- "In the latest incident, three American crewmen
- on contract to the CIA - and a Peruvian officer were flying surveillance
when they spotted the missionaries' Cessna as it headed over the Amazon
jungle." (emphasis added) This quote, from one of the news articles
about the shoot down of the private plane in Peru and the murder of the
mother and her baby by the Drug Warriors [Note 1], while getting little
notice by the news media or the public, is the most important piece of
information in the whole news report. That is, the fact that three American
government contractors were on a surveillance plane accompanying the war
planes, exposes the heart and soul of what the Drug War is all
- Which is money, jobs and control. But you knew that
You had to know that this massively failed Drug War - illogically fighting
a societal problem that pales in comparison to the damage resulting from
alcohol and smoking abuse but which continues to absorb massive funds,
manpower, decency, and Constitutional rights - has to have some logic
it. It most certainly is not the health and welfare of the citizens of
this country and the world.
- Eisenhower warned of the "Military-Industrial
He must be doing cartwheels in his grave today for what we had then is
insignificant to what has developed since then.
- The complex network of contractors, military,
foreign governments, and the drug traffickers will be examined in this
- Contractor Involvment in the Drug
- As with nearly all government activity in these times,
contractors are involved extensively in all aspects. They provide people,
equipment, and many forms of support. In fact, it is obvious that a major
force in continuing and expanding the "Drug War" is the profit
motive for government contractors. Of course, politicians want to maintain
control and government employees have a strong incentive to protect their
jobs and the permanence of their agencies but "bringing in the
is probably the number one motivation for the whole mess of them.
- It is disturbing that businesses have little concern
about accepting government contracts for doing, if not sleazy work,
less than noble work. But I suppose this is just the way it is. A
has no morals and the people that run the corporations seem to not be much
better off. Civilian contractors willingly and enthusiastically supplied
Hitler with arms and materials in World War II, and it appears we can
no better from most of the large government contractors we have in the
- But let us get to the specifics in Latin America, a very
representative example about what President Ike was trying to warn us
- "PLAN COLOMBIA" - A $1.3 Billion
- To get a feel for how strong this profit incentive is,
we only have to look at the recent $1.3 billion aid bill passed by Congress
and signed by President Clinton.
- In an article in the Dallas Morning News,
Playing Increasing Role in U.S. Drug War," February 27, 2000, By Tod
Robberson, it is stated that "At least six U.S. military-specialty
companies have set up operations in the region, apparently in anticipation
of future Colombia-related contracts, according to U.S. military sources.
Two Virginia-based companies, DynCorp Inc. and Military Professional
Inc., or MPRI, are completing contracts related to logistical support and
training of Colombian police and counterinsurgency forces, officials of
those companies say. "
- Curiosity overwhelms me and I have to know what these
and other companies find so interesting in this dangerous land full of
snakes, drug lords, and leftist guerrillas.[Note 2] Could this relatively
poor country possibly pay the kind of salaries and travel perks that these
Beltway Bandits are accustomed to getting? Sure, the $1.3 billion is bound
to have some influence but - allegedly - the Colombian government itself
will be funding the vast majority of the drug fighting effort there.
- So, the first question that comes to mind is why did
the U.S. decide to make this major contribution. That question was fairly
well answered by a page at the D2KLA site, an organization set up to
coordinate and support events and nonviolent protests during the Democratic
National Convention in Los Angeles, August 14-17." At that site they
have a list of issues, appropriately named "What are the
in which they summarize some of the financial exchanges between industry
and the Washington Politicians which relate to this appropriation. Here
is a quote from the sub-section titled, "Defense Contractors And The
Colombia Military Aid Package":
- The aid package was written [Note 3] and passed with
the help of a major lobbying effort by drug czar Barry McCaffrey, arms
manufacturers, and corporations with investments in Colombia. Bell
Textron and United Technologies Corp., makers of the helicopters listed
in Clintonís proposal, offered chopper rides to members of Congress.
United Technologies gave more than $700,000 to both parties in the past
two election cycles, and Bell Helicopter gave nearly $1 million. In 1999,
United Technologies shifted most of its soft-money donations to the
giving $125,000 to the party - $75,000 of that in a single check 11 days
before the Clinton Administration proposed the package. United Technologies
has also been especially generous to individual legislators
- According to the Center for Responsive Politics, during
the past two years the company and its employees gave $33,200 to Democratic
Senator Christopher Dodd and Republican Representative Sam Gejdenson, both
from Connecticut. Rep. Gejdenson is the ranking member of the House
Relations Committee. Sen. Dodd is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign
Relations Subcommittee on Narcotics. Dodd, traditionally a progressive
ally on human rights issues and the effort to end the Cuban embargo, is
supporting the plan. A Bell Helicopter lobbyist told the Legal Times,
business for us, and we are as aggressive as anybody. Iím just
to sell helicopters."
- Members of the US-Colombia Business Partnership - a group
of multinational corporations with interests in Colombia - also lobbied
the administration and Congress for aid. The Occidental Petroleum Corp.,
which claims that its project in Colombia has lost $100 million because
of terrorist activity, sent a representative to testify on behalf of the
new military support before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on
Drug Policy. Since 1992, Occidental has donated nearly half a million
to the Democrats, and Vice President Al Gore, who owns stock in Occidental,
has received $10,000 from company executives and their wives for his
- Well, there you have it - a clear explanation of why
the bill got passed.
- Still, more details of the actual spending would be
to know. Like, are we really giving all this money to Colombian politicians
to spend as they please? Are there strings attached? Well, of course. I
found the details in the essay "The Contents of the Colombia Aid
at the Center for International Policy site. Here are some quotes on the
- Though the aid package totals $1.319 billion, only 65
percent of that amount - $860.3 million - is assistance for Colombia. The
other 35 percent is assistance for neighboring countries [Peru, Bolivia,
Ecuador, and others] and increases for U.S. agencies' Andean region
operations. The biggest single item in the military assistance category
is $328 million for helicopters. The new counternarcotics battalions are
to receive sixteen UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters at a cost of $208 million.
(An additional two Blackhawks are to go to the Colombian National Police
at a cost of $26 million.) The battalions will also receive thirty UH-1H
Huey helicopters, upgraded to the "Super Huey" configuration;
the Colombian National Police are to receive another twelve Hueys. The
$120 million price tag for the Hueys includes maintenance and operation
costs for these helicopters and for eighteen more that were provided to
Colombia's Army in late 1999.
- Of course, all this complexity will require training,
maintenance, etc. and that is where the Beltway Bandit Body Shops come
in. They will get a nice chunk, you can be assured.
- So, basically, in case you were worried, practically
all the money will come back to the US. The giving of "aid" to
all these countries - Central and South America, Kosovo, Bosnia, etc.,
is simply part of the pipeline to funnel money from the taxpayers to the
politicians and U.S. corporations.
- As I noted in a previous paper, "Cheney Takes
Spin Around the Washington Revolving Door," Vice President Cheney
is an old hand at this operation. In fact, he (while Secretary of Defense)
and Bush I, set up the original "Andean Initiative" in 1989
they provided $65 million in "emergency aid." Details of this
exercise are covered in the book, Drugs and Foreign Policy, edited by
Perl, a chapter of which is temporarily online, thanks to Google's
- This effort was one of the early "trial
to test how far the government could go in getting around the "Posse
Comitatus" law in providing military solutions to civilian law
problems. Once they noticed that military intervention by American forces
was only prohibited in the U.S. itself, this concern quickly melted
- The Military Involvment in
Policing Citizens LEDET Program
- When there is a public or press outcry against government
or military infringement on citizen's rights, the first and major response
by the agencies involved is to figure out a way around the restriction.
For example, if the public gets riled at certain employees of the
like the government participants of the Ruby Ridge disaster, they will
hide these individuals from public view for awhile and then quietly
them in some other position, usually as good or better than their old
- It seems clear that the purpose of the Posse Comitatus
Act was to prohibit military involvement in civilian law enforcement. But
the act only specifically mentioned the Army (Air Force is included because
it used to be part of the Army) - the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard were
left out (see "The Posse Comitatus Act: A Principle In Need Of
However, the Act was later extended to the Navy and Marines by regulation.
Since the Coast Guard has an express law enforcement responsibility in
peacetime, the act does not apply to it. They are not part of the military
except in time of war.
- So, legally the Coast Guard could search and seize ships
at sea suspected of smuggling drugs. But they don't have all the technical
goodies and the almost infinite funds and political clout of the military,
particularly the Navy. So what to do? Simple. You transfer
of the Navy vessel to the Coast Guard at the appropriate time.
- Specifically, that means that all the force, power, and
resources of the military will be brought to bear in intercepting a
drug smuggler. At the last moment the ship's Navy flag is replaced with
a Coast Guard flag and a USCG person takes "control" of the ship.
Then they order the suspected drug smuggling ship to stop and the USCG
detachment boards and searches the ship under threat of being blown out
of the water by this, now "Coast Guard ship." Neat but don't
try this with your own vehicle.
- Training, Offloading Hardware, and
Supporting Police Departments
- Since the start of the Drug War, the military has become
increasingly involved with the police departments across our country. This
is of great concern to civil libertarians and many essays have been written
warning us of the dangers. Of course, the politicians have paid little
attention to those warnings for other interests drive them.
- Some recent papers I found on the web are:
Bee: Beware of feds bearing weapons," "Warrior Cops: The Ominous
Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments," and
Militarization of 'Mayberry'."
- The Posse Comitatus Act, as revised, and other statutes,
allow some domestic use of the military, specifically when there is an
emergency that the states cannot handle. The law has been further weakened
in modern times by the drug warriors and now allows the military to get
involved in drug interdiction at our borders.
- The military also has a great need to offload obsolete
equipment (and new, I suppose). The constant need for the industries to
sell new stuff to the military requires that something be done with the
old. While we offload billions of dollars worth of the stuff on third world
countries, dumping some of it on police forces can help too. So, we have
police forces that now look like armies.
- And act that way too, for they are receiving military
training also. As the above listed articles point out, this is a grave
mistake because to the soldier, you are either a friend or an enemy and
if you are enemy, the goal is to cause you great harm and even death.
are technically not suppose to be that way. In fact, in the old days,
in the US were often considered to be friends of the community. It is a
sad thing to see that culture pass away.
- It Could Be Worse
- The essay, "The Posse Comitatus Act: A Principle
In Need Of Renewal" by Matthew Hammond, states that there have been
several recent attempts to further weaken the Posse Comitatus Act.
they have failed - so far. Some examples (quoted from the essay):
- After the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma
City, President Clinton proposed an exception to the PCA to allow the
to aid civilian authorities in investigations involving "weapons of
mass destruction." (fertilizer bombs?) [Presidential] candidate Lamar
Alexander even proposed replacing the Immigration and Naturalization
and the Border Patrol with a new branch of the armed forces. Congress also
considered legislation to directly involve federal troops in enforcing
customs and immigration laws at the border.
- The Working-level Government
is 90% Contractors Now
- As I pointed out in my article, "How Can You Tell
When a Politician Is Lying?," politicians are very deceitful when
it comes to discussing just how big our bloated government is. In his
study on this subject, Paul Light of the Brookings Institute has shown
that the true size, when you add in all the government contractors, is
nearly ten times the admitted size. These contractors literally take the
place of lower level government employees, doing exactly the same work
as was done by the civil servants, often working directly for a legitimate
civil service manager. There are several reasons why
has become so popular:
- Congress wants it to promote more profit making by
- Government people may feel that a contractor can do a
better job or that the job is just too nasty or difficult. Pure laziness
may be involved too - and why not when the taxpayers, with very deep
it seems, are paying the bills. Liability and political considerations.
Contractors are less liable than uniformed soldier might be - see the
Morning News article, "Contractors Playing Increasing Role in U.S.
Drug War" for more on this. Government wants to claim that it is not
a huge bloated monstrosity (and still growing, in fact)! Nearly every
agency is now outsourcing essentially all the real work that their agency
is supposed to do. I will mention a few federal agencies, but state
also extensively use contractors.
- The Military and NASA
- The military has been rapidly outsourcing more and more
of its functions in the last 50 years or so. They have always had the
and the involvement of contractors in developing and building war machines.
Since retired military often are hired by these companies, usually in
that match the position they had in service, the entanglement that
Eisenhower referred to is very real. You can read about a specific example
of this, the contracts that Halliburton received for support in the Balkans
and other areas of conflict around the world in my article previously
"Cheney Takes Another Spin Around the Washington Revolving
- Department of Justice
- As discussed elsewhere in this essay, DOJ has a number
of sub-contractors, but by far the number one is DynCorp, which does most
of their routine paper work, including computer programming, database
whatever. Through the US Marshals, they also contract out the management
of the seized property, auctions, etc. to many private contractors all
over the country.
- The Very Profitable Prison
- There are many government agencies involved in the
of the huge number of incarcerated citizens that has resulted from the
Drug War (supposedly, we have the highest incarceration rate in the world,
6 or 7 times greater than the other free world nations). There are many
articles on the web about this. A good one is ABC News' "Profit &
Punishment." Others too numerous to go into here. Would any public
spirited American corporation stoop so low as to accept these jobs that
debase the Constitution and infringe on the rights of citizens? All of
them - in a heartbeat! I personally worked for many years as one of those
warm bodies provided by one of the contractors mentioned below (I hastily
add, my work was in support of the NASA Space Station program, in some
ways a little less sleazy than being an "advisor" in Kosovo and
Columbia). The bidding for these kinds of jobs was pursued
- From what I have seen on the web in preparation of this
article it appears that the primary players in the government contracting
or outsourcing (commonly known as "Beltway Bandits" because of
their locations or major offices are generally on the beltway around
- According to the Knight Ridder Newspaper article,
civilians taking risks in Colombian drug war," of 26 February 2001,
... DynCorp is the biggest, with sales of $1.2 billion a year - 95 percent
from contracts with the U.S. government. It runs everything from one of
the computer centers that handled the 2000 Census to the maintenance of
the Kuwaiti Air Force, the administration of a U.S. military air base in
the Honduran town of Palmerola and the sale of military surplus from former
U.S. bases in Panama.
- It is also a major source of bodies for the Department
of Justice, providing contract employees to help manage the massive amount
of loot take under their Asset Forfeiture program. There the contract
do a wide range of tasks - about everything except doing the actual
- Military Professional Resources Inc.
- According to Bill Weinberg in his article,
Interests Behind $1.7 Billion Colombia Drug War Aid Package": MPRI
spokesman Ed Soyster, a retired Army lieutenant general and former director
of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Dallas Morning News his
is gearing up for new business after the aid package is approved. MPRI
even helped the Colombian government devise the official, three-phase
plan" that was presented to Congress outlining how the $1.28 billion
would be allocated.
- Says Soyster: "We're a military company. We're able
to hand-pick our people from a select group of guys who like to come into
this type of environment." MPRI maintains a database of 11,000 vets
available to work on assignment, and has also provided training and
support for military operations in the Balkans, Middle East and
- According to Time Magazine, January 15, 1996; page 34,
MPRI is: "the greatest corporate assemblage of military expertise
in the world." With 160 full-time employees and some 2,000 retired
generals, admirals and other officers on call, it is making a fair
- Northrop Grumman
- A huge government contractor that markets both hardware
and services. According to the Knight Ridder Newspaper article mentioned
- Northrop Grumman of Los Angeles provides an unknown
of U.S. citizens that operate and maintain five radar stations in eastern
and southern Colombia that track suspected drug smuggling flights.
- Tracking data is beamed to Key West in Florida, home
of the drug-fighting Joint Interagency Task Force-East, under the 1998
contract administered by the Defense Department's Air Combat Command in
- All I know about Halliburton, I reported on in my
"Cheney Takes Another Spin Around the Washington Revolving
- Sandline Armor Holdings, Inc. SAIC
- According to the article, "A Hiroshima in the
by Maria Tomchick, SAIC is involved in the Balkans along with MPRI and
other companies too numerous to mention.
- CACI International Inc
- Military regimes in Latin American have tended to be
the norm. In the old days when we had a government that made some pretense
at following the Constitution and supporting human rights around the world,
we actually took some actions to help stifle these military and dictatorial
regimes and to establish civilian governments there.
- Now we support the encourage and military no matter how
ruthless. We now have a higher call - making money!
- In particular, the Colombian military is considered one
of the most ruthless in the world at this time (See "Columbia"
at the Teknopunx, "People Against Power Abuse," site). Working
with and through the very powerful paramilitary force in that country,
they have murdered, maimed and otherwise inflicted harm on thousands of
Colombian citizens, especially the peasants.
- When a twinge of conscience surfaced for some of our
legislators, they added provisions in the "Plan Columbia" to
require certain conditions to further and protect human rights. But they
quickly recovered and quietly added a provision that would allow the
to suspend these provisions.
- And he did.
- So it all worked out; all the politicians got their fat
contributions, the defense industry got to sell a bunch of iron, the
Bandits will keep their macho, former military, employees busy and out
of trouble, the Colombian military gets a stockpile of new exotic toys
to play with, and the murder and torture of helpless civilians goes on
as usual. Oh, I almost forgot: the drug business also goes on as usual,
the eradication of the Colombian vegetation having no significant impact
(only hurting the peasants that happen to live there) and the guerillas
will have had a substantial increase in the support for their cause by
the Colombian civilians being further harassed by their evil government
- and the Gringos.
- Everybody is happy.
- Just as this article was being finished, I received an
email from Matthew Gaylor's "Freematt" mail group [Note 4] in
which he quoted an article from Jane's Foreign Report , titled
bypass Plan Colombia." It appears that the devastation of the coca
crops and any other vegetation in the area is already underway.
the money to support the native farmers who must now find a new source
of sustenance - hasn't quite arrived yet. You know how these things are
- you can't have everything on time. Here are some quotes:
- Vast stretches of southern Colombia now look like desert
- crops withered away, the ground parched and brown, vegetation burnt by
chemicals. The American-sponsored aerial drug eradication, the biggest
in the world, is well under way, destroying every plant that grows over
30,000 hectares in this fragile Amazonian ecosystem. "This is a
planned campaign," says James Mack, the American point-man for Plan
Colombia, the anti-drugs plan financed by $1.3 billion of American aid.
"These crop-dusting aircraft are spraying areas plotted with aerial
photographs and are guided by satellite positioning systems."
- On the ground, however, there is evidence that legal
crops are being destroyed too. Fields of plantain, almost a mile from the
nearest drug field, were withered and brown after the passing of a crop-
dusting plane. While the fumigation campaign has been going since the end
of last year, the other component of Plan Colombia, the $80m to help coca
farmers switch to legal crops, has not arrived. "What are we supposed
to do?" asks Cecilia Amaya, who heads a peasant association based
in Puerto Asis, the largest town in Putumayo province. "The promised
help has not arrived, and we suspect it will never arrive. Corrupt
have already pocketed it."
- Few Colombians believe the American strategy has any
chance of success. The street price of cocaine has not changed since the
fumigations began. The only visible effects are the ravaged landscape,
some 10,000 people displaced since the programme began at the end of last
year, and an increase in acts of violence. A kilo of cocaine is worth up
to $50,000 in the United States, $80,000 in Europe, and most Colombians
believe that as long as the demand remains the supply will feed it.
- 1. An interesting quote: Senator Mitch McConnell (KY)
did propose a bill in the summer of 1989 to empower the military to shoot
down suspected drug-smuggling aircraft but Congress refused to let it out
of committee; see J. Baker, "The 'You Fly, You Die' Debate,"
Newsweek (October 2, 1989), 26. The executive branch later made it clear
that: "consistent with international law and in the interests of
safety, no action may now be taken to stop or interrupt the progress of
a target aircraft in flight"; see ONDCP, 1989 National Drug Control,
76. ("The Role of the Military" Note 31, from the book, Drugs
and Foreign Policy, Westview Press, 1991, edited by Raphael Perl.
- [This is for those of you, especially you private plane
pilots, that think it can't happen here.!]
- 2. For political reasons, in the U.S. these guerrillas
are called "Narco-guerrillas," a term credited to former Drug
Czar, General McCaffrey. Per Stan Goff, in the article,
alibi for intervention," White House antidrug chief Gen. Barry
(no coincidence that he is the former commander of Southcom, the Theater
Command for the U.S. armed forces in Latin America) and Defense Secretary
William Cohen are arguing for a massive expansion of aid to
- "Fighting communists" no longer goes well with
the public after the Vietnam disaster.
- 3. Actually it appears that MPRI may have had a hand
in writing the bill. According to Ron Rowe in an article, in an article,
"The Privatization of War," ... [MPRI] should be well-placed
for a contract, since it also helped the Colombian government devise the
official, three-phase "action plan" that was presented to
last month outlining how the $1.6 billion would be allocated.
- 4. To subscribe to Freematt's Alerts: Pro-Individual
Rights Issues Send a blank message to: email@example.com with the words
subscribe FA on the subject line.
- Leon Felkins is a retired Engineer, Army officer and
former teacher of Computer Systems. He now maintains a web page on
Philosophy, "A Rational Life", and another on the history of
politics, "Political Almanac."
- Copyright 2001 by Leon Felkins. All rights reserved.
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