The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible. - Bertrand Russell
Americans are benevolently ignorant about Canada, while Canadians are malevolently well informed about the United States.
- J. Bartlett Brebner - Canadian born scholar, who fought in WWI, later studied at Oxford, then at Columbia University, New York, where he taught for many years.
Why is there so much speculation about a U. S. Military presence in Costa Rica? Worse, why is there so much misinformation about this issue? I know that part of it is that Costa Rica is a nation that thrives on rumor, gossip, and innuendo, and the expats who have moved here are not immune to this aspect of life here.
Not too long ago (see the entry Lions 'n Tigers, and.........Warships?! from July 18) there was a big stink here in Costa Rica about a U. S. invasion. For some reason, it seems that certain people here, in Costa Rica, just cannot let this idea go away. Every once in a while someone will start a new thread on one discussion forum or another reporting the latest sighting of a U. S. Military presence. There was a rash of sightings of Chinooks and/or CH-47's a few weeks ago, and one forum has a recent thread titled something like: "What, the Navy has landed, but no one is running?" Also,
someone posted about "meeting the humanitarians," in the bar of a Liberia Hotel, someone else (Canadian, interestingly enough) says they have seen – on more than one occasion - "groups of them at the airport in Liberia," and more recently, "8 'servicemen' standing outside wearing their 'V-Neck Olive Drab Commando style sweaters'." As a matter of fact, a good friend of mine (internet friend, since we've never actually met face to face) got himself banned from a forum for his perceived attack on the original poster who reported (second hand) the humanitarian presence just the other day. So, obviously, this is an issue that gets folks fired up.
I don't know about anyone else, but there is something else about all this that bothers me. I don't know why, but here it is: When I was in the Army – lo, those many, many years ago – we never spoke of any U. S. Military presence, like this was something sinister. Guys were either in the Army or the Navy, the Marines, or the Air Force. When on active duty, on a military establishment, we wore uniforms (and, they looked a whole lot better than these crummy camos the GI's wear today)! Oh, that's another thing: we were GI's (Government Issue), and so were our brethren. When I was sent on TDY (Temporary Duty) from my permanent post of Ft. Bliss, Texas, to Panama, in 1968, we wore 'civies' (civilian clothes, and you could still tell who was a GI, partly because of our hair cuts, but mostly because our idea of civilian clothing was less than fashionable. Think flash, cheap, whatever might be available close to the gates of any military post) on the flight down, and then wore Fatigues on duty. When we were off duty, we changed back into 'civies,' mostly because none of us wanted to be seen in any kind of uniform - - Remember, this was the day of the Draft, and Viet Nam, when GI's were spit upon on the streets of America. I know that individual GI's traveling on orders usually wear a uniform – and, always did – but that is because GI's used to get a reduced airfare.
But, to get back to my point here today, I wanted to touch on why this constant reporting of U. S. Military in a place where anyone with a modicum of knowledge, or even sense, should know that there really is NO U. S. Military presence. Actually, there is not all that much U. S. Military presence anywhere in Central America, since we gave the Canal back to Panama. Now, I know there're some of you who want to jump all over me, and say that just isn't so. But, I defy any and all of you to cite for me one fact (do I have to define that word for you?) that says different! Now, I don't want he-said, she-said, or my-friend-saw, or any other form of hearsay. I am asking for simple fact.
Yes, we have certain treaties with certain countries in Latin America, and I think one or more of them allow for a certain U. S. presence, but not in Panama, or Costa Rica, or Nicaragua. Check my facts. The recent agreement that allows some U. S. Naval Vessels to come into port here does not allow for active U. S. Military activities, not even in regards to so-called drug interdiction programs. That is mostly the purview of the U. S. Coast Guard and DEA. Oh, before I forget, I should point out that even though the Coast Guard is considered to be one of the U. S. Armed Forces, I personally do not consider them when talking about the U. S. Military. Didn't then. Don't now. Here's why:
By law, the Coast Guard has 11 missions:
- Ports, waterways, and coastal security
- Drug interdiction
- Aids to navigation
- Search and rescue
- Living marine resources
- Marine safety
- Defense readiness
- Migrant interdiction
- Marine environmental protection
- Ice operations
- Other law enforcement
Now, I have searched all over the internet for something that might establish for me that there are indeed some feet-on-the-ground GI's somewhere in this area, and I can't find anything other than some far Left wing and communist rants (from Cuba, even) claiming such to be the facts, but none of them have any facts to present, just claims. I did find an article called "U.S. military programmes with Latin America and their impact on human security" by a Joy Olson, and I suspect there may be a tie to Britain there, based on the spelling of the word, 'programmes.' But, I have no idea if such is the case. At any rate, based on her bona fides, and the groups with which she was and is associated, I will readily accept her as an expert in this field. You know, her article doesn't say anything about any active duty U. S. Military being stationed in this part of the world at all. I did learn that Ms. Olson was the director of the Latin America Working Group, a coalition of sixty non-governmental organizations working together to promote a more peaceful, just and humane U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America, and now is the director of something called the Washington Office on Latin America – *see footnote at end of this post* - (http://www.wola.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14&Itemid=12 –
As for the guys in the "'V-Neck Olive Drab Commando style sweaters'," remember that claim comes from a lady from Canada. I must ask, with all due respect, what, exactly, has given her the ability to identify a uniform or a group of identically dressed individuals as 'servicemen?' (Actually, today, a serviceman is nearly extinct, isn't he? You know what I'm talking about: the guys who come and fix your washing machine, right?) Do you know whose military uses "V-Neck Olive Drab Commando style sweaters," or, for that matter, where the word commando comes from? Here's a clue: It was most definitely NOT the U. S. Actually, I believe it was the Brits. Meanwhile, not even the U. S. Army is so stupid as to require the wearing of any kind of sweater in Liberia, Guanacaste, Costa Rica, at any time of the year!
*Joy Olson, Executive Director, is a Latin America human rights expert who has directed non-governmental human rights organizations for more than a decade. A policy strategist and a partner in dialogue with U.S. policy and opinion makers in both Washington DC and Latin America, Ms. Olson has a long-standing commitment to promoting greater transparency in U.S. military programs in Latin America. She co-founded the "Just the Facts" project and co-authored its three books on US military programs with Latin America. Her many achievements include campaign leadership to end U.S. government efforts to deport refugees who fled from civil war in El Salvador to the U.S. She led NGO efforts to increase U.S. funding for Central American peace accords implementation and a successful advocacy effort to lift the ban on food and medicine sales to Cuba. Prior to joining WOLA as Executive Director, Ms. Olson served as Director of the Latin America Work Group (LAWG), a coalition of 60 non-governmental organizations working together to promote peaceful and just U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America. A published author in the Latin American human rights field, Ms. Olson did her graduate studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, following two years' work in community development in Honduras.