US shouldn't aid Colombia's military

Regarding "Drugs pulling United States into Colombia's war" (July 27), it is unfair to blame Colombia for the supply of cocaine and heroin in the US.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, in 1998, 130,000 acres of coca were grown in Peru, 97,000 acres in Bolivia, and 200,000 acres in Colombia. But the US in 1999 gave $289 million in military aid to Colombia, while giving only $17 million to Bolivia, and $1 million in alternative development aid for Peru.

Almost all of the aid to Colombia was in the form of Black Hawk helicopters and other heavy weapons.

The Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that Colombia produces only 1.5 percent of the world's opium poppies, which are used to make heroin. Is this really an emergency? Drug czar Barry McCaffrey's proposal to send Colombia another billion dollars to fight drugs simply doesn't make sense.

Ronald Reagan first coined the term "narco-guerrilla" to justify US support for the contras in Nicaragua. Later, in what became known as the "Iran-contra affair," we heard that the US was supplying weapons to the contras in exchange for cocaine.

We should not arm the Colombian military, which has proven to be one of most brutal and corrupt organizations in the world.

Paul Wolf Apex, N.C.

True spirit of environmentalism

I am dismayed by the chauvinistic tone of your editorial "Environmental caution" (Aug. 3). The Monitor should resist the temptation to use 20/20 hindsight to dismiss the efforts of the environmental movement. Just because the Environmental Protection Agency has decided against using MTBE as a fuel additive does not necessarily mean the policymaking process is flawed. Your editorial suggests that we should conduct countless longitudinal studies before implementing environmental policies.

More importantly, your editorial maligns the intent of many environmentalists. We are not trying to recreate a utopian Garden of Eden full of wolves, salmon, and spotted owls. Rather, we are challenging public policies that favor resource extraction, consumptive lifestyles, and severe environmental degradation.

Science is a tool that can guide our decisions and challenge the economic forces that corrupt our policymaking processes. But science alone is not our taskmaster. The true intent of many environmentalists is to create paradigms where humanity will live more in harmony with nature. This is in contrast to the prevailing influence of the Industrial Revolution, where humanity seeks to harness and control natural forces for the material benefit on mankind.

Given the daunting challenges of balancing our technological developments and consumptive practices on a world with 6 billion people, we should not become overly cautious about steps to preserve the natural environment. To this end, I believe your editorial staff should more closely examine the philosophical relationship of humanity to the natural world.

David Daniels Ronan, Mont.

Breaking the rules of war?

In reading "The rules of war" about the 1949 Geneva Conventions in the Aug. 11 Monitor, I was pondering the last rule in the article: "Weapons and methods of warfare likely to cause unnecessary losses or excessive suffering, or severe or long-term damage to the environment, may not be used."

Perhaps NATO forces could have paid a bit more attention to these rules when they allowed the use of depleted uranium, as reported in a Monitor series April 29 and 30.

Jackie Anderson Rimbey, Alberta

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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