The "Senselessness and Injustice" of the Drug War


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."