In a report published on December 21, the Washington Post brought the U.S. role in the Colombian conflict into sharper focus when it revealed the role of the CIA and the NSA in the assassination of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) commander Raul Reyes in March of 2008. These revelations are based on information divulged by official sources familiar with the scope and the significance of the covert military intervention. According to the report, the U.S. covert military operations were funded by a multibillion dollar “black budget.” These funds are not part of the $9 billion that the United States has invested in the Colombian war system since 2000 under Plan Colombia, and, more importantly, they are not subject to public scrutiny or debate. This is not unusual in the United States, where a good part of its foreign policy and wars are historically carried out in secrecy, violating its core principles of good governance and its claim to a liberal democracy.
But even alongside the recently divulged Wikileaks documents, the Post report does not uncover the full magnitude of the U.S. military’s role in the Colombian Conflict; a complete history of intervention is yet to be disclosed, and is therefore far from written. From the primary sources already disclosed, and as I have discussed in this blog and in my book Systems of Violence (2013), a full report will need to reach further back than 2000, as the United States has been actively engaged in covert operations in Colombia since as early as the 1960s. While this interventionism reached a steep crescendo after the inauguration of Plan Colombia in 2000 and is yet to decline, the United States was first motivated to intervene by the scourge of communism (1960s-1990). Since the late 1990s, the United States has shifted its motivations to address the fear of the regional implications of the strategic advantage that the Marxist rebels of the FARC achieved against the state.
Given the magnitude of the U.S. participation in the Colombian conflict over the last decades and the billions spent in the war system, the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the Marxist rebels of the FARC cannot be concluded without a firm commitment from the United States to peace. Such a commitment would require direct engagement with the FARC in order to find middle ground.
Nazih Richani is the Director of Latin American studies at Kean University. He blogs at nacla.org/blog/cuadernos-colombianos.