Glen T. Martin
(Published in the Roanoke Times Newspaper, 16 May 2000)
The U.S. Senate is currently considering a massive 1.3 billion dollar package of primarily military aid to Columbia, requested by the Clinton Administration under the guise of the “war on drugs.” The package includes advanced weaponry, including jet fighters and helicopter gun ships, as well as increased U.S. training of Columbia’s military forces. This consistently fits the pattern of the U.S. system of global domination and repression.
Columbia is already the largest recipient of U.S. weapons and training in Latin America, and has been throughout the 1990s. It also has had the worst record of human rights abuses in Latin America during this period, with rampant death squads, disappearances, widespread torture, massacres of entire villages, and internal refugees. Columbia also has severe, widespread poverty that has led its people to rebel against the U.S. supported oligarchy of landowners, narco-traders, and wealthy capitalists who are making vast profits through selling off Columbia’s rich resources to U.S. Corporations.
Columbia therefore follows the classic pattern of countries under U.S. domination. The exploitation by a tiny ruling class, selling off resources and the cheap labor of the starving poor to U.S. transnational corporations, becomes so severe that the people finally pick up arms and rebel. Then comes a vast increase in human rights abuses, torture, disappearances and massacres, along with a vast increase in U.S. military training and direct shipments of U.S. weapons to the repressive regime. With U.S. military support, atrocities continue to mount until the exhausted people give up and accept their hunger and misery passively. Our government calls this process “restoring democracy.”
This is exactly what happened in the nightmare regimes of El Salvador and Guatemala during the 1980s, both military oligarchies trained and supplied by the U.S. There were massive government atrocities against those populations, and a large, semi-secret paramilitary apparatus of terror and death in which military personal would remove uniforms to go out at night and simply eliminate any opposition who spoke out against the regime, just as in Columbia today. In El Salvador, a tiny country of four million people, the U.S. provided four and a half billion dollars in military aid to this brutal oligarchy during the 1980s. The repression in El Salvador and Guatemala has diminished since these terrified, brutalized populations exhausted their spirit of resistance and signed “peace accords” in the early 1990s. Although the massive poverty that was the cause of their resistance has only increased since that time due to IMF “structural adjustment” programs being forced upon those peoples. This has been the pattern throughout Latin America since the Second World War.
This U.S. “foreign policy” of repression is not an accident. It has been the ruling idea since the end of the Second World War when the U.S. emerged as the world’s richest and most powerful nation. At that time, the U.S. secret policy planners understood that we had emerged from the war at the top of a global system of economic exploitation, since the poverty of most of the world’s population forces them to accept our conditions and to allow our corporations to freely exploit their resources and cheap labor.
U.S. planners made this policy explicit in then top-secret documents that have only since been declassified. Just as today the National Security Council, State Department and Pentagon all operate in secret, and we will not be able to know what they are thinking now until their documents are declassified in 25 years. But we can examine the ugly history of their actions: their bombing of country after country, their subversion of democracy around the world, and their support for military repression globally during every decade since the Second World War.
In 1948, one such top-secret document was State Department “Policy Planning Study 23,” written by George Kennan (later U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union). The study says that “we have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population…. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit U.S. to maintain this pattern of disparity…. To do so…we should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”
This is a quotation, not a paraphrase. Already U.S. leaders were repudiating a foreign policy based on promoting human rights or democracy and planning one based on “straight power concepts.” “Straight power concepts” can mean nothing else but military repression, and this explains why the U.S. never demilitarized after the Second World War, nor after the Cold War. We need military might, along with the training of foreign militaries, and the capacity for massive military aid, to enforce our global system of domination and repression.
This system was refined and made official in 1962 during the Kennedy Administration as they developed the doctrine of training foreign militaries for “internal security.” “Internal security doctrine” means we train them to make war on their own populations. A massive system was put in place where the U.S. trains repressive regimes around the world (such as Turkey and Indonesia during the 1990s to the present) to repress their own populations and create our version of “stability” so the transnational corporations can rape these countries with impunity. Since 1962, the U.S. has trained the military of nearly every Latin American country in such training centers as the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. Graduates of the School of Americas are infamous for torture, repression, and massacre of their own populations.
American citizens will not see the truth about Columbia and the lie of “the war on drugs” unless we are willing to look at history and the facts. Since our government operates in secret, its public rhetoric can only be seen as lies if we examine its actual behavior – its repeated invasions, bombings, economic blockades, and support for vicious, repressive military regimes worldwide. The passage of this Senate bill for yet another massive increase in military aid to Columbia can be stopped. But only if we are willing to act as responsible citizens. Democracy and decent government cannot happen without the active involvement of citizens. A decent and moral foreign policy will only happen if we are willing to demand it.