Thursday, June 23, 2005

As Long as You Kill the Left You're Not a Terrorist

Has anyone noticed a gross inconsistency concerning which groups are considered terrorists by the Bush Administration?

Colombia's lawmakers have approved the guidelines for disarming the country's paramilitaries that have terrorized the country for years fighting various left-wing guerilla groups. The guidelines according to a Human Rights Watch press release:
The bill drastically limits time frames for investigation of paramilitaries’ crimes, thus making it nearly impossible to hold paramilitaries accountable for them. Even if convicted, paramilitary commanders could get away with serving as little as two years for all their crimes, without having to confess, fully disclose their knowledge of the criminal networks they run, or even turn over all their massive illegally acquired wealth.
The paramilitaries, primarily the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), are a particularly bad lot. HRW explains:
Colombia’s paramilitary coalition is on the U.S. Department of State’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Many top paramilitary commanders have been requested in extradition by the U.S. government for drug trafficking. In 2002, these commanders initiated demobilization negotiations with the Colombian government in the hope of avoiding extradition and lengthy U.S. prison terms.

Paramilitary commanders are responsible for ordering countless massacres, targeted killings, forced disappearances, and acts of torture and extortion over the course of the last two decades. The troops they command are paid and financed through complex drug-trafficking operations and other illegal activities. Because of the groups’ enormous wealth, individual paramilitary troops are easily replaced with new recruits, and paramilitary commanders enjoy political influence in much of the country.
But the real kicker comes from Frank Smyth's recent Nation article, U.S. Arms for Terrorists, which reports "[i]n 2002 US authorities announced that the AUC was implicated in trading drugs for arms with none other than Al Qaeda."

So this means the Bush Administration is completely opposed to this new law that effectively provides impunity to the paramilitary terror network that has a long history of mass killings, continues to traffic cocaine into the U.S., and maybe doing business with Al Qaeda, right? NYT's, take it away:
The Bush administration and its representative in Colombia, Ambassador William Wood, have strongly supported the law...
The message out of Bushland is clear: kill the "wrong" people and you're a terrorist, but kill the "right" people -- leftists, unionists, and the poor -- and you're worthy of a get out of jail free card.

Think I'm overstating things a bit, here's a long passage from Smyth's article detailing the long U.S. support for Colombia's paramilitary networks:
The United States itself has long been ambivalent about Colombia's paramilitaries. Back in the 1960s the US military, according to its own documents, encouraged the Colombian military to organize rightist paramilitary forces to help fight leftist guerrillas. By the early 1980s, Colombian drug traffickers and large landowners together organized the paramilitaries into a national force to ward off kidnappings and other forms of extortion by leftist guerrillas. But by the end of the decade, the government had outlawed paramilitaries after one group trained by the late drug lord Pablo Escobar blew up a Colombian airliner.

The Colombian military soon found a new way to maintain contacts with illegal paramilitaries, however. In the fall of 1990, according to a letter from the Pentagon to Senator Patrick Leahy, the US military helped its Colombian counterpart make its intelligence networks "more efficient and effective." It was instructed, according to an April 1991 classified Colombian military order, to keep its operations "covert" and "compartmentalized," to use only "retired or active-duty Officers or Non-commissioned Officers" as liaisons, and not to put orders "in writing."

One new intelligence network killed at least fifty-seven people, including trade unionists, community leaders and a journalist, according to judicial testimony. But charges were dropped after most of the witnesses were either murdered or disappeared. In 2001 a former Colombian Army general, Rito Alejo del Rio, was arrested by Colombian authorities from the attorney general's office on charges that he allegedly collaborated with illegal paramilitaries. But these charges, too, were soon dismissed, and the country's top two civilian prosecutors fled the country.
If you don't think this collaboration continues today, I forgot to mention what Smyth was reporting on. It seems two U.S. soldiers got busted for allegedly conspiring to arm the very same paramilitaries with U.S. weapons.

I'm sure they were acting alone, just like the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Terrorism, something the other guys do to us and our allies, never the other way around.