Fighting Drugs and Terror

Commissioner Ted Brennan

On October 10, 2001 the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere of the House International Relations Committee held an eye opening hearing which linked drug trafficking and terrorism. The hearing ended with the horrifying revelation that America's seemingly insatiable hunger for illegal drugs is feeding the very terrorist organizations we are now fighting.

Nowhere is this link closer or more apparent than in Colombia, a nation just four hours by plane from Miami. Drug trafficking and terrorism share a symbiotic relationship -- each making the other possible. The violent 35-year long insurgency in Colombia is no longer about Marxist or any other ideology, it is about drug profits protected by terror. Together these remain the greatest threats to the stability of Latin America's oldest democracy and the national security of the United States. Colombia's two largest insurgencies, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC and the National Liberation Army, the ELN, are listed by the U.S. Department of State as both drug traffickers and terrorists.

In addition, the illegal paramilitary umbrella group, the AUC, was listed as a terrorist organization and a major drug trafficker just a few days before the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked on September 11. Not coincidentally, Hamas, Hizbollah, and of course, Al Qaeda are also on the State Department list. These organizations are well known for their brutality, bombings, assassinations and mass murder. And all use the lucrative trade in illegal drugs to finance their campaigns of terror.

Although the war in Afghanistan remains the focus of our attention , the war on drugs in Colombia and elsewhere needs our attention as well. 80% of the heroin and 90% of the cocaine consumed in this country originates in Colombia. The nearly $300 million per year in drug profits are used to conduct acts of terror in Colombia and around the world. Since 1992, over 35,000 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in Colombia alone, many of them women and children. That's the equivalent of one World Trade Center attack every year for over ten years. In recent years, 10 Americans have been kidnapped, tortured and killed by Colombian terrorists.

In the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, Middle East terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hizbollah, and others with links to Usama bin Laden train new terrorists and conduct fund-raising activities. The trafficking of Colombian drugs is among the most lucrative source of income for these groups. Funds raised in this area are sent directly to the Middle East to support the suicide bombers in Israel, as well as those who plan and execute other terrorist acts. There is evidence that drug profits were used to bankroll the deadly attacks on the United States in September. Recent discoveries of new weapons in Afghanistan and Pakistan indicate that Al Qaeda continue to use drug money to finance their cowardly work.

Fighting the war on drugs is fighting the war on terror. In fact, much of the training, equipment, law enforcement techniques, maritime enforcement and other skills being employed to fight terrorism are also being used to fight drugs. By fighting drugs, we would deprive the terrorist of his income. By fighting terror, we deprive the drug trafficker of his protection. Only by fighting them simultaneously can we expect to achieve victory over both.

With every puff of marijuana, line of cocaine and shot of heroin, those who choose to use drugs in this country are providing aid and comfort to our enemies. The strength of our nation relies on the strength of her people. We are a nation united to fight terror, so we must stand together now and fight terror the scourge of illegal drugs.

[Editors note: After his election, we asked Commissioner Brennan if he would periodically author articles on what life was like on Capital Hill in general, and on any issues currently pending that might be of interest to the greater Emmitsburg area community.]

Read other articles by Commissioner Brennan