It’s fashionable for State Department officials to appeal to “the rule of law” when demonizing opponents of U.S. imperialism or building support for military intervention. However, recent revelations about the CIA’s role in Colombia show that bombing another sovereign country without warning to assassinate a political leader is perfectly permissible in the eyes of the U.S. government.

According to a Dec. 21 article in the Washington Post that has since been picked up by media outlets around the world, a secret program that began in 2003 has led to the assassination of over two dozen leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). This was a central part of the murderous offensive in the mid-2000s launched by the government of far-right-wing President Álvaro Uribe, along with its death squad allies.

The FARC is both a political and military organization that fights for an independent, socialist Colombia. It was formed in 1964 out of self-defense organizations protecting the peasants’ struggle from vicious state and para-state repression. The social conditions that led to this rebellion, including extreme injustice in land distribution, domination by U.S. imperialism and endemic poverty, persist today.

The organization has since grown to include thousands of fighters controlling large parts of the Colombian countryside. Intimidated by the FARC’s persistent popularity and strength, the group has been repeatedly slandered as terrorists and drug traffickers. As is usually the case, the only thing these labels indicate is that the FARC resists the schemes of the Pentagon and Wall Street.

The U.S. government has long bankrolled the Colombian military and provided tacit support for the death squads used to terrorize workers and farmers into submission. The newly released information reveals a further detail in this blood-stained history.

Ecuador bombed with CIA assistance

Under the program, CIA spies and intelligence analysts worked closely with the Colombian military to track FARC positions and top leaders using advanced technology. This was coordinated by the U.S. embassy in the country, further proof that the “diplomacy” of imperialist countries is little more than a front for espionage and aggression.

The operation also had a directly military component. After repeated raids were foiled by FARC defenses, the CIA looked to the billion-dollar Raytheon corporation to upgrade the Colombian government’s arsenal. The company fitted warplanes with GPS targeting devices, transforming low-tech bombs into much more deadly guided munitions.

For the first several years of the program, the CIA maintained complete control over the use of these enhancements. In order for the bomb to hit its target, the CIA had to enter the encryption key into the targeting system, meaning that every strike needed to be explicitly approved by the agency.

The most infamous application of this U.S.-provided technology was in the March 1, 2008 bombing of a camp in Ecuador that killed FARC second-in-command Raul Reyes. Although the camp was close to the Colombian border, there is no dispute that the bombs were dropped on Ecuadoran territory.

In total, 23 were killed in the Colombian-CIA operation, including 18 rebels, an Ecuadoran civilian and four Mexican students. The attack caused a major international crisis, as progressive governments in the region broke diplomatic ties with Colombia, and Venezuela and Ecuador mobilized their militaries.

Upon learning about the CIA’s role in the incident, Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa noted in outrage that “Colombia and the international extreme right are capable of anything!”

The FARC is currently engaged in peace talks with the Colombian government, hoping to end the armed conflict to open up new avenues of struggle. The new revelations about CIA intervention show the importance of solidarity with the poor and working people of Colombia as they continue to fight for a society free from U.S. imperialism and the injustices it enforces.