A Just War?

The shooting war against drugs-the part that shoots down airplanes-is a war about which most Americans know nothing. Well, now we know. On April 20, Veronica Bowers, a Baptist missionary, and her seven-month-old daughter were killed when their plane was shot down over the jungles of eastern Peru. This tragedy gives us a brief window of opportunity to examine the human costs of how the United States conducts its war on drugs.

The Peruvian Air Force pilot who did the shooting was guided to the unarmed Cessna by an American surveillance plane flown by CIA contract employees who work for a U.S.-funded system intended to interdict drugs in the Andes, especially Peru and Colombia. The killings appear to be a terrible accident brought on by carelessness, the failure to observe proper identification and verification procedures, and the inability of the American pilots to speak Spanish. But why are we shooting down unarmed civilian planes at all? More is at stake than proper procedures. Since 1992, a joint U.S.-Peruvian operation has shot down some thirty planes, and forced still others to land and be searched. Presumably no Americans have been on board-or, at least, no obviously innocent ones.

This time five innocent Americans were shot down: mother and child were killed, the pilot was seriously injured, and Bowers’s husband and son watched her and the baby die. Isn’t it time to do more than conduct an accident...

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