Continuation of Previous Failures

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“One must speak with love and therefore I say to the (U.S.) president, (Barack) Obama: don’t make a mistake and order an open attack on Venezuela using Colombia,” said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The United States and Colombia have signed a Defense Cooperation Agreement that is designed to allow the US to freely use seven military bases in Colombia for the next ten years. This will allow the US to continue to fight the drug cartels and also the FARC rebels who have wagged a war against Colombia for over forty years.

The congress of the United States has previously setup a limit of 800 military personnel and 600 contractors for use within the borders of Colombia. This pact will not allow the US to exceed the pre-existing cap limit. But, it will allow the US to expand coverage and surveillance of drug traffickers. The seven bases to be used will remain under Colombian jurisdiction. These bases include Apíay, Cartagena, Málaga, Malambo, Tolemaida, Larandia, and Palanquero

Already, $46 million has been appropriated for the improvement of the Palanquero base. Colombia has been given over $6 billion in aid from the US government (US taxpayers) within the past decade and most of this has gone to support their military.

Colombia’s foreign ministry issued a statement concerning this agreement. “The pact is based on the principles of total respect for sovereign equality, territorial integrity and not intervening in the internal affairs of other states.”

It is odd that Colombia came out and said that this pact is based on respect for sovereign equality and territorial integrity and not based in intervention. I would like to know how allowing a foreign military to use your bases and to help you fight a war against your people is not intervention. But, I digress for now.

Not surprisingly this pact has caused quite a stir amongst Colombia’s regional neighbors. While Bolivia and Nicaragua have expressed this displeasure with this deal it is Venezuela who is most upset.

During his weekly radio show the President of Venezuela had some harsh words for Colombia and the United States.

“The two governments have joined together in order to lie to the world, to try and lie to the world. Therefore, gentleman and fellow soldiers, let us not lose even a single day in fulfilling our primary mission: to prepare ourselves for war and to help the people prepare for war, because that is the responsibility of all of us.”

This Defense Cooperation Agreement couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time. The growing tensions between Colombia and Venezuela are only going to get worse now that the US has increased their involvement. Trade between the two countries is almost completely non-existent and the bickering has heated up.

Recently, Colombia accused Venezuela of selling surface to air rocket launchers to the FARC rebels that are fighting against the Colombian government. In response to this accusation, the Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia was called back to Caracas, and more harsh words were issued by Chavez. Although, the ambassador and his staff later returned to Bogota.

In the past month, Chavez has issued his preparation for war and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has brought his complaints to the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

Central and South America have a history of political coups, extremism and unnecessary US involvement. We currently are heading back in that direction. The political divide in this region is evident by the leftist governments of Evo Morales (Bolivia), Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Mauricio Funes (El Salvador), Luiz Inácio da Silva (Brazil) and Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua). On the other side are the countries with massive US support, such as Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica and specifically Colombia.

To showcase this divide the countries involved have aligned themselves convenienty into blocs. The creation of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the backing of a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) by the United States is even more evidence that suggests there is a significant contrast in ideology.

The member states of ALBA include: Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominic, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela.

The FTAA is not a current organization; it was proposed back in 2003 and would be a current extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. The proposed member states of FTAA would ideally (according to the US) include all states in the western hemisphere except for Cuba. But, a number of countries, including most ALBA members, objected to the FTAA.

These countries have shown support for the FTAA in the past: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and the United States.

Of course, the recent coup d’état in Honduras only adds doubt to this muddled mess. Most countries have said that the coup was illegal and that Manuel Zelaya should be allowed to return to the Presidency. Zelaya was a supported of the ALBA and was rumored to be following the policies of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. It was because of this and a proposed constitutional change that Zelaya was ousted. There have been several reports of CIA and US trained persons being involved in the coup and this has exacerbated the overall situation.

So, all of this brings us back full circle to the Defense Cooperation Agreement that was signed on October 30 between the U.S. and Colombia.

Not including the DCA with Colombia, the US already has agreements with Honduras, El Salvador, Cuba, Haiti, Paraguay, Peru and Ecuador to use their military facilities. This includes the Soto Cano air base in Palmerola, Honduras and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The US also operates 17 radar sites in South America. There are six that are ground based radars, three in Peru and three in Colombia. The rest of these are mobile units or have undisclosed locations. We have deals to use air bases and maintain radar sites in many of these countries all under the auspices of fighting a war against drugs and combating terrorism.

It is clear that there are a few possibilities for the reasoning behind the DCA with Colombia. It could be for fighting the war on drugs and for battling the FARC rebels, like the US government insists. Or, it could be to give the US prime strategic positioning in a region that is boiling over with extremist ideologies.

Venezuela has been thorn in the side of the United States ever since Chavez took over. There is a legitimate fear that the region will become increasingly destabilized due to the spread of the Bolivarian Revolution. Without massive US support Colombia would be in a similar situation. They would have a left wing and populist leader who would nationalize many businesses and blame the US for most of their problems. In many cases this blame is justified, but in Chavez’s case he is using it to bolster his own regime and shift attention away from Venezuela’s many problems.

Regardless of Chavez’s insanities and the United States’ empire building; we have a problem here. From 2005 until 2007 Venezuela spent $4.4 billion on weapons from Russia. This included combat helicopters, airplanes and 100,000 AK-103 assault rifles. In 2008, Russia granted a $1 billion credit line to Venezuela for any future purchases.

Venezuela and their Bolivarian allies have positioned themselves for an upcoming war with the United States and this is good military strategy on their part. All evidence seems to point to a future conflict in this region and all for one good reason. The United States has positioned itself to become the sole world empire.

The US has roughly 740 military bases throughout the globe, some estimates range as high as 1000 when the clandestine operations are included. Some of these bases are located in Bulgaria, Germany, Greenland, Guam, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, Iraq, Kuwait, Kosovo, Israel, Cuba, Afghanistan, Djibouti, Bahrain and Greece. Overall, there are 2.5 million U.S. personnel serving around the globe in a capacity that supports US defense.

In 2006, the Defense Department base budget was $411 billion, in 2007 $430 billion, in 2008 $481 billion, in 2009 $515.4 billion. For the fiscal year 2010, Barrack Obama has already requested $533.7 billion. This does not include additional War on Terror spending or the expenditures for the BioShield operations which is “part of a broader strategy to defend America against the threat of weapons of mass destruction” (Project BioShield Act of 2004).

On top of all of this spending, and all of the personnel involved, here is another statistic that really sums up the US Empire. There are 156 countries in the world with U.S. troops stationed there. 63 countries have U.S. military bases and troops. While, there are only 46 countries with no U.S. military presence. This adds up to 202 countries in the world which by all accounts is a high estimate.

Currently, the United States recognizes 196 independent countries in the world. This excludes Taiwan (because of China), Greenland, Palestine, The Western Sahara, Scotland, Wales and other nations as well. But, it includes Kosovo.

The Department of Defense owns 845,441 structures around the world that spans over 30 million acres, making the US department of defense the world’s largest land owner. Does anyone see a problem with this?

The United States is not only messing with the sovereignty of other nations but it is screwing itself over as well. Because of the $533.7 billion budget for the DoD, we can only spend $66.5 billion on education for our children. We are also failing at improving basic infrastructure and on providing health care for the poorest of Americans. This would drastically change if we could get our DoD budget down to the amount of $396 billion seen in 2003 or $289 billion last seen in 2000.

At this point some of you are probably wondering why I would start talking about the Defense Cooperation Agreement between the US and Colombia and then go on talking about military spending over the past few years. The DCA that was recently signed between the US and Colombia is a continuation of the failed policies of previous administrations. Obama is following along nicely behind Reagan and Bush Sr. with their extreme military spending, Clinton with his endeavors in Haiti, Somalia and the Balkans or Bush Jr. and his creation of a 21st century religious crusade.

What Obama has done with this DCA is idiotic and represents the failed status-quo. He has refused to bring about change in many areas of life, including his support of the Bush government bail outs and continuation of that policy. His support of Bush’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. And now, his support of Bush’s continuation of the much maligned and interventionist war on drugs. But, I guess we have to spend the $533.7 billion on something and we haven’t started a war in the Americas in awhile.

The following is an excerpt from Barack Obama’s speech, “Renewing U.S. Leadership in the Americas,” Remarks of Senator Barack Obama at the Cuban American National Foundation on May 23, 2008.

“Since the Bush Administration launched a misguided war in Iraq, its policy in the Americas has been negligent toward our friends, ineffective with our adversaries, disinterested in the challenges that matter in peoples’ lives, and incapable of advancing our interests in the region.

No wonder, then, that demagogues like Hugo Chavez have stepped into this vacuum. His predictable yet perilous mix of anti-American rhetoric, authoritarian government, and checkbook diplomacy offers the same false promise as the tried and failed ideologies of the past. But the United States is so alienated from the rest of the Americas that this stale vision has gone unchallenged, and has even made inroads from Bolivia to Nicaragua. And Chavez and his allies are not the only ones filling the vacuum. While the United States fails to address the changing realities in the Americas, others from Europe and Asia – notably China – have stepped up their own engagement. Iran has drawn closer to Venezuela, and just the other day Tehran and Caracas launched a joint bank with their windfall oil profits.

That is the record – the Bush record in Latin America – that John McCain has chosen to embrace. Senator McCain doesn’t talk about these trends in our hemisphere because he knows that it’s part of the broader Bush-McCain failure to address priorities beyond Iraq. The situation has changed in the Americas, but we’ve failed to change with it. Instead of engaging the people of the region, we’ve acted as if we can still dictate terms unilaterally. We have not offered a clear and comprehensive vision, backed up with strong diplomacy. We are failing to join the battle for hearts and minds. For far too long, Washington has engaged in outdated debates and stuck to tired blueprints on drugs and trade, on democracy and development — even though they won’t meet the tests of the future.

The stakes could not be higher. It is time for us to recognize that the future security and prosperity of the United States is fundamentally tied to the future of the Americas. If we don’t turn away from the policies of the past, then we won’t be able to shape the future. The Bush Administration has offered no clear vision for this future, and neither has John McCain.

So we face a clear choice in this election. We can continue as a bystander, or we can lead the hemisphere into the 21st century. And when I am President of the United States, we will choose to lead.

It’s time for a new alliance of the Americas. After eight years of the failed policies of the past, we need new leadership for the future. After decades pressing for top-down reform, we need an agenda that advances democracy, security, and opportunity from the bottom up. So my policy towards the Americas will be guided by the simple principle that what’s good for the people of the Americas is good for the United States. That means measuring success not just through agreements among governments, but also through the hopes of the child in the favelas of Rio, the security for the policeman in Mexico City, and the answered cries of political prisoners heard from jails in Havana.

The first and most fundamental freedom that we must work for is political freedom. The United States must be a relentless advocate for democracy…

… For too many people in our hemisphere, security is absent from their daily lives. And for far too long, Washington has been trapped in a conventional thinking about Latin America and the Caribbean. From the right, we hear about violent insurgents. From the left, we hear about paramilitaries. This is the predictable debate that seems frozen in time from the 1980s. You’re either soft on Communism or soft on death squads. And it has more to do with the politics of Washington than beating back the perils that so many people face in the Americas.

The person living in fear of violence doesn’t care if they’re threatened by a right-wing paramilitary or a left-wing terrorist; they don’t care if they’re being threatened by a drug cartel or a corrupt police force. They just care that they’re being threatened, and that their families can’t live and work in peace. That is why there will never be true security unless we focus our efforts on targeting every source of fear in the Americas. That’s what I’ll do as President of the United States.

For the people of Colombia – who have suffered at the hands of killers of every sort – that means battling all sources of violence. When I am President, we will continue the Andean Counter-Drug Program, and update it to meet evolving challenges. We will fully support Colombia’s fight against the FARC. We’ll work with the government to end the reign of terror from right wing paramilitaries. We will support Colombia’s right to strike terrorists who seek safe-haven across its borders. And we will shine a light on any support for the FARC that comes from neighboring governments. This behavior must be exposed to international condemnation, regional isolation, and – if need be – strong sanctions. It must not stand.

We must also make clear our support for labor rights, and human rights, and that means meaningful support for Colombia’s democratic institutions. We’ve neglected this support – especially for the rule of law – for far too long. In every country in our hemisphere – including our own – governments must develop the tools to protect their people.”

Obama is right, ‘It’s time for a new alliance of the Americas. After eight years of the failed policies of the past, we need new leadership for the future. After decades pressing for top-down reform, we need an agenda that advances democracy, security, and opportunity from the bottom up.’ Unfortunately, the policy he has sponsored is doomed and is only a continuation of our previous failures.

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