Suddenly my favorite practical joke ever does not seem quite as funny as it used to.
American Veronica Bowers and her baby daughter are dead, dead in Peru, dead as victims in the drug war. Did they stumble across a drug lab in the jungle? Were they killed in a street-corner crossfire?
Nope. Veronica Bowers and their baby were killed on the instructions of their own government. Specifically, they were killed when some CIA operative concluded that their plane kinda probably looked like a drug courier, and told the Peruvian government, and by prearrangement the Peruvian government shot down the plane, because frankly contacting it by radio first or trying to force it down is inconvenient, damned inconvenient.
Incidentally, Veronica Bowers was in Peru because she is a missionary.
See, Peru and the CIA had come up with an interdiction strategy that played to their respective strengths. The CIA would sit back and say what planes looked like they had drugs, and Peruvian forces would blow their shit up. Veronica Bowers' death was, frankly, inevitable given the total lack of rational operation planning.
The report concludes that agency officials repeatedly violated rules of engagement that were designed to prevent potentially fatal mishaps in the drug interdiction program, which was launched in 1994 by the Clinton administration.
"In many cases, suspect aircraft were shot down within two to three minutes of being sighted by the Peruvian fighter — without being properly identified, without being given the required warnings to land, and without being given time to respond," the report said.
The CIA continued to play to its strengths by lying its ass off about the program:
The inspector general found that "within hours, CIA officers began to characterize the shoot-down as a one-time mistake in an otherwise well-run program. In fact, this was not the case."
Over time, the report said, agency officials told lawmakers and other officials that the program complied with the laws and policies governing it, despite evidence that there had been repeated violations. The program involved the use of U.S.-owned and CIA-operated surveillance aircraft to identify suspected drug flights and provide the information to the Peruvian air force, which was authorized to shoot them down.
"The agency denied Congress, the [National Security Council] and the Department of Justice access to these findings," the report said. Further, the document said that senior agency managers withheld information from top Bush administration officials, including then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.
The most chilling part of the whole thing for me is this portion of the declassified CIA Inspector General's Report:
Key Peruvian and American participants in the
program told OIG that, in many cases, performing the required procedures would have
taken time and might have resulted in the escape of the target aircraft. In addition,
because the required procedures to establish contact with a target aircraft were difficult to
conduct, it was easier to shoot the aircraft down than to force it down. The result was
that, in many cases, suspect aircraft were shot down within two to three minutes of
being sighted by the Peruvian fighter – without being properly identified, without
being given the required warnings to land, and without being given time to respond
to such warnings as were given to land.
Decency would seem to require the government from taking something approaching reasonable precautions before shooting planes down. But decency takes time. Decency means the plane — which, after all, could be a drug runner — could get away. So the Great War on Drugs requires us to shoot first and ask questions later — or rather, to ask our surrogates to do so. Thus the War on Drugs continues as the ultimate trump card, the excuse of excuses. The War on Drugs is Oroborus, always swallowing its own tail and providing its own justification — as well as full employment for the sorts of people who are comfortable with ordering the death of the passengers on a plane based on their educated guess that there is dope on board.
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