Saturday, 28 April 2001
"They are killing us," the pilot of the small plane carrying an American missionary family said as a Peruvian Air Force fighter fired. Veronica Bowers and her 7-month-old daughter, Charity, died.
But the "they" in the pilot’s words were not just the Peruvian gunners, and the "us" were not only Veronica and Charity Bowers. The ultimate cause of their death was U.S. drug policy, the war on drugs; and that war has damaged the lives of millions of Americans.
The attack on the Bowers family focused attention on an obscure part of the drug war: surveillance flights by C.I.A. contract employees who target suspected drug-smuggling planes for the Peruvian Air Force… the C.I.A. employees who spotted the Bowers’s plane tried to stop the Peruvian fighter from shooting at it before first checking its markings. But a tape of their communications showed that the Peruvian crew had trouble understanding them because the C.I.A. men spoke little Spanish. A former pilot in the C.I.A. operation told The Washington Post, "That’s one of the fallacies of the whole program: the language barrier."
But the real point is not a particular flaw like the C.I.A.’s idiocy in using English-speaking spotters. It is the futility of the whole operation.
Anthony Lewis, NEW YORK TIMES