By Mike Whitney
It was a perfectly executed rescue mission and they pulled it off without a hitch. A small group of Colombian military-intelligence agents, posing as aid workers on a humanitarian mission, touched-down in the heart of rebel territory, gathered up Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages, and whisked them away to safety while a small army of rifle-toting Marxist guerrillas looked on dumbfounded. Whew. What a shocker.
One of the American contractors who was freed in the mission even boasted to NPR that it was “the greatest rescue mission in history”. Indeed, it may be, but it’s a little too early to tell just yet. After all, it took about a week before the Jessica Lynch story began to unravel. This could take even longer. Many readers will remember Lynch as the baby-faced GI who supposedly fought off a swarm of Iraqi regulars “Rambo-like” before making her way to safety.
Unfortunately, the whole story turned out to be an elaborate farce concocted by Rumsfeld’s Strategic Intelligence Unit to drum-up support for the war. In truth, Lynch had simply taken a wrong turn on the road to Baghdad, rolled her vehicle in a ditch, and was patched up by some magnanimous Iraqis. Some hero!
It was the same with Pat Tillman, the Niger uranium, WMD, Saddam in the spider-hole and myriad other whoppers cooked up by the Bush spinmeisters. Every one of them was a fabrication. And what about the 75 Pentagon chieftains who appeared regularly on commercial TV to pollute the public airwaves with their war-promoting bilge? There wasn’t a word of truth in any of it; 100% unalloyed horsecrap.
Already, the holes are beginning to appear in the “official” rescue narrative. First of all, how did John McCain manage to show up in Bogata just as Betancourt was getting off the plane and the champagne was being uncorked? The whole incident was eerily reminiscent of the way the American hostages in Tehran were released on the day of Reagan’s inauguration. Now there’s a coincidence. Seems like “straight talking” McCain might be just as lucky as the Gipper.
Isn’t it reasonable to assume that secret negotiations may have been going on behind the scenes and McCain was tipped off at the last minute so he share the limelight with Uribe and breathe some life into his moribund presidential campaign?
And what about the reports on Swiss Public Radio that “claim that the entire episode was nothing but a sham to disguise the payment of a ransom. SPR cited an unidentified source ‘close to the events, reliable and tested many times in recent years’ as saying the operation had in fact been staged to cover up the fact that the US and Colombians had paid $20 million for their freedom.
“The hostages released on Wednesday, including Ingrid Betancourt, ‘were in reality ransomed for a high price, and the whole operation afterwards was a set-up,’ the public broadcaster said….The report said that the wife of one of the hostages’ guards had acted as a go-between after being arrested by the Colombian Army. She was released to return to the guerrillas, where she allegedly persuaded her husband to change sides.” (Times Online)
Irc.indymedia.org tells a similar story in their article “The Real Operation to Rescue Ingrid Betancourt and US Mercenaries”:
“On June 3rd, Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba revealed that she possessed information that the government of Colombia was negotiating a deal with the FARC a to trade money for the release of Betancourt and the mercenaries.”
Mediaparte, the French news web site founded by the former chief editor of Le Monde, reported that the rescue was “not an achievement of the Colombian military, but due to the surrender of a group of the FARC members” following “direct negotiations by the Colombian secret services with the guerrilla group that held Betancourt captive.” Citing Colombian sources, it reported that Uribe had told a group last May that a surrender of those holding the hostages was being negotiated. Mediaparte added that the Sarkozy government agreed to offer the ex-guerrillas sanctuary in France after their surrender. (“Mounting questions about Colombian hostage operation” Bill Van Auken)
Now how did that little tidbit manage to slip by the New York Times?
And isn’t Betancourt’s announcement that she’s planning to write a play about her experience just one day after her release a bit suspicious? No one recovers from trauma that quickly. Something is fishy here. Clearly, this is not a woman who has been subjected to excruciating psychological pain like the US prisoners at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay. Those unlucky fellows have been put through the full-range of sadistic abuses meted out by the Pentagon’s new breed of Dr. Mengeles and other intelligence “professionals”. Apparently, Betancourt was never water-boarded, beaten, raped, dragged around her cell in a dog-collar, or stacked naked on top of other prisoners. In fact, her medical report indicated that she was in remarkably good health. That says a lot about her captors.
So, what is the FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and why are they traipsing around the jungle with Kalashnikovs instead of engaging in the political process?
The truth is, they were part of the process until the right wing death squads started killing their candidates and party bosses and forced them to go underground. As James Petras explains in his article “Homage to Manuel Marulanda”:
“In the early 1980’s, many cadre and leaders decided to try the electoral route, signed a ‘peace agreement’ with the Colombian President, formed an electoral party – the Patriotic Union – and successfully elected numerous mayors and representatives. They even gained a substantial vote in Presidential elections. …. By 1987 over 5,000 members of the Patriotic Union had been slaughtered by the oligarchy’s death squads, including three presidential candidates, a dozen elected congressmen and women and scores of mayors and city councilors. Those who survived fled to the jungles and rejoined the armed struggle or fled into exile.”
The FARC tried politics, signed a “peace agreement” with the government and were butchered anyway. That’s the way it works in Colombia. So now they are in the jungle waging war to gain entry into the political system. Is that terrorism?
The Colombian government has one of the worst human rights records in the world and much of the repression is facilitated by the billions of dollars they get from the United States via Plan Colombia. Again, James Petras details the effects of US support for the Uribe regime:
“With an unprecedented degree of US financing and advanced technological support, the newly elected narco-partner and death squad organizer, President Alvaro Uribe took charge of a scorched earth policy to savage the Colombian countryside. Between his election in 2002 and re-election in 2006, over 15,000 peasants, trade unionists, human rights workers, journalists and other critics were murdered. Entire regions of the countryside were emptied — like the US Operation Phoenix in Viet Nam, farmland was poisoned by toxic herbicides. Over 250,000 armed forces and their partners in the paramilitary death squads decimated vast stretches of the Colombian countryside where the FARC exercised hegemony. Scores of US-supplied helicopter gun-ships blasted the jungles in vast search and destroy missions — (which had nothing to do with coca production or the shipment of cocaine to the United States). By destroying all popular opposition and organizations throughout the countryside and displacing millions Uribe was able to push the FARC back toward more defensible remote regions.”
Noam Chomsky draws the same conclusions as Petras in this excerpt from his book “Rogue States”:
“In Colombia, however, the military armed and trained by the United States has not crushed domestic resistance, though it continues to produce its regular annual toll of atrocities. Each year, some 300,000 new refugees are driven from their homes, with a death toll of about 3,000 and many horrible massacres. The great majority of atrocities are attributed to paramilitary forces. These are closely linked to the military, as documented in considerable and shocking detail once again in February 2000 by Human Rights Watch, and in April 2000 by a UN study which reported that the Colombian security forces that are to be greatly strengthened by the Colombia Plan maintain an intimate relationship with death squads, organize paramilitary forces, and either participate in their massacres directly or, by failing to take action, have “undoubtedly enabled the paramilitary groups to achieve their exterminating objectives.” In more muted terms, the State Department confirms the general picture in its annual human rights reports, again in the report covering 1999, which concludes that “security forces actively collaborated with members of paramilitary groups” while “government forces continued to commit numerous, serious abuses, including extrajudicial killings, at a level that was roughly similar to that of 1998,” when the report attributed about 80 percent of attributable atrocities to the military and paramilitaries. (Noam Chomsky, “Plan Colombia”, from Rogue States, 2000)
So now we all know something about the FARC and the repressive political program called Plan Colombia which is funded by the United States with the clear intention of perpetuating a war between a venal oligopoly and disenfranchised workers and farmers. But having searched the 4,253 articles written about the “Miraculous Bentancourt Rescue”; one thing appears to be missing, that is, a few candid comments from someone—ANYONE—who can speak for the FARC.
Here’s an excerpt from an Interview with FARC Commander Raul Reyes by Garry Leech that fits the bill. Readers can decide for themselves whether they hear something that “rings true” or if it is just revolutionary mumbo-jumbo:
FARC Commander Raul Reyes: “The goal of revolutionary struggle is peace”
“When we speak of the New Colombia we are speaking of a Colombia without social, economic or political inequalities; of a Colombia without corruption; with neither paramilitarism or state terrorism; of a Colombia with industrial development; of a worthy Colombia, independent and sovereign; a Colombia where resources are invested in scientific research and technological development; a Colombia where the environment is protected; a Colombia whose wealth is used for the benefit of the population; a Colombia that does not continue privatizing, that does not continue selling the businesses of the State but instead uses these businesses to benefit social programs; a Colombia with agrarian reform that includes infrastructure for the peasants and that makes it possible for their children to study; an agrarian reform in which a market and the purchase of their products is guaranteed; an agrarian reform in which they can obtain affordable credits from the State; a Colombia with employment; a Colombia with subsidies for the unemployed; a Colombia that guarantees education, healthcare, homes and all that.
That it is the Colombia that we dream of and that we call the New Colombia…
But to achieve this is a task for titans, because Colombia has a mafia class and a corrupt murderous ruler. And as long as they continue controlling the destiny of our country it is going to be very difficult for the people to become controllers of their own destinies. This is the reason that the FARC continues its revolutionary struggle.
The end of the revolutionary struggle being waged by the FARC is peace. For us, peace is the fundamental thing. We understand that peace is the solution to the problems that affect our people. We understand that peace means that in Colombia we have a true democracy. Not a democracy for the capitalists, but a democracy for the people, who can protest, who can participate, who have the right to live, who have the right to healthcare, to education, who have the right to communication, to electricity, to agrarian reforms, to fight corruption, to not have to kneel before foreign powers, but to be a country free, independent and sovereign with respectful relations with all countries on equal terms. Also, that the weapons of the army not be not used against the people, but just for the defense of our sovereignty and nothing more. To achieve that objective is why we are here in this jungle. And in search of that objective we are willing to continue for as long as is necessary.”
These are comments that you won’t find in the 4,253 articles on Google News, because they stimulate critical thinking and shape hearts and minds. And that’s exactly what the corporate propaganda system hopes to avoid.
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