Read through archived FRONTLINE/World
conversations around this story, including responses from
D. Maze - Marshalltown
I spent 1986-87 teaching in a private school in Barranquilla,
Colombia and went back for a visit in 1991. At that time,
I traveled extensively throughout this beautiful country.
The present 'warfare' must be costing Colombia untold millions
in lost tourist trade. When's the last time you saw an ad
to come visit Colombia? The U.S. State Department doesn't
recommend traveling there. When I asked my high school seniors
about the cocaine problem they told me if there weren't
such a demand in the U.S. there wouldn't be a supply from
Colombia. Is this what a past administration calls supply-side
I was rather astounded to find out that Colombia is third
in the world as a recipient of U.S. aid. Unfortunately a
large chunk of it goes for the military protection of U.S.
corporations. A poor way to make allies in my estimation.
Norma Paskash - Hobart, Indiana
If we have to go to war to protect oil pipelines and oil
wells around the world, maybe we need to find another source
Tom Grace - New Berlin - New York
I wish your televised story had detailed U.S. involvement
in the Colombian tragedy with some of facts you have here
on online. This is a time for bold reporting as well gutsy
The argument that the oil pipeline and the war in Colombia
have a cause-and-effect relationship, as reported in "Colombia:
The Pipeline War," is spurious at best and a blatant lie
at worst. Colombia's civil war has been killing innocent
civilians since the FARC first took to the jungles during
the decade-long war known as La Violencia that followed
the 1948 assassination of Liberal Party leader Eliecer Gaitan.
Occidental Petroleum Corp. didn't discover the 1.3 billion-barrel
Caño Limón oil field until 1983. To imply
that a nineteen-year-old oil pipeline is the cause of fifty-four
year old civil war is to disregard the logic of the scientific
method in favor of agenda-supporting propaganda. I had higher
expectations of PBS and Frontline.
There is no doubt that all sides
are using the oil pipeline as a pawn in Colombia's civil
war. The first recorded attack on a Colombian oil pipeline
in 1986. But do not be misled into believing that the fight
is about oil, or that the United States' oil consumption
is the cause of all that ails Columbia. Oil, like cocaine
and heroin, are a method to Colombia's madness, not the
cause of it.
The thing to remember is that roughly
3,500 people, most of them civilians, die every year in
the fighting. And at the root of it all, Colombia's social
and economic problems, remain un-addressed.
Keith Allred - Ogden, Utah
I am wondering why this isn't big news. I hardly hear anything
about this and the Colombians I know that live here won't
talk about it. I have met many Colombians and I have great
respect for them and the trying times they have gone through.
This area is more important to take care of than Iraq in
my opinion. These are great people and deserve a safe, sane
Gary Hall - Los Angeles, California
A little history on Occidental/Colombia should be made known.
No one would doubt a Bush connection, of course there is
a lot more. Additional information should be noted here
about 1. Plan Colombia and its direct relationship to the
pipelines, and 2. The Human rights conditions in Plan Colombia
that were waived by the last President. May I copy this
article on some recent involvement: Published on Friday,
June 30, 2000 in the Washington Times "Gore Resists Calls
to Halt Oil Drilling in Colombia" by Bill Sammon (Note:
FRONTLINE/World could not publish the article)
Mark Westborough - Boston, Massachusetts
I was disappointed in this piece. It promoted America's
willingness to pay for oil as the root of all evil in Colombia.
Juan Posada - New York, New York
This is the best reportage about the Colombian conflict
that I've seen recently. My most sincere congratulations
to the reporter and the production team, that, through this
straightforward piece, depicted the complexities and absurdities
of the Colombian conflict.
Steve Hunt - Stillwater, Oklahoma
The United States needs to look at the Colombia pipeline
situation closely as it moves to create its new Saudi Arabia
in the African Continent, via the Cameroon-Chad pipeline.
Wanting to rid itself of the Saudi problem via its dependence
upon their oil is understandable, but the States do not
realize what will come of this "simple fix." To imagine
that things will be different in Africa is a huge mistake,
especially when you compare the devastated country of Chad
to Colombia. The Saudis have terrorized numerous countries
including the United States, not because of Americans' "way
of life," but because they are perceived as a people who
are basically telling the Saudi people that they have no
right to their own resources. When this happens in Africa,
when the pipeline is finished in late '03, there will be
numerous groups springing up that make the Colombian rebels
look like Boy Scouts...
Joel Clark - Deltona, Florida
We just watched your program on the U.S.-owned pipeline
in Colombia. My wife is from Colombia, and her entire family
lives there, so what happens in Colombia is of special interest
to us. Your program, some years ago, entitled "The Godfather
of Cocaine," was the best report on the subject in Colombia
that we had ever seen. On the other hand, the program we
watched tonight on the Colombian oil pipeline and the problem
with the paramilitaries we found somewhat one-sided. Had
we not known better, we would have come away with the impression
that the Marxist FARC and ELN were dedicated groups trying
to make things better for the "poor people" of Colombia.
On the other hand the paramilitaries were shown to be a
ruthless group of terrorists killing everyone in sight.
The Marxist groups have been terrorizing Colombia for many
years now, but not for doing anything for the "poor people"
or making the country a better place, but for their own
I believe the U.S. has no business exploiting the resources
of any country, including our own, for its own greedy, irresponsible
ends. America's oil policy is not spreading wealth. It's
spreading social, economical and ecological terrorism in
the guise of progress, friendship and economic empowerment.
Then we wonder why we have become a target for terrorism.
America arrogantly out-muscles anyone choosing to resist
its oil policy through peaceful means, then is shocked when
less conscientious and law-abiding forces [use] violent
tactics. [Thus] continuing the deadly never-ending circle
of fighting violence with violence. I fully support exclusive
implementation of renewable energy sources that do not negatively
impact any country, including our own.
Stan L. - Lake Forest, Illinois
I felt this to be a slanted story with the real agenda of
trying to portray/blame the U.S., and its implicitly greedy
desire for oil, as the reason for the civilian misery, especially
as suffered by the prostitutes, homosexuals, and civil rights
workers. It looks to me like it is the leftist guerrillas,
who have chosen to attack the oil pipeline as a soft target,
who are at fault. Where is the outrage against the leftists?
Instead, somehow the U.S. is to blame! If it were not politically
incorrect, I would accuse the producer as being a leftist
sympathizer; but I won't do that.
Smith Stephens - Dallas, Texas
I had no idea that the pursuit of oil was spoiling rivers,
earth and families in Colombia! What an eye-opening and
tragic story. The politics involved are enough but what
about the destroyed land and rivers? Thanks PBS for the
unfiltered story, you don't find news like this anywhere
Joe Lapsley - Chicago, Illinois
Your piece did not inform viewers that the rebels on more
than one occasion agreed to participate in the electoral
system. Each time they were slaughtered by the thousands.
Rather than learn that history, your reporter simply evinced
suspicion of their claims that they fight for the poor.
Luther D. Harrison - Ft Lauderdale, Florida
You know what really gets me about this oil business is
the old adage "the haves and the have nots." While we in
the U.S. drive these impossibly large and ostentatious Expeditions
and Escalades, working people in developing nations are
lucky if they can find a Pinto or Vega to drive. This excessive
greed is so obvious, fund[ing] the "American Dream" at the
expense of the poor bastards who don't know the difference
anyway. I'm an American, however this unbalance and obsession
with the "things" that supposedly make our lives, "better,
faster, easier" only serves to make some of us Americans
ignorant to the impact we have on our fellow planet sharers.
Thank you for excellent reporting. As usual you are setting
the standard. Keep bringing us fair accurate and most of
all authentic news broadcasting.
Your report is very interesting and objective. I think that
Colombia's conflict is too serious. I wish that foreign
countries [would] take [note] of this situation. This country
is part of my heart. My hopes are with our current president,
[who] is the only one who is facing the problem. Still,
guerrillas and the paramilitary won't stop. The more they
fight, the worst this situation will be. Still there is
a little hope in my heart, for me to be able to go back.
I wish there where something I could do to help my country.
M. Scott MacInnes - Ferndale, Michigan
I can't believe we taxpayers still subsidize this harmful
addiction with our hard-earned money.
With so many alternatives, who still thinks the risks
associated with extracting, transporting and refining oil
is a good idea?
Are these people stupid or evil or both?
Lorena Mendoza - Tempe, Arizona
I am so proud that you are informing Americans about Colombia.
We need to realize what is happening there and I am glad
to see shows like these. We all need to unite as Americans
and educate ourselves on how we can help with this terrible
situation in Colombia. Please, we need more shows about
Colombia like this one.
Otoniel Calderon - Austin, Texas
Thank you for laying out the information concerning the
Colombian Pipeline War as efficiently as you did. It aroused
my curiosity and I found out some interesting facts. If
the U.S. did not import oil at all from other countries
our supply would only last for another 8 years. Saudi Arabia's
oil supply, however, could keep the United States running
smoothly (not taking into account population or oil consumption
demand increases) for 98 years. Colombia just seems to be
a pawn in a game that costs many innocent lives as it becomes
more important for the United States to secure an alternative
to Saudi Arabia. It was also very interesting to note that
the high oil consumption comes from the fact that 1/2 of
all vehicles being purchased in America are light trucks
which are less fuel-efficient. I wonder if the public was
aware of this if it would affect the purchase of light trucks.
This was one of the worst stories that I have seen on Colombia
and was simplistic at best. It essentially boiled down to
a wide-eyed reporter traveling around Colombia in the back
of a military helicopter staring in wonderment at the violence
only to ultimately blame the oil. Oil does not commit acts
of violence, people do. Where is the political analysis
here? Why is it never mentioned that the paramilitaries
commit 80% of political murders in Colombia? Where is the
historical context? Why are the guerrillas never mentioned
by name and why is it never pointed out that there is more
than one group (FARC and the ELN)?
I believe that ideally the program
should have taken a political stance on the root of and
solutions for violence in Colombia. However, at the very
minimum it should have provided basic information about
the overwhelming political and economic situation there
which involves much more than oil. All this program really
demonstrated is that Colombia is a country with a lot of
oil and there is also a lot of violence.
In addition the whole tone, in particular
the voice over, of the program made it feel as if we were
watching a nature special about the natives that have gone
wild over oil. A more complex analysis of the crisis might
have improved this but unfortunately was absent.
Finally, at the end of the program
the correspondent said the following: Before leaving, Shah
visits a graveyard for blownup oil pipes: "Each piece,"
she laments, "represents a farm destroyed, a river poisoned
or a life lost. The West benefits from Colombia's oil. Its
true price is counted not just in dollars, but in human
Since when is Colombia not geographically
located in "the West"?
I expect far more of PBS.
I just finished watching The Pipeline War. I am truly saddened
by what is happening in Columbia. I am sad for the people
and the land. I was appalled at seeing the river "flowing
black" with oil.
Because of your report, I will write to President Bush
to [tell him that] my America needs to honestly look at
alternative resources for energy/fuel! That as Humans &
brothers & sisters of planet earth, we need really look
at the whole picture & at the toll of human life and of
nature. Is this worth it?
I will also be contacting Greenpeace. By working with
them I feel that I am doing something, and trying to make
a difference for my future brothers and sisters.
Wake up people, wake up!! What are you going to do to
make a change?
San Diego, California
How can a country with the most educated people engage in
hiring military anywhere just to protect its business interests.
I go to a university and I hear a lot of talk about how
the U.S. shouldn't do this, but yet we elect politicians
that engage in these kinds of things for campaign donations.
Americans just front for tolerance yet we allow our companies
and government to get involved in other countries' affairs
for profit. Getting involved means the companies will do
almost anything to make a profit. They will destroy natural
environments and kill people. I [would] rather not have
oil and have to ride a bike than to know that some of the
oil I use displaced a family from their home or was extracted
at the price of people's lives.
Frances Elward - Manasquan, New Jersey
The Colombian news report was excellent...however I am not
concerned with the politics. I would like to say to the
rebels who are blowing up the oil line, this is the wrong
way to go...you are destroying your own country, poisoning
rivers, land, water, supplies, animals, humans..YOU ARE
MAD..Try a different method to fight for your cause.
Frances Elward an American...
Juanita Wood - Wenatchee, Washington
I am disappointed with the quality of reporting demonstrated
in this story. Who is fooling who here? During the story
the reporter traveled to the area where the pipeline was
bombed. The reporter breathlessly tells the camera, "We
are not supposed to be here" The camera pans out to show
the soldiers hunting for rebels. The reporter goes on to
tell us the rebels often hide in the area after they have
bombed the pipeline. The camera then shows 2 soldiers standing
in the meadow firing off their rifles (machine guns). The
soldiers boldly walk out into the meadow. No duck and run
here! Now notice please: these soldiers stand in an area
without any cover! They do not even stand behind the trees!
The soldiers simply point their rifles in front of them
and fire! How could they possibly have hit anything? The
other members of the party look on. They do not have cover
either. I submit to you; if rebels had been in the area
these soldiers would have been a soft target! After a time
the camera pans to feet running on. The "party" is getting
out of there! The implied threat is obvious!
What is the threat? Was it really
dangerous to be in that location?
Are these soldiers as stupid as the
camera would have us believe?
Was the whole thing staged for the
Was the reporter a willing participant?
What kind of investigative reporting
I cannot rely on the veracity of
the information presented. Thus, the story is tainted. I
am sure this is an important story. By showing the piece
the producer's have insulted the average viewer's intelligence.
Come on! Lose the Frontline tag! Frontline viewers expect
and demand accurate, unbiased reporting!
Your story was very compelling. It gave a perspective of
the devastation and despair of people caught up in these
wars. I love your shows and watch them first over prime
Dave Pochedley - Cleveland, Ohio
Excellent shows tonight, can't believe you got such access
inside the country. Would like to see a "Charlie Rose" type
discussion with various points of view about topics.
I am from Colombia and have been in the United States for
the last 20 years. It never seizes to amaze me how easy
it is for someone outside of the immediate danger to forget.
Colombia had this war when I came here and will continue
to have this war until there is drastic intervention by
the global community. I am not referring to taking over
the country, but this war is fueled by drug money. Money
that comes from wealthy countries like the United States
and Europe. If the money is taken away from the paramilitary
and guerrilla groups in the country then they do not have
the resources to destroy such a beautiful place.
Jim Oldani - St. Louis, Missouri
Watching "Pipe Line War", I was amazed at the twisted logic
used to once again portray the U.S. as the root of all evil.
Our "desperate need" for oil causes perfectly nice people
in Columbia to kill each other! What tripe. If we hadn't
invested in oil production the left-wing rebels and right-wing
paramilitary would have found another excuse for lawlessness.
Just look around the world: diamonds and tribalism in central
Africa, religion in the Middle East, drugs in South America,
ethnicity in the Balkans and nothing at all in the Horn
Public Broadcasting's record of presenting
anti-American opinion pieces as journalism remains intact.
Juan Noyles - El Paso, Texas
No. The Colombian government should not be performing security
services for U.S. companies. If these companies choose to
put the Colombians (military or not) on their payroll, I
think that would be just.
Naz Hashmi - Voorhees, New Jersey
Excellent reporting by Saira Shah! I never knew what goes
on behind the scenes in Columbia for oil. It is such a shame
that the media does not cover a story like this more often.
Thank you for an informative show.
Craig Roberts - Zanesville, Ohio
I commend Ms.Shah, real gutsy. That area doesn't get much
press. I would think that the drug war and oil interest
should be explored. No doubt they're tied together.