WHAT WE THINK
March 1, 2002 | Page 3
BEING THE world's cop means never having to say you're sorry--even if you kill the people that you claim are your "allies."
That was Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's attitude last week when he finally admitted that victims of a U.S. Special Forces raid in January were neither Taliban nor al-Qaeda members. The 16 people killed--and the 27 detained for a week--were actually helping to collect weapons for the new interim government of Afghanistan.
But even though the U.S. is paying $1,000 each to the families of those killed, Rumsfeld won't apologize--or even admit that the Pentagon made a mistake. "My impression is that they did their jobs," Rummy said of the U.S. commandos.
Meanwhile, Afghans are facing more horrors to come. The CIA produced a report last month warning that the country could spiral into civil war, with rival factions battling for control.
But the message from Bush's war room? Not our problem. The White House won't even commit soldiers to an international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan--something that has angered European allies. Why? The U.S. government is too busy. After all, it has a "war on terrorism" to spread around the globe.
Already, U.S. military aid is wreaking havoc in Colombia. Last week, Colombian President Andrés Pastrana ordered troops to retake an autonomous zone controlled by left-wing rebels. In the largest aerial bombing campaign in the civil war, pilots flew hundreds of sorties--in planes paid for by the U.S. and guided by U.S. spy satellites.
But the Bush gang isn't satisfied. Administration officials announced last month that they wanted another $98 million in military aid for Colombia--and they didn't even bother with the tired old cover story about a "war on drugs."
The money is earmarked for helicopters, communications equipment and training for Colombian troops to guard the Cano Limon pipeline, which transports oil for the U.S. giant Occidental Petroleum. "We thought a $98 million investment in Colombian brigades to help protect this pipeline is a wise one and a prudent one," Secretary of State Colin Powell told Congress. "What makes this pipeline unique is that it is such a major source of income."
Meanwhile, the U.S. is preparing to make more mayhem in neighboring Venezuela. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez came under Washington's magnifying glass for refusing to support the U.S. war on terrorism.
A former military officer, Chávez came to power with promises to use the country's oil wealth to provide housing, employment, education and health care for the poor. But with the worldwide drop in oil prices, Chávez has announced austerity measures that have eaten into his support--and created an opening for his opponents to organize.
The hawks in Washington smell blood. "Venezuela is in a really precarious and dangerous position right now," a State Department official warned last week. "If Chávez doesn't fix things soon, he's not going to finish his term." Given the U.S. government's history in Latin America, that's a threat that should be taken seriously.
Of course, the U.S. doesn't care any more about Venezuelans than about Afghans. But protecting a main source of oil imports could make a "war for democracy" in Venezuela worthwhile.
Last weekend, some 200 student antiwar activists gathered in New York to discuss the next stage in the fight against Bush's war. Plus, plans are in the works for antiwar demonstrations in Washington, D.C.--as part of a weekend of protests April 19-21 during the meetings of the IMF and World Bank.
With Bush's war machine poised for a new attack, it's crucial to build opposition to their worldwide rampage--now.