9/03 Lessons From The Third World
It’s been nearly a year since a new law went into effect requiring the Bush administration to train and deputize pilots as the last defense against potential hijackers.
But to date, there have been less than 100 pilots trained. The Bush administration has dragged its feet and has resisted this plan from its very inception, leaving most airline travelers vulnerable to future terrorists in the sky.
The sad fact is that one of our neighbors down south has much to teach us in dealing with terrorists. That country is the nation of Colombia.
In August of 2002, Alvaro Uribe was elected president of war-torn Colombia. The country has one of the world’s highest murder rates and also suffers under some of the strictest gun control laws.
For years the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (the Spanish acronym is Farc) have murdered and kidnapped Colombians to protect their drug trade and raise additional funds. Of course, the disarmed populace has been an easy target for the marxist thugs.
Uribe, a former governor and senator, campaigned for president on a platform that included arming people in the rural areas where the Colombian police and army had either limited presence or none at all. To the dismay of the left, Uribe not only won the election, he has made good on his pledge to arm the people.
Nearly 17% of the municipalities of Colombia have no military or police presence, and about half of the territory of the nation is vulnerable to occupation at any time by the Farc and a smaller left-wing guerrilla outfit (Eln) or the paramilitary self-defense groups that sprang up to resist the guerrillas.
Uribe’s solution was to empower the people and end the perceived need for the paramilitary groups. Specifically, he has proposed that 100,000 citizen soldiers be trained as other soldiers are, but that they be stationed in their own communities — the communities that are now unprotected. The citizen soldiers guard their hometowns under the leadership of a smaller number of regular army non-commissioned officers. The citizen soldiers sleep at home.
Pity is, after considering allowing the soldiers to return home with their weapons, the decision was made that they could not keep their Galil assault rifles off duty.
A recent guerrilla attack against the citizen-soldier post of Carmen de Apicala illustrates the foolishness of forcing the citizen soldiers to leave their weapons behind when off duty. It also shows the advantage of training people to fight for their very homes.
At 9:30 in the evening on a recent Sunday, an estimated 50 guerrillas attacked the guard post that was manned by six soldiers (including an army Sergeant). They killed three during the firefight, including the friend of Carlos Gonzalez’ son. Gonzalez, himself one of the citizen soldiers, was in his house, a few yards from the post.
Seeing the body of his son’s dead friend, Gonzalez threw himself into the night and made it to the post through a hail of bullets, then grabbed the dead soldier’s rifle and joined the fight.
Not long afterwards, troops from a nearby base arrived on the scene and tilted the battle in favor of the defenders. This is a page out of the defense of Guatemala in the early 1980’s against communist guerrillas in that country. There, too, the government armed the people and used the military to back them up. It worked. And the guerrillas are mostly just a bad memory.
But unlike Guatemala, Colombia has made the mistaken decision not to have the citizen soldiers keep their weapons 24/7.
Colombian and international critics of this empowerment of the population have declared that the policy violates international agreements that ask governments not to directly involve civilians in combat situations. The opponents of self-defense in the U.S. sing a similar song, urging citizens not to be directly involved in resisting criminal assaults.
The same critics have expressed alarm that the guerrillas have threatened to target families of the soldiers if their sons participate in Uribe’s citizen army. Of course, this is the logic of non-resistance to any criminal attack.
So far, Colombia has put over 15,000 citizen soldiers into the field with promising results. Mayors have been able to return to their towns, bombs have been deactivated, kidnappings have been frustrated. All this has been made possible by citizens with guns.
Colombia, with all its challenges, has been able to train about 100 times more men in arms than the Transportation Safety Agency (TSA) has been able to train armed pilots. The difference? Colombia has made a commitment to fight back with the people (admittedly, with reservation). The TSA remains unalterably opposed to empowering the people to fight back.
Does the TSA need to have an airliner, piloted by a disarmed crew, to be shot down by an F-16 to keep the next group of terrorists from smashing the plane into a soft target?