Even for the drug war, the recent shoot down of an American missionary airplane over the Amazon jungles of Peru is a low point. As family and friends mourn the killing of Veronica Bowers and her seven-month old child, Charity, the US government continues to cover up its role in this atrocity. In the end, we will once again witness the moral bankruptcy of U.S. policies and will be fed a torrent of lies and more lies.
In the first days after this atrocity, there are some things we know, despite attempts by the US and Peruvian governments to spin falsehoods. A small airplane flying two Baptist missionary families from the Peru-Brazil border to the Peruvian city of Iquitos began to be tracked by a U.S. government aircraft, which suspected it to be running drugs. The U.S. plane fed information about the small aircraft to the Peruvian Air Force, which hit the plane with gunfire.
Even though one of the bullets shattered the pilot’s leg, he managed to land the plane in a river, where it floated on pontoons. However, even there, the military plane fired on the aircraft, with a bullet killing Mrs. Bowers and her child. Nearby villagers rescued the survivors.
This was bad enough, but what then followed from the US and Peruvian governments was nothing less than an obscenity. First, both governments denied that anything had happened at all and might have succeeded in the cover up except that missionaries in the United States who knew the families began to talk after their companions called to report the news.
After it became clear what had happened, the US Government then denied the missionaries’ plane was tracked by US agents, and the Peruvians, following in the footsteps of their US partners, insisted the plane had never filed a flight plan. It did not take long to expose those statements as falsehoods.
First, the airport authorities in Iquitos reported that the missionaries, indeed, had filed a flight plan. Furthermore, contrary to what the U.S. and Peruvian authorities were insisting, the airplane’s pilot was in touch with the airport just before being shot down. In other words, the missionaries had followed the rules of flight to the letter; it was the U.S. Government and its Peruvian puppets that were acting lawlessly.
To make matters even worse, even after the stricken missionaries had landed, the US government continued to treat them as drug criminals. For example, American authorities detained Jim Bowers for two hours, refusing to permit him to identify his dead wife and child. In fact, it was the Peruvian Air Force that finally flew the survivors to Iquitos after they had realized what had happened.
Just how this whole affair occurred unearths yet another dirty secret of the US government. In its zeal to stop the flow of narcotics into this country, the US government has insisted that Latin Americans "do more" to stop drug trafficking. That a US government plane was flying in the area at all, fingering victims to be killed by military jets, is only the tip of the iceberg.
As in the early years of the Vietnam conflict, the US government has flooded Latin American counties with "advisors" who work with the armed forces of those nations to raid drug laboratories, destroy crops, and generally wreak havoc on anyone who might get in their way. While Americans usually do not perform the killing, the carnage goes on at the insistence of the US Drug Enforcement Agency and the US Armed Forces. One can only imagine the hatred the common people of these nations have for Americans as they suffer from these various military rampages that are airmailed to them directly from Washington, DC.
One of the ironies of this whole ordeal is that the association that sponsored these missionaries, the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, consists of fundamentalist Independent Baptists who have generally supported the US government in its anti-drug actions overseas. These are very conservative, law-abiding people. (That does not keep the political classes in this country from demonizing them, calling them part of the "religious right" and insisting that they pose a great threat to the rest of us.)
No doubt, American authorities will continue to spin this tale to make it sound as though this operation was simply a terrible mistake, trying to lay the blame on Peru and even the missionaries. There will be no apologies. Instead, the government will follow its natural course of action: lie, lie, and lie again.
William L. Anderson, Ph.D., is assistant professor of economics at North Greenville College in Tigerville, South Carolina. He is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
© 2001 LewRockwell.com