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Lucas Carvajal is a guerrilla combatant from the Block Alfonso Cano and currently member of the Peace Delegation of the FARC-EP 
Tuesday, 09 June 2015 00:00

A look at General Yarborough

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By: Edgar Piedrahita.

In a previous article (in Spanish; NT) we referred to Brigadier General of the US Army William P. Yarborough and his impact on the Colombian conflict. Given the unfortunate consequences of his "assistence" - the longest conflict of the Western Hemisphere - it makes sense to review some aspects of his life that will shed light on Nortamerican militarism and its global impact.

Our character was born in Seattle in 1912 in a family of high-ranking officers with aristocratic origins going back to England. He graduated as a lieutenant of the Military Academy at West Point in 1936, joining the bodies of paratroopers deployed in the Philippines. In the Second World War and now with the rank of major, he led the US aerotrasportadas despliege on Algeria, France and Italy, standing out in the field and he was finally promoted to lieutenant colonel.


After the War, he participated in the design of the American strategy in Europe and was an adviser to what would become NATO. He worked on similar projects in Cambodia, where he began to familiarize himself with counterinsurgency issues. Between 1958 and 1960, he was chief of the US counterintelligence batallion in Stuttgart, West Germany. 

In 1961, being a brigadier general, he was appointed commander of the newly established Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, where he would play a key role in the design of tactical operability of the military forces during the most difficult years of the Cold War.


Yarbourough is recognized for having modernized the army and as the Father of the Green Berets, Special Forces units of counterinsurgency and covert overseas operations, to which he dedicated time and efforts, despite the resistance of several arms of the Armed Forces.

His close relationship with President John F. Kennedy allowed him to obtain the necessary leeway for his work and this way he got hold of the command of the special units that served in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama and, of course, Colombia.

According to Yarborough's viewpoint, the Special Forces (especially the infamous Mike Force) had to penetrate enemy territory, operate as mobile guerrillas and build armed anticommunist groups within the population. This was how they worked in Vietnam, where the Mike Force trained guerrillas made up of ethnic minorities who opposed the communists, and then use them in joint operations of regular and irregular forces.


Now we can understand his visit to Colombia in early 1962. The US general is the father of the paramilitary strategy that is causing havoc on the Colombian countryside, even before the uprising of the revolutionary guerrilla groups.

While he was still commander of Fort Bragg, Yarborough wrote in 1964 a curious article in the Chemistry magazine of the Armed Forces of the US. In it, he addressed the need to include chemical warfare in the arsenal of the counterinsurgency. He defended this thesis at all costs, graphically comparing the struggle against communism as the battle against a nest of insects who must be fumigated. The guerrillas, represented as some sort of aphids, have their own division of revolutionary work (murderers, tos en charge of sabotage, recruiters, spies, counterintelligence agents, informants and logistical support).


But the "fumigation" was not only military. The general stressed the need for the counterinsurgency forces to undertake propaganda work to win popularity "among workers and peasants". The classic "civic-military actions" he recommended to the Colombian army were part of his usual recipe against communist rebels.

Yarborough's career did not stop there. In just seven years he managed to promote from Brigadier General (1961) to lieutenant general (1968). After administrating the School of Fort Bragg, he served as senior researcher of guerrilla movements for the Pentagon's Special Operations unit; he was a field officer in Southeast Asia and in charge of operations and intelligence at the highest levels of the Pentagon.

He retired from active service in 1971 with high honors and decorations. In 1979 he published his only book "Bail Out Over North Africa", a collection of memoirs of his Algerian campaign in World War II.

He died in 2005 and was buried with honors in Arlington?s National Cemetery. In Fort Bragg there is a sculpture of Yarborough together with President Kennedy, with whom he spread modern imperialist counterinsurgency worldwide. His life takes account of the history of the US military forces and its global project. 


Last modified on Sunday, 29 May 2016 00:32