Blind To Narco-Terrorism: US Fails To Confront A Growing Threat

By Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, ACD Director
Thursday, June 29th, 2000 @ 6:03AM

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Since Narco-terrorism has not been recognized as one the of the leading killers of American citizens in the last two decades- in the form of Cocaine and Heroin. And since the Narco-terrorist organization has not been identified as the driving force behind the real on – going chemical warfare on the citizens of the US; And as the most corrupting influence on our moral fiber, the so-called “war on drugs”, that lip service of the Administration in the forms of a few billions here and there, will, as it has so far, only fuel the corruption in those countries where we are allegedly helping to fight this scourge. And while as with an ineluctable aspect of any society, corruption by drugs and ultimately drug money, can take advantage of even the most advanced, democratic, capitalistic system. That is a threat the US can not afford to ignore.”

The Soviet Union has ceased to exist, and state sponsored terrorism is on the decline. Terrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime are recognized as global threats to civil society. However, the international community, led by the US, still seems oblivious to an even more insidious threat posed by the alliance between terrorist organizations, drug traffickers, and organized crime, better known as Narco -terrorism.

It is hard to understand why, but US policy makers seem unable to grasp that ideological enemies of democracy and stability, and crime in the forms of drugs and arms trafficking and money laundering mixed with simple, personal opportunism, can go hand in hand despite sometimes “internal” small conflicts.

I have identified and described this very threat, “Narco- Terrorism,” in a book I wrote 11 years ago. [Narco- Terrorism, Basic Books, NYC, 1990] I noted then that: “But ignored as contemporary Narco-terrorism has been, it comes as a shock that drugs and terrorism now had become interdependent to a degree unimaginable even a decade ago.” Unfortunately, little was done to destroy these unholy alliances or to stamp out the drug problem in another decade since my book was published.

“It is [Narco-Terrorism] a deadly symbiosis that tears at the vitals of Western civilization – not just the United States. Moreover, from relatively modest beginning a few decades ago, Narco-terrorism has become increasingly global in nature, to become a favorite {tool and} weapon wielded against the West by its sworn enemies. For comfortable, tolerant, and self- absorbed societies to acknowledge they have enemies a major revelation and difficult to accept. That these adversaries would use both terrorism and the poison of narcotics in their war against those societies smacks of nightmare and paranoia. How could it be? Surely a handful of criminals might do so. But those who have studied the phenomenon of Narco-terrorism are arguing far more. They contend that it is not simply a few private individuals at war with the West {the US, or their legitimate government], that far more than illicit profits are at stake.

Students of Narco-terrorism argue that for several decades at the very least, governments have been in the drug trade. This is to say that by and large Narco-terrorism has become a state- sponsored phenomenon that without state protection neither prospers nor increases, an allegation almost wholly ignored until the 1970s. Indeed, the notion that some states sponsor terrorism –narcotics aside for a moment –was a scandalous proposition only a decade ago.”(Narcoterrorism, Basic Books, 1990.) Now, the State Department has “de-escalated” the rhetoric for even those states; they are no longer identified as “rogue states,” they are merely ’cause for “concern.”

“Narco-terrorism has been ignored thus far because of what are considered other political priorities. If this continues, it will result in further escalation. The past failure to acknowledge Narco- terrorism has helped create an infrastructure operating so successfully and independently that today middle-sized countries like Colombia have virtually abandoned their national sovereignty to large areas of the country and these Narco-terrorist regimes.

When we began the “war on drugs” we viewed ourselves, as standing on the edge of a precipice, and in light of what is happening today, it seems that the only progress we have made is to take a giant leap forward.

The face of terrorism, — an acknowledged threat — has changed since the end of the Cold War, and so did the methods the US and other countries have developed to contain and to fight it. Some more successful than others and some we hope not to find out.

But since Narco-terrorism has not been recognized as one of the leading killers of American citizens in the last two decades, in the form of Cocaine and Heroin, our strategy remains elusive. Narco- terrorist organizations have not been identified as the driving force behind the real on – going chemical warfare on the citizens of the US. Their direct contribution to devastating influences on our moral fiber – drug use, crime and corruption have been ignored for decades.  The so-called “war on drugs”, that lip services in the forms of a few billions here and there, will, as it has in the past, including aid from other international organizations, with little or no conditions attached. Lack of monitoring of program implementation and accountability for the allocation of funds — only fuel the corruption in the countries we are allegedly helping to fight this scourge.

John Featherly, a former Senior DEA official suggests that the US know who the Narco-terrorists are. “We know their roots, where they live, where the cultivate and produce the drugs and the ways they corrupt and who they corrupt. Yet , we do little to stop them. If the US was serious about the “war on drugs” it would provide the necessary means and funds to really fight a “war on drugs” at their source, using special methods that are available to the government. They may not be the most popular methods, but they will do the job and cut in half the number of dying addicts, AIDS infections, crime and the moral degeneration of millions of Americans. The cost benefits of ridding ourselves of this scourge, go far beyond the political outcry from those with stakes in the business. However, it is clear that the political will to seriously fight this scourge is missing in all fronts.”

Decades after Colombia’s leftist guerrilla adopted Narco-Terrorism as their main path to achieve their political agenda, they continue to benefit from a strange case of “willful blindness” among US policy makers. Despite a general agreement articulated by Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey while testifying in Congress and on many other occasions that Colombia’s problem has reached “emergency” proportions, the Clinton Administration and Congress seem unable to deal with the situation. Both Congress and State Secretary Madeleine Albright’s offered solutions to the war raging in Colombia would be suitable for a political conflict, but the struggle in Colombia is not about politics. It’s about money and the power it buys. And it is waged by a ruthless international criminal organization.

Indeed, Colombia’s Narco-Terrorists powerful tentacles are threatening to turn South America’s oldest democracy into its first Narcocracy, posing a security threat to the whole continent. As we all know, it has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of innocent Colombians while corrupting the country’s political institutions and ruining its economy. Yet, instead of staging an unconditional war to rid Colombia of this menace, peace talks have been chosen to resolve a criminal conflict and to appease dangerous criminals under the guise of a political agenda, which if looked at closely, would reveal a nightmarish plan for a totalitarian rule by ruthless murderers on their way to the Presidential Palace. Not surprisingly previous US attempts to help with the negotiations have failed. And there is little expectation that either the forthcoming US aid or diplomatic intervention would change the situation.

In a little noticed, but truly revealing statement last month, the FARC announced that it was going to enforce its General Law No. 2, taxing the rich. However, the FARC refused to disclose its Law No. 1, which they promise to reveal only when they are in power. Clearly, being in power is not beyond their reach, considering that they control about 50% of the country and that they have a distinct presence at the outskirts of Bogota. And from what we know of the FARC by now, it is reasonable to assume that when, or if they do, their system of government will be totalitarian, nothing they care to advertise in advance for fear of loosing popular support. Perhaps as a condition for Pastrana’s next negotiation with them, he should demand that they make public their Law No. 1.

Illegal drugs provide the Narco-Terrorists with revenue of about $750 million to $1 billion annually in Colombia alone. Not surprisingly they deny their involvement in the drug trade. But it is surprising that Colombian Pres. Andres Pastrana supports their claim, stating that “there is no evidence that the FARC are drug traffickers” in an interview last year to the Argentine newspaper ‘Clarin.’ On the contrary,  Pastrana claimed, “The FARC have always said they are interested in eradicating illegal crops.” And US Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, though noting the linkage between the drug traffickers and the guerrillas, claims that only “two-thirds [of the terrorists] benefit financially from this association.”

Why these outrageous statements that fly in the face of evidence and common sense? In whose interest is this fiction advanced? Why keep alive the myth that there is a distinction between the terrorists and the drug traffickers in Colombia? Why provide them with respectability and legitimacy by maintaining the fiction that these greedy criminals have a “social and political agenda”? Does anyone really think that by turning a blind eye to their narcotics involvement, we will “socialize” them and bring them into the democratic political arena?

Many acknowledge that US foreign policy in Latin America has often failed. The post-Cold War era dictates Washington must above all else maintain the appearance of not meddling in other countries’ internal affairs, domestic terrorism included. At least, that will be the policy until some unpredictable cataclysmic crisis forces Washington to grapple with the on-going destruction of civil society by criminal organizations in a country as important as Colombia.

That may be coming sooner rather than later. According to the General Accounting Office (GAO) reports, the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia’s two Narco-terrorist guerrilla organizations are responsible for the country’s heroin and cocaine expanding production. The GAO projects that Colombian heroin, already the primary source for the eastern US, will rise by as much as 50% in the next two years. And the 165 tons of cocaine, which ended up on the streets of America in 1998, will swell to at least 250 tons by the year 2001.”

The amalgamation of drug trafficking and terrorism started back in the early eighties as a marriage of political convenience. The economic incentive for the leftist guerrillas was clear: drug money provided them with the resources to carry out their revolution. In exchange, the drug traffickers received guerrilla protection and trained assassins to carry out acts of intimidation. While the motives of the two pariahs were different, their common goal was to destabilize and undermine the government. But the so-called “Marxist rebels,” had long since replaced their “social” agenda with the lucrative drug business. Denial of the changes that have taken place has helped the Narco-terrorists to take control of more than 50% of Colombia’s territory. But this loss we are told was a “gesture of good will by Pastrana” to the rebels. And according to Secretary Albright, the extensive growth in the supply of drugs is caused not by the Narco-terrorist, but by “our [America’s] demand for drugs.” Such denials help the Narco-terrorist in their savage destruction of the country. It also helps other elements in our society to call for “drug legalization.” It’s hard to think of a better way to end democracy in America than by doping it.

And there is no relief in sight. Off-on negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC were never significant because the rebels have no real agenda — except to continue their profiteering on drugs to expand their political power.

The geopolitical reality is that drug trafficking increasingly knows no national boundaries. The Colombian guerrillas threaten regularly retaliation in neighboring countries willing to help the US to combat drug trafficking. It is a war the US has spent many billions fighting all over the world inefficiently, with a constantly changing strategy, thus, with little to show for. We know of the deep involvement of the Colombian cartels in Mexico and the use of their fellow traffickers in Mexico for moving great amounts of their “product” into the U.S. This is the evidence that the disease of Narco-terrorism is international, that it is growing, that its tentacles are spreading throughout the Third World and reaching into our daily lives in the industrial countries, foremost among them, the U.S.

Stopping massive killings, human right abuses and other atrocities was good enough reason to go to war in Kosovo. But apparently similar and even worse conditions do not justify putting an end to a prolonged vicious war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives over the last decade, has already corrupted and subverted democratic institutions throughout the region, it has and is destroying the free market system, destabilizes and corrupts financial systems throughout the Americas, and is posing a growing threat to the stability of the region. While the ineluctable aspect of any society, corruption by drugs and ultimately drug money, can take advantage of even the most advanced, democratic, capitalistic system. That is a threat the US can not afford to ignore.

A US-led coalition, as Secretary Albright suggested, should be assembled — but not to negotiate an effort to lend respectability to a hideous criminal effort, or promise them foreign investments as NYSE Chair Richard Grasso reportedly did last Summer.

Our goal must be an all-out effort to stop Narco-terrorism from destabilizing the region and the Colombianization of the neighboring countries.


Categories: Narco-Terrorism, U.S. Policy

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