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The War Nerd August 23, 2002
Colombia:A Hundred Years of Slaughtertude
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
Page 2 of 5
Then there are the countries that kill real good in private life but won't fight in uniform -- Italians, say. Mean fuckers on the street, in the alley, but put one in a uniform and he can't wait to throw away his rifle and find a nice cozy cellar to hide out in.

Colombians are a coach's dream: the switch-hitters of killing. They kill in uniform or out, home or away, on the street or the battlefield. Equal Opportunity Slaughter: men, women, children, dogs -- if it moves, they'll kill it. For any reason. For no reason. For money, for fun, for the Revolution, for the Counter-Revolution, for practice.

Cocaine powder

Cocaine users keep Colombians fighting, and Brecher disappointed

Killing is like the only way you can make a point in Colombia. Take soccer. We all know foreigners get a little crazy about soccer -- hooligans, riots, all that. But Colombians do it their way -- none of that noise and drunken chair-throwing crap you get with English hooligans. Colombians say it with bullets. In the 1994 World Cup, Colombia lost out because a player named Escobar scored an "own goal." Escobar flew back to Colombia expecting to get a hard time. But nobody yelled at him. That wouldn't be the Colombian way. All that happened was that as soon as Escobar stepped out of his house, a man walked up and emptied a whole 9mm clip into him.

Before they got guns, Colombians settled life's little problems with machetes. I read about this amazing custom in Colombian villages: if two men have a disagreement, they don't shout, they don't sue, they don't bore everybody with long arguments. Nope. Two guys just take up their machetes, then each grabs one end of a serape. When the ref blows his whistle, they start chopping each other up. The first guy to let go of the serape loses. Usually because he's dead.

The winner, who's usually bleeding to death himself, walks away covered with glory -- and a few quarts of arterial blood. The goat or chicken or whatever it was the fight was about belongs to him, and he staggers off just as happy as a Colombian can be, down to the coffin shop to see if he can trade the goat for an upgrade to the deluxe Mahogany model.

The historians I've been reading -- typical bleeding-heart college professors -- all try to say Colombians aren't really violent. Oh no! It's America's fault, or it's the United Fruit Company's fault, or it's the cocaine trade.

Yeah. Reminds me of this "Cultural Education" visitor we had when I was in 9th grade in Long Beach -- this huge Samoan lady who stomped in and told us she was going to "break the stereotype" that Samoans were violent. She sang some Samoan poem and showed us a flower-arrangement, which was supposed to prove to us Samoans were the gentlest people ever to walk the earth. Our mullet-hair dyke teacher stood next to her all nodding and clapping and "Oh, how true!" -- and when the big Samoan lady finally shut the hell up, the dyke reached out to try to hug her. Except she couldn't get her little arms around far enough. It was funny, and about half the class sort of laughed. Samoan lady didn't like that. She put out one big non-violent Samoan hand about the size of a catcher's mitt on the dyke's chest and shoved her halfway across the room. Then the bell rang and the rest of us squeezed around Samoan lady to see if we could make it to the vending machines before Sammy Faumina, this peaceful gentle Samoan guy who liked to bounce white kids' heads into their lockers, could shake us down for our lunch money.

So how about a little truth for once. As in: Colombians kill. They've done it non-stop for 400 years. They'll do it for another 400. That's part of the reason it's hard to explain the current wars in Colombia: because they're just a little episode in one long war that will never end.

I say "wars" because there are at least three different rebel armies, and God knows how many death-squad "paramilitary" groups fighting right now in Colombia. The three rebel armies have some things in common: they all talk more or less like Commies, they all say they're for the peasants, and they talk about cooperating -- but they'd kill each other in a second if they weren't too busy fighting the government.

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Gary Brecher
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Email Gary at, but, more importantly, buy his book.

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