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Even though Colombia is a major source of the illegal drugs that keep sapping America's strength, the United States has few friends better than the ones it has in that Latin American country.

The depth of that friendship and the bravery of Bogota were demonstrated this week with Colombia's decision to keep extraditing accused drug traffickers to the United States despite a confusing court ruling and in the face of repeated murders.Admittedly, Colombia is not just trying to be a good friend or even just a responsible member of the international community. Rather, Colombia is fighting for its own life.

In the past six years, drug criminals have killed some 50 journalists, hundreds of policemen, more than a 100 judges, plus a governor, the nation's attorney general, and the minister of justice. Even more such killings can be expected now that Colombia has decided to keep extraditing drug traffickers to the United States under a 101-year-old treaty rather than a 1979 pact that Colombia's Supreme Court recently invalidated.

The positions held by the murder victims makes it clear that the drug traffickers are not satisfied just with enormous wealth but want to seize political power. It also should be clear that the drug war is a multi-national conflict that must be fought on many fronts, including efforts to dry up the demand for drugs and to crack down on the laundering of drug money.

Even when it comes to extraditions, much more remains to be done. Although government forces in Colombia have seized millions of dollars in drug traffickers' assets and extradited four suspects since mid-August, the top cocaine bosses wanted by the United States have yet to be captured.

In any event, some highly important battles are being fought these days in Colombia. They are battles in which America has a very big stake. But then it's a stake shared by all nations interested in showing that government institutions cannot be taken over by threats and murder.