David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]
It couldn't have been better timed if it were in a movie or TV show -- as Colombian officials boast to US Senator Wellstone about the "precise flight lines" and "precise geographical coordinates" used in their aerial anti-coca spraying program, the Senator and his delegation are doused with a batch of dangerous herbicide, glyphosate, dumped from a helicopter flying 200 feet overhead on a coca spraying mission.
The incident vividly illustrates how laughable are Colombian and US officials' claims that aerial coca eradication is being done safely. But should we laugh, or cry?
Pamela Costain, Executive Director of the Resource Center of the Americas and a member of Wellstone's delegation, wasn't laughing. "I'm fearful about what they're using, and I really didn't want to get it on me," she told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Omayra Morales didn't laugh either, when the sprayers came to her small town of Milleflores in southeastern Colombia a few years before. When Morales heard the low flying airplane approach, she ran outside to call her children in. "[T]here was no way I could protect them," she told Robin Lloyd, who recounted the interview for the winter 1998 issue of the Drug Policy Letter. "As our houses are made from wood, the poison filters in. It lands on the water and on the food crops." Her children vomited from the glyphosate, and later their hair fell out.
Just as incredible, perhaps, are the vigorous denials made by New Jersey law enforcement officials that their police officers would ever use race as a basis for highway stops and searches. These denials, many of them extremely self-righteous in tone, are replete throughout the 91,000-page New Jersey Racial Profiling Archive released by the state's Attorney General office last week. But as we know by now, the archive shows that racial profiling not only took place, but was widespread, even encouraged in the name of the war on drugs.
Should we find it laughable that police officials and defenders would deny and deny such practices, thinking they would never get caught in the lie? Or should we shake our heads that it took lawsuits, statistical analyses and nationwide advocacy campaigns to prove that which any black American has lived and any white American has seen? Profiling's victims, whose tales of discrimination and indignity are also replete in the archive, weren't laughing. They were angry, and we should be too.
It may be that such deceptions are inevitable whenever ideology converges with politics and money. Laugh or cry, but let the truth be told and the injustices stopped.