The American military is fixated by a mission to hit cartels and leftist guerrillas in one strike. While western consumers fund the narco economy, is Bush going to war?by Mark Bowden / July 20, 2001 / Leave a comment
I was surprised to find Fast Eddie unarmed. A fit, ruddy man, he is otherwise exactly as described, a blunt businessman presiding with frenetic industry over his growing makeshift empire off the busy runways of Eldorado airport in Bogot?. This is my first day back in Colombia, trying to get a handle on what many feel will be America’s next great military adventure: a moving shadow beneath the calm surface of US foreign policy as George W Bush settles into the White House. The new president has presented a neo-isolationist face to most of the world, warning would-be supplicants not to count on American intervention, but Colombia may be the big exception. In April, the Bush administration requested another $800m to assist that country’s counter-drug efforts. The US is already heavily invested in Plan Colombia, an international effort to kill with one stone two stubborn old birds-cocaine trafficking and a 40-year-old leftist guerrilla insurgency. This is one of those plans that looks brilliant in a Capitol Hill briefing room. If it works, it could be a triumph. If it doesn’t, well, think quagmire. Some are already invoking the spectre of Vietnam.
To Fast Eddie, the word is “opportunity.” His empire is a network of tin-roofed trailers just off the airport tarmac, surrounded by an impressive assortment of small planes, vehicles, refrigerators, razor wire and all manner of supplies. These are boom times for Eddie’s Operation Support, which serves as supply depot, dispatch centre, reception and farewell station for every man, woman, weapon, field ration, dog and fence post shipped south by America’s escalating military investment in this beleaguered nation. It has been almost a year since Washington voted to contribute $1.3 billion (over three years) to Plan Colombia’s overall $7.5 billion stabilisation package. Colombian President Andr?s Pastrana has postponed implementation of the military component of the plan, a massive offensive against coca crops and processing facilities protected by the guerrillas in two of the country’s southern states. But so far the threat of this push has not been enough to force the country’s guerrillas to the negotiating table. Unless they back down, the thrust should begin this summer. To hear its most avid supporters sell it, that would merely be a necessary step towards making all of South America safe for Jeffersonian democracy.
There are optimists and there are pessimists, and then there are optimistic pessimists like Eddie, who sees…