1 November 2001
America’s war against terrorism may be a just war, but the raids on what the Americans insist are Taleban and Al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan appear to be accomplishing nothing. According to foreign journalists, the most that they have achieved is a rising civilian death toll. America’s anti-terrorist policy needs a dramatic switch. President Bush needs to be seen to be striking at terrorists elsewhere in the world, as well as in Afghanistan. This might just help to prove that the Afghan raids are not in reality a war against Islam.
There are signs that such an anti-terrorist front may be about to open — in Colombia. This South American country has been disfigured by terrorist violence from three warring rebel factions for nearly 30 years. In any other circumstances, Washington might not care about what it could dismiss as a local conflict. But fueling the power of the Colombian terrorist groups is drugs money. An estimated 30 tons of cocaine is being smuggled from Colombia into the United States every single month. The once all-powerful Medellin cartels have been forced to play second fiddle to Colombia’s terrorist groups. At best, they now act as middlemen for the jungle armies. At worst they, the masters of Mafia-style intimidation, have themselves been bullied into working for the terrorists.
Narcotics, terrorism and organized crime have become indistinguishable on the roster of evil that threatens civilized society. Washington was quick to accuse the Taleban and the Al-Qaeda network of profiting from drugs and using the money-laundering network of organized crime to squirrel away their earnings. Now, in the ruthless thugs in Colombia’s jungles, the Americans have a terrorist enemy every bit as deserving of their bombs, spy satellites and troop concentrations.
The world’s only superpower has more than enough in the way of military resources to mount and sustain a second anti-terrorist campaign, this time in South America. It should set it in motion as quickly as possible. It should also ensure that the American public appreciate that this second mission is every bit as crucial to the protection of their country. Not only will the ordinary people of Colombia be freed at last from the shadow of menace that has wrecked their society, but America will finally stem a large part of the flow of drugs onto its streets, narcotics which have corroded its young at all levels.
If the bombs start falling on Colombia’s terrorist bases, if US ground forces grapple with the jungle armies of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the leading terrorist group and raid deep into Putumayo, the coca-growing heartland of the FARC, then Washington will be able to argue more convincingly that its war is against terrorism, not any particular people.
And, maybe, Colombia should not be the only new front that Washington
opens against terrorism. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, years of governmental
misrule have spawned terrorist groups which threaten popular elected governments.
America almost certainly has the power and the means to intervene in these
conflicts as well and crush African terrorists. The worst thing that Washington
could claim is that it wishes to fight international terrorism, one group
at a time. It needs to widen its campaign and soon.
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