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Airman Magazine Glorifies War on Drugs


June 1993

While it may come as no surprise to NewsBriefs readers, the role of the military in the war on drugs has been exalted, if the attitudes conveyed in the May 1993 issue of Airman, the official U.S. Air Force magazine, is any indication (Capt. Becky Colaw, [Cover] "War On Drugs," Airman, May 1993).

The magazine story attempts to combine politically correct, non-sexist attitudes with a glorification of the drug war. The cover, for example, shows a female air force officer, arms crossed, determined look on face, wearing a combat jump suit. Impressive looking military-style maps with strategic arrows show the massive extent of USAF antidrug efforts. The first page features a huge headline "War On Drugs," with a smaller subtitle, "Keeping Watch On The Golden Road," the latter a reference to the Central and South American region that is the focus of USAF drug interdiction efforts.

A blurry photograph of tents and U.S. military vehicles in a Vietnam-like jungle setting with only the muzzle of a loaded assault rifle gripped by the hand of an unseen soldier frames a quote by Stephen M. Duncan, former Department of Defense (DOD) Coordinator for Drug Enforcement and Policy Support which reads:

"This war has to be fought in the street, home by home, neighborhood by neighborhood. It's got to be fought not only in the United States but in those areas where illegal drugs are produced and manufactured. It's got to be fought in the transit areas between the host nations where drugs are grown and produced and manufactured. And in our country, it's got to be fought in the minds of young people, educated to stay off drugs. It's got to be fought on 1,000 different fronts, and all of those battles are not going to be won overnight."

A brief introduction by Capt. Becky Colaw explains:

"Throughout the [Central and South America] region, at military bases, aboard ships, on small islands, deep in the Amazon jungle or on towering mountain tops, small groups of people are working long hours in unrefined and sometimes dangerous locations to shut down this destructive form of commerce ... Airman recently spent a month visiting with these unsung heroes in the country's massive war on drugs ... "

The text is scattered with photographs of high tech USAF aircraft and equipment, and a "Scoreboard" showing how many busts and how many tons of marijuana and cocaine have been seized. The eagerness of recruits trained stateside and chafing at the bit to get out and make a "hard kill," the term for a seizure, express clearly the degree to which the military, robbed of the preparation for war against the Soviet Union or its Cold War allies, has embraced the War on Drugs with a newfound sense of purpose. An interview with former DOD antidrug coordinator Duncan is headlined "No Hundred-hour War."

Although the military is technically prohibited from direct seizures and law enforcement, they may closely coordinate activities leading up to a seizure, even serving alongside those directly involved. Actual arrests and seizures may be made only by personnel of the host nation, or in the United States, by domestic law enforcement, primarily Customs or Drug Enforcement Administration personnel.