Drug Involvement

by digby

A couple of bad helicopter crashes in Afghanistan today make this one of the worst single days of the war there. I was interested to hear that DEA agents were among those killed because their involvement was controversial for a number of reasons, not the least of which was this:

As the Obama administration ramps up the Drug Enforcement Administration's presence in Afghanistan, some special-agent pilots contend that they're being illegally forced to go to a combat zone, while others who've volunteered say they're not being properly equipped.

In interviews with McClatchy, more than a dozen DEA agents describe a badly managed system in which some pilots have been sent to Afghanistan under duress or as punishment for bucking their superiors.

Such complaints, so far mostly arising from the DEA's Aviation Division, could complicate the Obama administration's efforts to send dozens of additional DEA agents to Afghanistan as part of a civilian and military personnel "surge" that aims to stabilize the country.

Veteran DEA pilot Daniel Offield has alleged in an employment discrimination complaint he was told if he refuses to go to Afghanistan in July he'll be demoted. The Stockton, Calif., agent asked for a reprieve because he was in the process of adopting two special needs children and offered to serve his required temporary duty in other countries.

Another agent, David Beavers, told McClatchy that he was ordered in July 2007 to prepare to go to Afghanistan in two weeks while he was on bereavement leave after his mother-in-law died. To avoid going, the Orlando, Fla., pilot decided to retire early.

Both men have flown for the DEA in Latin American countries wracked by drug violence, but they say service in a combat zone should be treated as voluntary because they're not military personnel.

"You could say that the war on drugs is dangerous," said Beavers, a DEA pilot for more than 20 years. "But it's not quite like Afghanistan, where you can get your legs blown off by an (improvised explosive device)."

One wonders if these DEA agents who were killed today were among those who were "drafted" into Afghanistan.

It seems that our two abstract, endless Orwellian wars --- the War on Drugs and the War on Terror --- have officially merged. And the complications stemming from that decision are going to be immense. What are we fighting for again?