The arrogance of attempts by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and George W. Bush to fool us is unbounded. Here’s why.

In Colombia, thousands of indigenous people, peasants, unionists and leftists have been murdered or disappeared, mostly at the hands of paramilitary groups. Paramilitaries and politicians fell into each others’ arms. Revelations about army use of “false positives” surfaced last year.

Now declassified U.S. military, diplomatic and intelligence documents released by the National Security Archives of George Washington University tell more. Michael Evans, principal compiler of the material, summarized findings in an article appearing on the Archives web site ( on Jan. 7, 2009. Links to documents are provided.

One learns that “false positives” have been old hat for the Colombian Army for years, that the army worked hand-in-glove with paramilitaries, and that the U.S. government, source of $ 5 million in funding for Colombia’s military during the Bush era, knew.

“False positives” are bodies dressed in military fatigues found after army-guerrilla encounters and identified as guerrilla casualties. It turned out last October that soldiers had killed 19 men from Soacha, outside Bogota, and deposited their re-attired bodies 300 miles away at a battle site. A still-secret army report supposedly identified hundreds of other “false positives.” Army chief Mario Montoya and 27 other officers were fired.

The Washington documents include, for example, a report signed by U.S. Ambassador Thomas McNamara in 1990 citing Colombian sources claiming that “nine were executed by the army and then dressed in military fatigues … There were no bullet holes in the military uniforms to match the wounds in the victims’ bodies…” A cable that year noted, “Abuses come in the course of operations by armed paramilitary groups in which army officers and enlisted men have participated,”

Four years later a U.S. Defense attaché reported Colombian officers’ presumption that promotions are tied to success in fighting guerrillas and that body counts help. A CIA report that year noted the Colombian military had “a history of assassinating leftwing civilians in guerrilla areas, cooperating with narcotics-related paramilitary groups in attacks against suspected guerrilla sympathizers, and killing captured combatants.”

Ten years ago, U.S. intelligence reported that Colombian soldiers, sensitive to criticism on human rights, encouraged paramilitaries acting as proxies to do the killing and keep body counts high. The survey identified the 4th Army Brigade, operating in the Medellin area, President Uribe’s home turf, as notorious for killings for promotion and for collaboration with paramilitaries. A U.S. officer reported these trends worsening during the tenure there of Rito Alejo Del Río Rojas.

Interviewing Michael Evans, La Semana periodical asked what information he wanted from Alvaro Uribe. Comments would be nice, Evans replied, on a 1991 document testifying to Uribe’s close relationship with Medellin drug king Pablo Escobar and on reported ties to General Rito Alejo del Río. He would ask about Convivir, the “neighborhood watch” program then-Governor Uribe entrusted to paramilitaries.

In 2004, the National Security Archives released a declassified 1991 report from the Defense Intelligence Agency. Number 82 in a list of shady characters was Alvaro Uribe, “politician and Senator dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin Cartel at high government levels … has worked for the Medellin Cartel and is a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar.” Drug traffickers ran the paramilitaries.

Charges that Uribe and family members populated Colombia’s trafficking and paramilitary apparatus have circulated for years. They reached an apogee in 2007 when leftist Senator Gustavo Petro charged in Congress that the president’s implementation of Convivir demonstrated his leading role in the rise of paramilitarism.

Now President Uribe has gall enough to back Colombian Army plans to form an “Inter American School of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law,” open, according to El Tiempo “ to military personnel from all of America.” Juan Cendales notes on that teachers will be “experienced in extrajudicial executions and false positives, massive arrests, creation of paramilitary groups, disappearances, and torture.” “This is not a joke,” he assures us.

Uribe, however, is one-upped in haughty disregard of the truth by the departing U.S. president. On Jan. 13 George W. Bush will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to that frequent flyer to Washington, President Alvaro Uribe.