This week, international human rights group went to The Hague to request that key Colombian officials be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their participation in what has come to be known as the "false positive" (in Spanish, "falsos positivos") scandal. As the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) explains in its press release and extensive report on this subject, this scandal involved the extra-judicial killing of 3,345 civilians, during the period 2002-2008, by the official Colombian military which then passed these victims off falsely as guerillas killed in combat. The FIDH emphasized that this was done with the knowledge and even urging of "army officials at the highest level" which actually gave incentives to army personnel for such killings.
The FIDH's report, aptly entitled, "Colombia: The war measured in litres of blood -- "False-positives", crimes against humanity: the impunity of the most responsible," explains how this incentive program worked, and, indeed, continues to work in Colombia:
The testimony of some of the implicated members in the cases of false positives refer to the pressures placed upon them from members of the National Military in regards to operational results. "Colonel Ramirez told us that every commandant in each battalion had to report one death per month and the Second Section had to report 3 bodies a month. The colonel also stated 'at this time the war is being measured by liters of blood, and a commanding officer that fails to provide body results every month will be appropriately sanctioned, which will in turn reflect on his overall record.' On another occasion early in 2008, when Colonel Juan Carlos Barrera Jurado took command of the brigade, he went as far as to tell all the commanding officers that 'the battalion that failed to provide bodies or engage in combat after 90 days will subject that commanding officer to discharge for negligence and operational incapacity."
However, as the high command of the Colombian military very well knew, these body counts ended up being attained through the path of least resistance -- that is, by the military's killing civilians in lieu of actually engaging in battles with the guerillas themselves. Here is a chilling account of how the military achieved its quota of bodies:
Between December 2007 and August 2008, at least16 young men disappeared under strange circumstances from the municipality of Soacha (Cundinamarca). Some of these men had informed their families that they had been offered a job offer in Santander; others just never returned home. All of them were reported dead after having allegedly died in combat as soldiers for the Francisco de Paula Santander Batallion and the Movil 15 Brigade, both of which are entities within the Second Division of the National Military. ... The bodies of these young men unexplainably appeared 700 kilometers from Soacha, buried without a name, in a common grave site in Ocana (North of Santander), and falsely reported by the military as delinquents, paramilitaries, and/or guerrillas killed in combat. Once these claims gained widespread notoriety, families from all over the country began to share similar stories of the disappearance and death of their loved ones, many of which revealed similar circumstances.
Again, while this report focuses on events during the 2002-2008 period, the report makes it clear that this phenomenon is not a thing of the past. Thus, the FIDH explains, "it is important to note that in its most recent annual study of the human rights crisis in Colombia (2011 study), the Office of the Human Rights Commission observed that the practice of these extrajudicial executions have not been totally eradicated: that is, these violations continue to occur in Arauca, Bogota, Cauca, and Cesar."
The most salient aspect of the "false positive" scandal for Americans, however, is what is not explained in this report -- that is, that the Colombian military has been encouraging the high body count in order to justify continued military aid from the United States which has given that military around $8 billion, and counting, since 2000 to wage its counter-insurgency war. In other words, it is the United States which is truly behind the "body count syndrome" at the heart of the "false positive scandal." And, it cannot be said that the U.S. has somehow been encouraging body counts unwittingly, for it has been very aware of this phenomenon for many years.
Thus, the U.S. has been aware that the Colombian military has been engaged in such "crimes against humanity," as the foregoing report describes them, since well before even 2000. As an illuminating account by Michael Evans at The National Security Archive explains, classified U.S. documents show that "[t]he CIA and senior U.S. diplomats were aware as early as 1994 that U.S.-backed Colombian security forces engaged in 'death squad tactics,' cooperated with drug-running paramilitary groups, and encouraged a 'body count syndrome...'" Yet, despite this long-standing knowledge of such crimes, the U.S. not only continued, but indeed massively increased its military aid to Colombia under the 2000 program known as Plan Colombia -- a program of military aid which continues to this day and which continues to incentivize the murder of civilians.
Under the very same logic which led to the ICC conviction this week of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor for "aiding and abetting" the "proxy armies" which committed atrocities in Sierra Leone, the U.S. officials behind Plan Colombian should be held liable for the "false positive" scandal in Colombia. Indeed, it is the U.S. paymasters in Washington D.C. who are truly the intellectual authors of the "false positive" scandal (amongst many other grisly human rights abuses in Colombia and abroad). Yet, they sadly will never be prosecuted because (1) the U.S. has never signed on to the ICC due to the very fear of being held accountable for such crimes; and (2) the U.S.'s massive military might prevents any police action which could result in U.S. officials being brought to justice. Maybe most sadly, because of the utter failure of our media to even cover such issues, the responsible U.S. officials will never even be convicted in the court of public opinion -- at least not in this country.
Finally, while the U.S. justifies its crimes in Colombia on its alleged desire to eradicate drugs, there are two irrefutable truths about this: (1) since the U.S. began its "war on drugs" in Colombia, there has been no decrease in cocaine exported from that country to the U.S.; and (2) as The Guardian of London just reported, the entire Western financial system has itself become addicted to the drug trade, is being propped up by it with billions of dollars of capital and Western governments are doing nothing to police this. Therefore, while innocents die in countries like Colombia, Mexico and Honduras by the thousands in our so-called "war on drugs," the Western banks are allowed to profit from drugs. I can think of no greater injustice.
Follow Dan Kovalik on Twitter: www.twitter.com/danielmkovalik