December 27, 2013

The Dec. 22 front-page article Secret U.S. aid helps Colombia cripple rebels traced the history of both Plan Colombia and military assistance against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to President George W. Bush. But Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the national drug czar under President Bill Clinton, conducted at least five study missions — I was on three of them, worked on all five and sent deputies on the other two — to Colombia from 1996 to 2000, including meetings with the Colombian president and military leadership and flights with the Colombian military to southern Colombia’s deep jungle bases, from which they strategized and fought the FARC.

The secret assistance started before Bush. Clinton came into a Cabinet meeting in 1999 and stated, “Barry wants a billion for Colombia.” The president authorized the funding, which helped reduce Colombian cocaine and heroin cultivation and production and undercut the FARC’s national economic and political strength. This process continued under Bush and, as the article reported, continues under President Obama. But it started with McCaffrey, who conceived of Plan Colombia as a way to assist the Colombian government, maintain its democracy and economy and fight the drugs and the narco-rebels that threatened its nation and ours.

Robert S. Weiner, Accokeek

The writer was spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 1995 to 2001.