It shouldn’t be surprising that just a few months after hearing that the Obama Administration might not be able to fulfill its hopes for a “civilian surge” in Afghanistan due to a lack of interested/experienced American personnel, we now hear of Drug Enforcement Agency pilots being coerced — some say forcibly and illegally — into the war zone there.
According to an excellent report by Marisa Taylor at McClatchy Newspapers over the weekend, several DEA special agent pilots have obtained lawyers and are publicly charging the agency with forcing them to serve in Afghanistan. Those who have resisted put their careers in jeopardy. They also allege that pilots have been sent to Afghanistan as “punishment” by superiors, and when they do get there, they are ill-equipped (much like U.S military personnel at the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq).
This is disturbing on several levels. First, it’s becoming clear that Obama Administration has yet to get a handle on the endemic problems plaguing the DEA. Second, the administration seems intent on continuing this blind loyalty to the Drug War myth that has dumped millions of dollars and lives down a hole in Central and South America with ambiguous results (depending on your sources) at best, a swath of devastation across indigenous populations at the very worst. Third, there has been varying opinion on whether a U.S military-led drug eradication program within an (untested) counter-insurgency effort in Afghanistan will even work, or worse, will put the Afghan people more at risk and lead to declining security conditions for that already war-ravaged country.
In addition, is it even legal to force non-military federal personnel into war zone assignments? As Taylor’s story points out, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard about compulsory service for non-military personnel overseas in regards to the Global War on Terror. Considering the lack of volunteers, I’m sure it won’t be the last.
Finally — seeing that Americans are now practically being Shanghaied to serve — isn’t time to have that serious debate over whether it is the U.S government’s role, much less the DEA’s responsibility, to be fighting drugs in other countries, in what a DEA spokeswoman called the agency’s “global mission?”
For sure, American demand fuels the drug trade in Afghanistan, but as we know, the Drug War here and abroad has been a bloody and expensive failure. Obama has acknowledged as much (sort of), but unfortunately, it’s clear now that he is resigned to reflexively pursue these policies overseas, plus, put American lives (involuntarily) in harm’s way to do it.