion dollar military aid package is unlikely to make more than a dent in Colombia’s drug production, but will continue deepening U.S. involvement in Colombia’s 40-year civil war, which has claimed 35,000 lives in the past ten years alone. While the GAO report examined the financial and logistical issues plaguing U.S. efforts to stem drug production in Colombia, an article in the Fall 2000 World Policy Journal by William LeoGrande and Kenneth Sharpe delves into the deeper reasons why Plan Colombia will fail.

First, despite administration’s assurances that the U.S. aid package to Colombia is to combat drug trafficking, “no one in Colombia believes that, and no one in Washington ought to either.” Beefing up the Colombian armed forces is premised on the notion that a stronger Colombian army will force the guerrilla groups to the peace table. As LeoGrande and Sharpe point out, this didn’t work in El Salvador, why does the U.S. think it will work in Colombia’s 40-year war? Instead, “a billion dollars of US aid turned that [El Salvadoran] army into a large, well-equipped, politically powerful force that murdered noncombatant civilians with impunity for over a decade . . . the war ended when the army finally recognized that it was unwinnable – a conclusion it reached when the US cut military assistance by 50 percent, threatened to end it entirely, and threw its full diplomatic weight behind the peace process.”

Secondly, LeoGrande and Sharpe note that the U.S. aid package doesn’t take into account the problem of the paramilitary groups, which are heavily involved in drug trafficking and have links to the army. Like in El Salvador when the Reagan administration tolerated the death squads because they were viewed as being “an essential weapon in its war against the left,” the article speculates that in Colombia too, it is likely that the U.S.’s focus on the war against the guerrillas will cause Washington to turn a blind eye to the “army’s other partner in this dirty war.”

Although we’re still waiting to see who will be the next president of the United States, one thing is certain, neither candidate is likely to stray from the failed and favored military approach to dealing with the drug problem. The issue did not generate any attention during the three presidential debates and neither candidate has been outspoken on the issue. Both Bush and Gore support Plan Colombia and an increase in U.S. assistance to Colombia. On a positive note, both candidates have acknowledged the need for more domestic drug treatment and prevention programs, yet how they would advance this idea in a resistant Congress is unclear.

But, the question of who will take over for Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey when he officially resigns his post on January 6, 2001 will have an even greater impact on the future of U.S. drug policy. McCaffrey’s repeated claims that we’re winning the drug war are wearing thin. The situation in Colombia notwithstanding, domestically, drug use by junior high students has increased by 300%, prevention and treatment programs are constantly shortchanged, and the prison population is exploding with more than 400,000 non-violent drug offenders in prison. The list goes on.

The U.S. should be encouraging the peace process in Colombia, not fanning and fueling the war. As LeoGrande and Sharpe aptly put it, “Even if the United States defoliates every acre given over to growing coca, burns every laboratory, and destroys every last gram of Colombian cocaine, it will have won a hollow victory. The drug business will simple move elsewhere, as it always does. But it is the people of Colombia who will pay the price for the inability of the United States to face the fact that its ‘war’ on drugs can only be won at home.”


  • World Policy Journal, Fall 2000, “Two Wars or One? Drugs, Guerrillas, and Colombia’s New Violencia,” by William M. LeoGrande and Kenneth E. Sharpe ( – Join the online interactive discussion.
  • The Center for International Policy is an invaluable resource for activists wanting to learn more about US aid to Colombia (
  • NACLA, September/October 2000, ‘Report on Colombia’ – includes articles on Colombia’s two major guerrilla groups (FARC and ELN), the paramilitaries connections to both the drug traffickers and Colombia’s armed forces, the ongoing peace process, displaced Colombians, and biowarfare in Colombia, –


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