Picture the scene. It's early January. U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Ann Patterson—elegantly attired in a cardinal skirt-suit and cream silk blouse with matching spectator pumps—stands on the greasy tarmac at the military airfield outside Bogota. Behind her loom 14 twin-turbine Black Hawk helicopters outfitted for anti-armor missions, just arrived from the Sikorsky factory in Stratford, Connecticut. Colombian President Andres Pastrana, a light breeze riffling his silvered hair, steps forward to accept this generous gift from the American people. In the warm Andean sun, Ambassador Patterson closes the deal.
One day later, on Jan. 8, Pastrana broke off the three-year-old peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)—the oldest armed leftist insurgency in Latin America—paving the way for the next stage of the U.S. "war on terrorism."
By the time the press release was out announcing the end of the peace process, the Colombian army had massed troops in preparation to reoccupy the FARC zone. The brutal right-wing paramilitaries were also moving into place. U.S. embassy officials were in a flurry of meetings, seeking authorization and resources for aiding the Colombian military. In the quickly forming DMZ, people panicked. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. Just prepare to be massacred.
The political and economic machinations of the globe's superpower were gathering again in relentless forward motion that would reelect senators, secure defense contracts, ease the way for multinational oil companies, and remind the world that the president was not at war with Islam but with terrorists, wherever they may hide. For the Bush administration, this was a scenario made in heaven. What on earth could stop it?