WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sixteen civilians, including women and children, were slaughtered on New Year's Eve. A radio journalist was killed by motorcycle-riding assailants as he drove to work last Tuesday. A Catholic priest was murdered last month. The head of state has survived dozens of assassination attempts. Scores of locally elected officials, mayors and police officers were killed last year. Death squads are not uncommon. Kidnappings, brutal murders of hostages and attacks on civil infrastructure by well-armed bands of terrorists are part of daily life. Notwithstanding the violence, Bush administration officials say that they are optimistic about the future. Quick! What country is this?
If you guessed Iraq, you lose!
It's Colombia -- the other war on terror -- the beleaguered democracy less than four hours by air from the United States, that has for more than three years escaped the attention of the so-called mainstream media.
This lack of coverage is significant. Though the axiom, "if it bleeds it leads" prevails in most U.S. reporting from Iraq, the potentates of the press have largely ignored what's been happening in Colombia. Perhaps that's because the real story is so hopeful -- leading to a conclusion that patient, persistent U.S. assistance really works. And because that's a lesson applicable to Iraq, it has little appeal to the prognosticators of gloom and doom who occupy our editorial suites.
What the barons of bombast have chosen not to report are the signs of genuine progress being made in ending decades of bloodletting. Members of Colombia's largest terrorist group, the Marxist "Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia" (FARC), perpetrator of the New Year's Eve massacre, are today routinely turned in to the police by a civilian population that once was too intimidated to do so. The equally violent "National Liberation Army" (ELN) now finds its safe havens in the countryside raided regularly by Colombian National Police and Army units.
These terror organizations have long fought each other and the government -- financing their operations with drug money, kidnap ransoms and bank robberies. Now, both groups have found a formidable foe in Colombia's current president, Alvaro Uribe. Elected as an independent in 2002, Uribe has taken tough, positive steps toward improving the security and economic situation in Colombia.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.