Nine Arguments for Nader

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

Here’s a number that offers telling reasons for voting for Ralph Nader in the fall. Nine Democrats. Last week the US senate finally voted $934 million to wage war in Colombia. The House voted earlier this year to provide $1.7 billion in anti-narcotics aid for Colombia over a two year period. The Senate bill only covers the first year.

So where does the “nine Democrats” number figure in this picture? The sum total of puissant legislators who voted for Senator Paul Wellstone’s amendment, that would have taken $225 million from the $934 million and spend it instead on domestic drug treatment programs, consisted of nine Democrats and two Republicans. Here they are: Boxer (D-CA)(co-sponsor), Grams (R-MN) Murray (D-WA), Byrd (D-WV), Harkin (D-IA), Specter (R-PA), Dorgan (D-ND), Leahy (D-VT), Wellstone (D-MN), Feingold (D-WI), Mikulski (D-MD).

Notice how closely the numbers mimic the few cosponsors of Feingold’s bill to slap a moratorium on the federal death penalty. And where were those supposed liberals like Kennedy, Kerry, Bayh, Feinstein, Schumer, Torricelli, Levin, Durbin, Reid, Reed, Sarbanes? We need the Democrats to recapture Congress?

Here’s another number: nineteen,
being the senators who voted in favor of Slade Gorton’s (R-WA) amendment slashing the Colombia package from nearly one billion to $200 million in order to pay down the national debt: Allard (R-CO), Gorton (R-WA), Kohl (D-W), Boxer (D-CA), Gramm (R-TX), Leahy (D-VT), Collins (R-ME), Grams (R-MN, Mikulski (D-MD), Craig (R-ID), Gregg (R-NH), Murray (D-WA), Crapo (R-ID), Harkin (D-IA), Specter (R-PA, Enzi (R-WY), Hutchinson (R-AR), Thomas (R-WY), Fitzgerald (R-IL).

So here we have the alliance against folly in Colombia, cemented between Republican fiscal conservatives and the radical Democratic faction. If you toss in Feingold and Wellstone, who didn’t vote for Gorton’s amendment we reach a grand total of 21 senators unpersuaded by the administration’s arguments that the way to win the war on drugs here is to throw money into the banks accounts of Colombian military officers and Pentagon contractors. New Yorkers will note the absence of their two Democratic senators ? Moynihan and Schumer – from the list.

The administration is fighting a counterinsurgency war under the pretext of drug interdiction, as George W. Bush accurately points out. (Bush, please note, is all in favor of counter-insurgency in Colombia, thus buttressing allegations that he dealt cocaine in his Yale years. All dealers like prices supports for their product, which one of the prime consequences of US drug interdiction.)

What of the dreaded “narco-guerillas”?
As the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington sensibly pointed out last week, “The FARC, founded by Marxist guerrillas decades before the emergence of cocaine production in Colombia, imposes ‘taxes’ on drug lords and coca farmers to fund their multi-million dollar military operations, its militants are rarely involved in the actual cultivation and trafficking of drugs. In fact, the right-wing paramilitary, which both the Colombian and U.S. governments acknowledge is responsible for 78 percent of the nation’s human rights violations, is known to be far more deeply involved in narco-trafficking than their leftist counterparts. While the U.S. aid package will undoubtedly reduce drug production, the paramilitary groups’ deep ties to the Colombian armed forces and large-scale dependence on the drug trade will invariably lead to selective eradication efforts.”

But all this commotion over the senate vote obscures the fact that the US is already waging a major bio-war in Colombia, evoking the bio-war waged with Agent Orange against Vietnam thirty five years ago. The Colombian national police force has already is already busy spraying from the air, with the financial backing of the U.S. Colombia is getting $330 million during this year and the next irrespective of the new Senate legislation).

As in Vietnam, aerial spraying has indiscriminately doused people, fields and livestock with poison. International observers say that the toxic effects of this spraying have destroyed vegetable crops and fruit orchards and contaminated streams and lakes, killing fish and farm animals. Several children have reportedly died after being doused by the spraying. Thus far, the hardy coca plant has been resistant to these poisons, flourishing in contaminated soil. McCaffrey’s triumph could be to wipe out all agriculture other than coca-growing. His next stroke, disclosed in the June 1-15 edition of CounterPunch, is to launch a fungus developed by US bio-warriors, designed to attack the coca plant and opium poppy. This fungus could, so to speak, jump the tracks and further devastate Colombian crops. Meanwhile, if conditions in Colombia prove too arduous, the drug lords will simply shift operations to Ecuador or Peru, just as they shifted from Bolivia to Colombia.

Back to the halls of Congress,
and yet another number for you. In a 363-56 vote reps of we-the-people defeated a motion that would have withdrawn the approval of Congress from the agreement establishing the WTO. Under the 1994 laws authorizing U.S. entry in the WTO the administration has to submit a report on the costs and benefits of membership. After the report is filed, any member of Congress can sponsor a resolution to withdraw from WTO.

Ron Paul of Texas duly did so, arguing that U.S. entry in the WTO is illegal and unconstitutional, Paul said. “It is the U.S. Congress that has the authority to regulate foreign commerce. Nobody else.” As with the senate resolution on Colombia put forward by Gorton, Paul and such Republican legislators as Bob Barr of Georgia formed common cause with anti-WTO radical Democrats like Kucinich or McKinney.

So there’s the math.
About 30 senators and 56 representatives can be relied upon to the right thing on big ticket items like wars abroad and the WTO. Against them are ranged the massed legislators of the Permanent Government , which is presently exerting itself mightily to keep Ralph Nader out of any debating venue for presidential candidates where he might have an opportunity to lay out these realities. CP

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch. Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net.

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