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Shooting Down Innocent People in Airplanes Won’t Win the Drug War

Submitted by smorgan on
When the average person forms an opinion regarding the efficacy of our drug policy, are they taking into account the totality of brutal unforeseen disasters that regularly occur in the course of our international anti-drug crusade? Alas, the reality of the actual drug war (not the one the drug czar talks about) is considerably uglier than many among us realize.

That’s why this Wall Street Journal piece from Mary Anastasia O’Grady stands out as an example of what drug war reporting in the mainstream press ought to look like.

Innocents Die in the Drug War

Of all the casualties claimed by the U.S. "war on drugs" in Latin America, perhaps none so fully captures its senselessness and injustice as the 2001 CIA-directed killing of Christian missionary Veronica Bowers and her daughter Charity in Peru.  
On that day the Bowers family was flying in a single-engine plane over the Amazon toward their home in Iquitos. Mrs. Bowers was holding the infant on her lap when a bullet fired by the Peruvian Air Force, under direction of the CIA, hit the aircraft, traveled through her back and into Charity's skull. The plane crash-landed on the Amazon River. Mr. Bowers, his young son and the pilot survived. Neither the plane nor its passengers were found to be involved in any way in the drug business and initial reports said that the mistaken attack was a tragic one-time error.

Yet, as O’Grady explains, this was in fact the perfectly predictable consequence of an out-of-control drug interdiction program that basically shot planes out of the sky with no investigation and no oversight. The problem isn’t just that they killed innocent people, but that they created and maintained a policy that they must have known would produce that result. It’s the perfect exhibit in the total disregard for innocent human life that is central to the drug war itself.

To her credit, O’Grady is willing to make the connection between violence and prohibition:

Consider the fact that Mr. Clinton's justification for the Airbridge Denial Program was that drug trafficking was a threat to Peruvian national security. Of course it was: Prohibition naturally produces powerful criminal networks that undermine the rule of law.
Since then, U.S. interdiction has put the pressure on Colombia and the problem is now resurging in Peru. The latest reports are that Mexican cartels are teaming up with remnants of the Shining Path terror network to rebuild the business, proving once again the futility of the supply-side attack as a way of minimizing drug use in the U.S.

In other words, we get nothing in exchange for the death and destruction we’ve subsidized and sustained for all these years. Nothing, that is, except a bunch of dead innocents, a smoldering civil war below our border, a world-record prison population, and a shameless political culture that still swears this is the only way to deal with drugs.

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