FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bush’s Bolivian Mercenaries

“War”: a potent, pliable word. Under the rubric of “war”–which implies dire emergency, imminent threat, the abandonment of normal life and the normal rule of law–there is no limit to the moral erosion that can occur. The previously unthinkable becomes routine practice: for example, a respectable democracy funding mercenary armies and terrorist forces in foreign countries, like the jihadists in Afghanistan, the Contras in Nicaragua–and now the “Expeditionary Task Force” in Bolivia.

There, the Bush Regime is paying–lock, stock and barrel–for a band of local mercenaries taking part in Bolivia’s campaign to eradicate coca production in the jungle region of Chapare, the Washington Post reports this week.

The mercenaries are attached to regular army units, so they are not, officially, “paramilitaries.” But the many human rights charges they’ve spawned–murders, beatings, rapes, torture, illegal detentions–sound like that old sweet song of yesteryear, when Reagan-Bush proxy armies prowled the Latin American night, killing tens of thousands of innocent people to keep Yankee investments and American-backed elites safe from riff-raff.

The coca plant has been cultivated in Chapare since time immemorial, used as a healing medicine and pain reliever. In the second half of the 20th century, the sale and manufacture of its powerful derivative, cocaine (along with various opium derivatives), were taken up by organized crime and its allies in the Western security services as a high-yield money-maker. The Mob used the profits to buy political influence and augment its already-considerable infiltration into the “legitimate” business world; elements in the security agencies used the money to fund various covert and terrorist operations.

The highly addictive nature of the coca derivative guaranteed unimaginable profits when the full flood of the cocaine trade broke upon the lucrative American market. As in so many cases, a “blowback” then occurred. With so much money in play, previously acquiescent co-conspirators, like Panama’s Manuel Noriega, got uppity and had to be crushed, while innumerable rogue operators muscled in on the action. Whole nations were upended by warring drug lords who passed in and out of official favor as the political winds shifted in Washington and other capitals.

Having lost control of the profits from the drug trade–and having unleashed a social devastation on the American population that even the most cynical CIA player could not have foreseen–Washington then launched the “war on drugs.” This has proven every bit as profitable as the drug-running itself–perhaps even more so, as corrupt officials now can play both sides, drawing huge amounts of tax dollars for the “war effort” while also raking in bribes from favored crime bosses to keep the trade thriving.

In short, the insane attempt to criminalize–rather than regulate–the perhaps regrettable but clearly ineradicable human desire to escape reality on occasion has led to a vast, pervasive corruption–of governments, societies, cultures, institutions–unprecedented in history. From Al Capone to al Qaeda, outlaw enterprises have entwined with state power to feed on this pool of illicit profit and blight the lives of millions.

And now the “war on drugs” is merging with the “war on terror,” with a corresponding growth in scale and firepower, offering excellent potential for long-term profits for the “defense”-related industries that hold such a disproportionate sway in international politics. This merging also accelerates the moral corrosion that flourishes under the acidic metaphor of “war”–as we can see in Bolivia.

When it was first foisted upon on a supine Bolivian government 18 months ago, the ETF kept a low profile. But in the new dispensation after September. 11, they have, as one Bolivian officer puts it, “gotten out of hand.” The ETF is now under investigation for allegedly killing an unarmed union leader during a protest by local farmers in January. Bolivia’s official human rights ombudsman has logged charges of four other ETF murders and more than 50 instances of torture and theft since the Sept. 11 empowerment.

To please their overlords in Washington, the Bolivian government has forbidden the farmers of Chapare to ply their ancient trade. When it banned coca cultivation, the government promised economic aid to help farmers switch to alternate crops and gain access to international markets for their new products. But little of this aid has been forthcoming, and now the 40,000 indigenous families of Chapare face ruin and starvation, the region’s Roman Catholic officials say.

So the farmers try to grow coca again–and they are burnt out by the ETF. They protest their lack of access to markets for legal crops–and they are shot dead by the ETF. Every bullet the mercenaries fire into the body of a farmer is paid for by the Bush Administration. But the pious Pilates in Washington deny all responsibility.

“We don’t believe them, the human rights allegations,” a Bush spokesman said, even after videotape of the January murder was produced. And anyway, Washington has contracted with a private company to pass its blood money to the mercenaries; this Enron-like accounting trick means the U.S. has no “official responsibility” for any of the ETF’s actions, the Bush Regime claims.

But some Bolivians disagree. “These are soldiers with no clearly defined loyalties, and a foreign power is funding them to run around our country with guns,” says Juan Quintana, an official with the Defense Ministry. “The existence of this force is a violation of the Bolivian constitution.”

Ah, Juan, you just don’t understand–this is “war.” Anything is possible.

Chris Floyd is a columnist for the Moscow Times and a regular contributor to CounterPunch. He can be reached at: cfloyd72@hotmail.com

ANNOTATIONS:

US Role in Coca War Draws Fire,” Washington Post, June 22, 2002

Coca Grower Killed in Bolivia,” Corpwatch.org, Feb. 7, 2002

Profound concern over the violent social conflict in Bolivia sparked by U.S. funded counternarcotics operations,” Letter of Four U.S. Congressman to the State Department

CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade,” Interview with Alfred McCoy, Nov. 9, 1991

The CIA’s Drug Confession,” Consortiumnews.com, Oct. 15, 1998

Otto Reich: Our Man in Little Havana,” American Prospect, May 25, 2001

Guatemala: Memory of Silence,” Report of the Commission for Historical Clarification,”

Narcotics Traffickers and the Contras,” Senate Committee on Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy

The Reagan-Bush Crime Syndicate,” Consortiumnews.com, 1996

US Role in Salvador’s Brutal War,” BBC, March 24, 2002

Enron’s Pipe Scheme in Bolivia,” Corpwatch.org, May 9, 2002

Plan to Lift Limit on Colombia Aid, Add Counterterrorism Effort,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 23, 2002

The Bush Oil-Igarchy’s Old Friend Oxy,” Alternet.org, Feb. 21, 2002

Today’s Feature

Robert Jensen
Lynne Cheney’s Primer

Behzad Yaghmaian
An Alternative to the G-8s Africa Initiative
Toward a Global AIDS Fund and a Living Wage

John Borowski
Public Schools Under Seige

Norman Madarasz
Brazil, the Workers’ Party and the Financial Times

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

More articles by:

Chris Floyd is a columnist for CounterPunch Magazine. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at www.chris-floyd.com.

December 19, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russophobia and the Specter of War
Jonathan Cook
American Public’s Backing for One-State Solution Falls on Deaf Ears
Daniel Warner
1968: The Year That Will Not Go Away
Arshad Khan
Developing Country Issues at COP24 … and a Bit of Good News for Solar Power and Carbon Capture
Kenneth Surin
Trump’s African Pivot: Another Swipe at China
Patrick Bond
South Africa Searches for a Financial Parachute, Now That a $170 Billion Foreign Debt Cliff Looms
Tom Clifford
Trade for Hostages? Trump’s New Approach to China
Binoy Kampmark
May Days in Britain
John Feffer
Globalists Really Are Ruining Your Life
John O'Kane
Drops and the Dropped: Diversity and the Midterm Elections
December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail