Editorial: Drug War Fanaticism 4/27/01

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David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]

The tragic deaths of two American missionaries, shot down in flight by a Peruvian fighter plane guided by a US surveillance plane, has drawn a host of claims and counter-claims about who was at fault and whether official guidelines were followed by the Americans, the Peruvians, even the victims themselves.

Such questions are important and needed to be answered for the sake of all parties involved. The same questions, however, also tend to obscure a larger, more fundamental issue: Why in the world has our government been encouraging, assisting and subsidizing foreign governments in shooting down airplanes out of the sky? Shooting down airplanes?

There is no possible justification for such extreme and wanton acts of violence. It is obvious to anyone with intelligence equal or greater to that of a gorilla that the killing of innocent people in such a program is inevitable. Indeed, it may have already happened any number of times; we'll probably never know for sure.

But even if killing the innocent were not an inevitability, the tactic would still be wrong. Drug smuggling is not the equivalent of an armed invasion, and our own laws do not permit the death penalty in drug trafficking cases except for those involving murder. Yet outside our borders we have encouraged the Peruvian government to carry out a de facto death penalty against people who have never even been tried for the crime, much less convicted.

In doing so, our political leaders who supported this program have violated the most basic principles of justice, international law and human decency. Shooting down planes out of the sky is not a sensible, well-thought out strategy for reducing the availability of drugs in the United States or anywhere else. Rather, the shoot-downs, and the support we've provided to them, are an extraordinary act of fanaticism, recklessness and immorality.

It is not the rank and file soldiers and intelligence gatherers who are to blame -- though those few who spoke out and refused to participate in the shoot-downs deserve our thanks. The blame -- and it is deep -- lies with those policymakers who condoned and encouraged the practice.

This sordid chapter of the drug war and the people involved in setting these policies should be subjected to an investigation. That investigation should be at least as thorough as the investigation into this latest incident itself. The answers it provides may reveal much about the mentality inherent in a drug war and the fanaticism it can engender.

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Issue #183, 4/27/01 Editorial: Drug War Fanaticism | Against John Walters: DRCNet Opposes Bush Drug Czar Nomination | Coca Wars I: Over the Peruvian Amazon, Chronicle of a Death Foretold | Coca Wars II: Coca Growers Fight Through Tear Gas, Beatings, Detentions to Reach Capital City, Bolivian Government Shudders Anew as Blockades Set to Go Up Again | Coca Wars III: At Summit of Americas, US Aid Buys Support for Plan Colombia, Paramilitaries Rampage Back Home | HEA in the Press | Racial Disparities in Drug Law Enforcement in Chicago: 99% of Teenage Drug Offenders Prosecuted as Adults Are Non-White | Will Foster Freed from Jail, Had 93 Years for Medical Marijuana | No Time to Rest: Drug Reform Conferences Advancing the Cause Nationwide | ACLU: Supreme Court Ruling Expands Police Powers | The Reformer's Calendar
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