The "Senselessness and Injustice" of the Drug War

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In the Wall Street Journal, Mary Anastasia O'Grady reminds readers of  the "senselessness and injustice" of America's "war on drugs" by revisiting the killing of the Christian missionary Veronica Bowers and her daughter Charity in a botched CIA drug interdiction operation. In conjunction with the CIA, a Peruvian Air Force plane shot Bowers (obviously unarmed) single-engine plane out of the sky when it suspected that it might be ferrying drugs out of the country.

Strict procedures were put in place to minimize the risks to innocents. But after viewing the IG report, Mr. Hoekstra—the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee—says that it is clear that those procedures had gone out the window long before the April 20, 2001 tragedy.

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.

The IG report looked at the Airbridge Denial Program from its inception in 1995 until its termination in 2001 and took seven years to complete. In statements to the press last month Mr. Hoekstra said it demonstrates every one of the 15 "shootdowns" that the CIA participated in over the life of the program had "violations of required procedures." He also said that the report "found that CIA officers knew of and condoned the violations, fostering an environment of negligence and disregard for the procedures."

Ms. O'Grady's column on Latin America is the best in the business, and it is good to see her on the right side of the drug war debate (Perhaps this isn't news, but this the first anti-drug war column of hers that I've read). As she notes, "to honor the memory of Mrs. Bowers and her daughter and spare innocent lives in the future, a broader discussion in Congress about U.S. drug policy in the region is needed."

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  1. Mr. Moynihan, you aren’t Radley Balko. Balko is the one who is supposed to raise my ire with regards to “another isolated incident”, not you.

    But I digest.

  2. I read the column the other day. I didn’t come away with a firm conviction that Ms O’Grady rejects the drug war, only some tactics. But it’s still good to see a harsh criticism of the destructiveness of the drug war in a forum like the WSJ.

  3. phalkor,
    This isn’t “another isolated incident”. This is a new voice chiming in on what had become a stale story.

    It’s nice that Ms O’Grady isn’t bedding down with the wolves here. But I’ve seen too many half assed critiques of the WOD to believe this will beget anything other than more of the same.

    What’s needed is not just criticism of how the WOD is being prosecuted, but strong pro drugs manifestos from all political camps.

    The contrast between alcohol and illegal drugs is a compelling argument for ending prohibition. And no matter what your political agenda is, prohibition is a major obstacle to it. Unless of course you’re vested in the status quo and the WOD military industrial complex, or it’s mercenary worriers.

  4. P Brooks,

    did you read the user comments? It was amusing but sad to see the drug warriors defending their moral crusade; sort of a “can’t make an omelet without cracking a few eggs” attitude. Truly pathetic.

  5. well, how do you make omelettes?

  6. Unfortunately, collateral deaths of those perceived to be above reproach are the only things which will get us to the tipping point. Only when the self-righteous general public perceives the WoD as a threat to them, and people like them, will anything ever change.

  7. well, how do you make omelettes?

    Well, beat two eggs with some salt and pepper and get a lot of air in them. Then put some butter in a high-sided non-stick saute pan and get it good and hot. Then pour in the eggs and keep rolling them over themselves with a back and forth motion still over the high heat. It should only take a minute or two and get it off the heat and on to a plate before it gets dried out.

    That’s the French way. They’re super light and tasty.

  8. Oz-
    I don’t read the WSJ comments; too depressing, as you noted.

  9. Episiarch,

    You forgot to break the eggs. For that purpose, I use the .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, which will blow the shell clean off.

  10. I don’t break eggs, ProL. I coax them out of their shells. With a .357 Magnum (the .44 is overkill).

  11. C’mon now, I’m quite certain all the noble drug warriors would gladly suffer the loss of their spouse and a child due to homicidal official indifference, as long as it…I dunno, what did that program accomplish? Anything? But still, they’d welcome the opportunity to sacrifice for the cause, no doubt.

  12. Strict procedures were put in place to minimize the risks to innocents.

    Apparently not.

  13. botched CIA drug interdiction operation

    That’s damn near a tautology, isn’t it?

  14. no doubt johnny.

  15. well, how do you make omelettes?

    Well, beat two eggs with some salt and pepper and get a lot of air in them. Then put some butter in a high-sided non-stick saute pan and get it good and hot. Then pour in the eggs and keep rolling them over themselves with a back and forth motion still over the high heat. It should only take a minute or two and get it off the heat and on to a plate before it gets dried out.

    That’s the French way. They’re super light and tasty.

    That is NOT the French way. That is scrambled eggs.

    Omelettes are cooked over medium heat, with a minimum of rolling. They are cooked in a small frying pan with sloped sides (saute pans have vertical sides) They are cooked on one side and the warm custardy raw side is folded into the middle. Additions are optional.

    Egg cracking is a topic over which too much milk has already been spilt (which makes french toast batter, but that’s another show). The only important thing, is to make sure you don’t get any shell fragments in your eggs, no matter how you crack em.

  16. You don’t want to get any baby-skull fragments in the eggs either, unless, apparently, you’re in the CIA.

  17. Warren,

    I didn’t want to launch yet another attack on Episiarch, but I was shaking my head at his high heat remark. High heat? Eggs? Not an amicable arrangement.

    As for egg shells, since the .44 Magnum blows the shell clean off, I don’t have any problem with egg shells in my omelets.

  18. Uh, Warren, ProL, here you go. Method 2 in particular.

  19. I have a pan that I use for nothing else but making omelets. It is the perfect, if extravagant solution. And even though it’s non-stick, never wash it, just wipe it clean with a paper towel.

  20. Jeez, all the commenters here clearly fall into the category of “this is your brain on drugs”, eh? Omelettes? Broken eggs? It is an amusing thread from that point of view..

  21. my brain is a delicious omelette, on drugs.

  22. Pour, stir, wait, shake, fold, plate.

  23. Ms. O’Grady’s column on Latin America is the best in the business, and it is good to see her on the right side of the drug war debate (Perhaps this isn’t news, but this the first anti-drug war column of hers that I’ve read).

    she’s always come across as “left wing thugs bad. right wing thugs not so bad.” this is the first drug column by her that i can recall & she seemed to be saying that we need to focus the drug war on demand not supply side, not that she was anti drug-war.

  24. Well, if Julia says it, then I concede. Though I’m not using high heat on my eggs.

  25. Well, if Julia says it, then I concede.

    Wise move.

    Though I’m not using high heat on my eggs.

    Why don’t you try it? You will never go back.

  26. Hey, I loves me some illegal drugs as much as the next guy, and I wouldn’t have a problem with drug legalization if I were comfortable that that’s where the matter would rest, and we could all get back to minding our own business. Unfortunately, I strongly doubt that would be the case. Remember when arguments that repealing the sodomy laws would eventually lead to gay marriage were considered laughable? Well, who’s laughing now?

    In a country where everything has been declared equal to everything else by fiat, every concession is greeted with a dozen new demands.

    I don’t think I’m interested in having to suffer through another round of diversity training, Drug-User History Month, seeing the mayor of New York City leading the Junkie Pride Parade through Times Square and having the courts clogged up with lawsuits from dopers suing their employers for “discrimination” when their behavior rightly gets them sacked from their jobs.

    No. Fucking. Thanks. I’d like to be able to buy my dope legally at the liquor store as much as anybody, but if the price of it is going to be another round of politically correct idiocy, I’d rather settle for continuing to grow my own in the basement.

  27. Never! I defy you and your high heat ways! And yes, if that means defying the deified Julia Child, so be it!

  28. When I want a delicious omelet, I go to a restaurant.

  29. Ever have a haggis omelet? Truly offal.

  30. Ever have a haggis omelet? Truly offal.

    ARRGGHHHHHHHHH

  31. Episiarch,

    Yes, it’s ought-not cuisine, as the French like to say. I posted a special Christmas haggis bit over at Urkobold this morning. You can either acquire your haggis fresh frozen, or make it under the video direction of Alton Brown.

  32. Epis,
    Julia is of course the supreme source from which there is no appeal. But I suggest you look over that link again. Like I said, you’re making scrambled eggs (though Julia is very quick in the pan and only scrambling half of them)

  33. Remember when arguments that repealing the sodomy laws would eventually lead to gay marriage were considered laughable?

    Oh no, not that….anything but that!!!

    Anyway, comparing sodomy/gay marriage to legalization of drugs/drug addict appeasement and political correctness is a bit ridiculous.

  34. Julia walks on truffle oil.

  35. Anyway, comparing sodomy/gay marriage to legalization of drugs/drug addict appeasement and political correctness is a bit ridiculous.

    I don’t know. I bet a day doesn’t go by that I don’t read some bleeding heart in the Times (NY or LA take your pick) holding court on how smokers and alcoholics are being unfairly punished by an uncaring society.

  36. Warren, I believe they are being punished — not by society but by the legal system. For some reason it’s okay to feel bad for people for stupid reasons like the bleeding heart you mentioned but it isn’t okay to feel bad for them or the people who serve them when thye are punished by laws because that has an economic factor to it.

  37. But I suggest you look over that link again. Like I said, you’re making scrambled eggs (though Julia is very quick in the pan and only scrambling half of them)

    That’s why I said Method 2, which is the “Rolled Omelet” and has no scrambling. Add fillings at your whim, but even with no fillings it’s still an omelet.

    They taste fantastic, by the way. After using this technique, all others just seem leathery.

  38. Anyway, comparing sodomy/gay marriage to legalization of drugs/drug addict appeasement and political correctness is a bit ridiculous.

    It is ridiculous. Which, unfortunately, has never been a barrier to comparable idiocy in the past.

  39. “Rolled omelet?” Mon Dieu! L’omelette roul?e!

    Avec haggis.

  40. Stir the eggs before adding to buttered medium heat pan. Don’t fuck with it until all the edges are firm. Add cheese and mushroom chunks, fold into thirds and walaa.
    O’Grady has had at least one previous anti-WOD article, about 6 months ago, I think.

  41. Do u c what happens when u don’t KEEP DOPE ALIVE?

  42. Mary O’Grady isn’t perfect, but she’s definitely one of the best at the WSJ.

    She’s written about the drug war before and, though far from perfect, was also considerably less than execrable.

    Mexico Under Siege

    Under prohibition, only criminals can serve the market for illegal narcotics. And they have a lot of incentive to do so since prohibition pushes prices up.

    Mexico Pays the Price of Prohibition

    In a developed country like the U.S., prohibition takes a toll on the rule of law but does not overwhelm it. In Mexico, where a newly revived democracy is trying to reform institutions after 70 years of autocratic governance under the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the corrupting influence of drug profits is far more pernicious. …

    Drug profits going to organized crime only complicate the matter. Writing in the latest issue of the Milken Institute Review, former U.S. foreign service officer Laurence Kerr takes a page out of U.S. history. “America has been in Mexico’s shoes: flush with the bounty of illegal liquor sales, organized crime thoroughly penetrated the U.S. justice system during Prohibition. As long as Americans willingly bury Mexican drug traffickers in greenbacks, progress in constraining the trade is likely to be limited.”

    She needs to learn how to take it to the next step, but she’s at least able to see the underlying defects.

  43. Hate to disagree with the lucid postings of the omelette club (cast iron skillet, medium heat, fluffed eggs, cooked on BOTH sides, add ingredients immediately after flipping) and I’m not really… but O’Grady has plenty of articles on the WOD. Use MAP’s drug news for a search on Mary Anastasia as author.

    Back in 1999 she penned America’s Coke-Heads Underwrite Colombia’s Misery… and her tone was changing by 2000 when she penned What Will One Billion American Dollars Buy In Colombia?. MAP’s database shows she has written 29 columns that have been netered into MAP’s 200,000+ drugnews archive. Her busiest years she produced 5 columns… in 2008 she has written 4

  44. remember 4/20/01

  45. Mary O’Grady has written a number of columns about the devastation the drug war is wreaking in Latin America. Keep in mind that the Wall Street Journal has editors. I suspect that the bit about “the futility of the supply-side attack as a way of minimizing drug use in the U.S.,” implying that a greater demand-side attack is called for, and totally at odds with the crystal-clear declaration in the previous paragraph, “Prohibition naturally produces powerful criminal networks that undermine the rule of law,” may have been added by the WSJ’s pro-prohibition editors.

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