Alexander Cockburn's iconoclastic magazine, Counterpunch, reported Monday that Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. John Kerry has hired former Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Rand Beers as his top national security advisor. Beers is a bipartisan drug warrior, serving as one of the main administration cheerleaders for us anti-drug policy in the hemisphere under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
One of Beers' primary tasks was to flak for Plan Colombia. He was a forceful proponent of the ongoing aerial coca eradication program, in which private contractors hired by the State Department spray peasants' fields with herbicides, testifying in favor of the program before Congress and in the mass media. The US government touts the program as a success, pointing to a reduction last year in acres planted, but the "balloon effect" is reportedly at work, with coca production increasing again in Peru and Bolivia, as well as migrating into the Colombian Amazon.
While the fumigation program's success in reducing the total supply of cocaine is minimal, its impact on the Colombian peasantry has been dire. Reports of food crops being poisoned by the spraying are common, as are reports of damage to livestock and humans. But Beers downplayed those reports, and sneeringly rejected claims that peasants needed to grow coca to survive. "An illegal activity is an illegal activity. And one doesn't get a special pass for being poor," he told John Stossel on ABC's 20-20. "They have to recognize that every effort to grow coca will be challenged by the government. Every work effort, every dollar, every pound of sweat that goes in to growing that coca may be lost."
Beers, who left his post as assistant secretary to become a counterterrorism advisor to President Bush, also played a key role in creating that perfect bogey-man, the "narco-terrorist." That was good practice for his performance last August when, attempting to block a lawsuit filed by 10,000 Ecuadorian peasants claiming they were harmed by spraying across the border, he attempted to link the Colombian conflict with Islamic radicalism.
"It is believed that FARC terrorists have received training in Al Qaida terrorist caps in Afghanistan," he wrote in a deposition for the case (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/251/randbeers.shtml).
The claim boggled the minds of intelligence insiders contacted by UPI when the story broke. "That statement is totally from left field," one unnamed federal law enforcement official said. "I don't know where Beers is getting that."
"There doesn't seem to be any evidence of FARC going to Afghanistan to train," an unnamed US intelligence official added. "We have never briefed anyone on that and frankly, I doubt anyone has ever alleged that in a briefing to the State Department or anyone else," he told UPI.
"My first reaction was that Rand must have misspoke," a congressional staffer told UPI. "But when I saw the proffer signed under oath, I couldn't believe he would do that. I have no idea why he would say that." Except to block the case from going to trial, which he explicitly said he wished to do in his deposition, citing national security reasons.
According to Counterpunch, Beers would be in line to be National Security Advisor or Secretary of State in a Kerry administration. "If John Kerry lets Rand Beers continue to guide his foreign policy, a Kerry administration will be no better for rural Colombians than a Bush administration," the magazine concluded. "Democrats who believe that Senator Kerry offers a humane alternative to Bush should think long and hard about what Rand Beers would set loose on the world if he were allowed to run the State Department."