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  We're Being Shot At!
Posted by FoM on April 22, 2001 at 21:52:19 PT
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post Foreign Service 
Source: Washington Post 

justice What Jim Bowers saw as he peered from the passenger-side window of the Cessna 185 floatplane -- the blur of a fighter jet and then a small puff of smoke from its nose -- seemed unreal, until it brought a shock of terrified discovery. "Kevin!" Bowers yelled into his headset. "We're being shot at!"

Kevin Donaldson, a pilot with experience over the rivers and jungle that dominate this region, turned to see bullets rip through the small aircraft. He pushed the control stick down, plunging the plane toward the Amazon River and screaming into the radio: "We're being attacked! We're being attacked!"

Bowers's wife and infant child were already dead in the plane's back seat, and Donaldson's leg was shattered, the men would tell family members. After a rough landing -- "miraculous," in the words of the Christian missionaries who have worked here for generations -- Bowers struggled for a half-hour to keep his friend from bleeding to death as he watched a white Citation aircraft, which unknown to the men was operated by the CIA, circling above the crash site.

"He got a tourniquet on Kevin's leg," said Larry Hultquist, a fellow member of the U.S.-based Association of Baptists for World Evangelism who witnessed Bowers's six-hour sworn statement Saturday to Peruvian investigators. "He spent the rest of the time making sure his family's bodies didn't float away."

As Bowers and Donaldson returned today to the United States, friends and relatives here provided the first detailed accounts of the flight, drawn from Bowers's interview with investigators and bedside conversations with Donaldson. They said the Peruvian fighter pilot did not follow standard procedure in intercepting a suspected smuggling flight, but fired without warning. The attack killed Veronica "Roni" Bowers, 35, and her 7-month-old daughter Charity, whose Peruvian residency visa was the reason for the flight.

This humid flatland 625 northeast of Lima is the epicenter of Baptist evangelism in the Peruvian Amazon and a critical crossroads in the U.S. war on drugs -- conflicting characteristics that have meant added risk for airborne missionaries. Rivers carve up the swampy countryside, making a pontoon plane a useful tool for spreading the Bible or helping out with a medical crisis.

After five decades of work here and in the river towns around the region, second-generation Baptist missionaries like the Donaldsons and Bowers can point to more than 150 Baptist churches in the area. Many struggled today with why Friday's tragedy occurred at all, recalling volleyball games and religious seminars with the intimacy conditioned by shared faith and challenges.

"We were called here to work with primitive people," said Richmond Donaldson, Kevin's father, who arrived here with his wife Dee and two young sons in 1965. "I had come to believe that the body that God had given me was an athlete to be used to do his work."

Kevin Donaldson, who followed his parents' steps here in 1989, had been using the floatplane for years to take pastors to remote villages, pick up the sick for visits to the regional hospital, and deliver missionary families to a tiny airport in Leticia, Colombia, where they could pick up Peruvian residency visas that must be obtained outside the country. It was such a mission that prompted Donaldson and the four members of the Bowers family -- Jim, Roni, 6-year-old Cory and Charity -- to set out from Iquitos on Thursday morning.

Donaldson's parents, who spent Saturday with him in the regional hospital here, said their son is a meticulous pilot with a thorough understanding of how to avoid the dangers of flying through corridors frequently used for drug trafficking. On this trip, he was piloting an airplane he had spent the last two years renovating, and carefully monitored his location and speed on his first trip with new equipment into the lush region that joins Brazil, Peru and Colombia.

Donaldson told his parents that he faxed a flight plan Thursday to the Iquitos tower, as he always had, but there is some question about whether it was received. His destination was Benjamin Constant, a Brazilian town on the Yavari River about three hours away. From there, the Bowerses crossed the Amazon to Leticia to obtain the visa. The party headed back to Iquitos Friday morning.

The trip Thursday was glorious, with the best visibility Donaldson could remember. The flight's progress was monitored by Hultquist in Iquitos, who operates a ham radio, and by the Iquitos tower. Having two working communication systems, a standard VHF radio to the tower with Hultquist's ham radio as backup, was standard on all missionary flights.

On Friday, the Donaldsons and Bowerses set out on the return trip to Iquitos at 9:38 a.m., according to Bowers's statement to investigators, after being delayed briefly by poor weather. Donaldson announced his departure to the tower at Leticia, a radio transmission confirmed later by Donaldson's wife, Bobbi, in a phone call to the tower.

The next time the plane was heard from was 10:48 a.m., according to records of radio transmissions received by the Iquitos tower. However, there is a dispute between Peruvian authorities and the survivors about the subject of this radio call.

At a little after 11 a.m., Bobbi Donaldson was called by the Iquitos tower and told that her husband had just reported his position as 4,000 feet above the town of Pebas, still about two hours out. Usually, a plane radios the tower when it is within 50 miles of the airport. If the plane does not arrive within a half-hour, the tower notifies the air force that it may be missing.

The Iquitos tower, according to Hultquist, said it sent out the air force a half-hour after Donaldson's 10:48 a.m. transmission. Hultquist said that makes no sense, since the tower would have known the plane was still two hours away and that the report had been made at a common course change in the trip.

"The plane was already under attack when he made that call," Hultquist said, drawing on what Bowers told investigators. "And we have two towers [in Leticia and Iquitos] that have confirmed that they received Kevin's calls. So the radio was working."

About four years ago, Hultquist said, he was flying with Donaldson to the village of Santa Clotilde, about 90 minutes up the Napo River from here, when they were intercepted by three Peruvian fighter jets on a drug interdiction patrol. Two jets stayed behind the pontoon plane's wings and the third came alongside, Hultquist said, tilting its nose upward in a maneuver to slow down.

The jet's pilot tapped his microphone and pointed down, indicating that Donaldson should use his radio. When Donaldson was not able to reach the pilot, he pointed to his right signaling the pilot to communicate with him through the tower. That worked, the plane was identified as a missionary flight, and the jets flew off.

Friday's encounter was different. According to Hultquist, Bowers told investigators that a single jet attacked the flight without making any radio or visual contact beforehand. As Donaldson dove after being hit by the first volley of bullets, a second series of shots hit the plane and smashed into Donaldson's lower right leg.

Donaldson told his mother that he frantically radioed the Iquitos tower. "He told me, 'I was screaming, screaming I'm under attack,' " said Dee Donaldson. " 'They are shooting at me right now!' "

By habit, Donaldson never flew more than eight miles from the nearest river, knowing that the plane's gliding ability would make it possible for him to land on water at that range if anything went wrong. But Donaldson told his father that the fighter seemed to intentionally attack him over jungle, above the village of Huanta, to make a safe landing harder.

On the rush down, according to family members, Bowers struggled to put out a fire in the back seat, behind the lifeless bodies of his wife and daughter. Donaldson, meanwhile, tried to regain control of the plane now riddled with bullets. The controls felt loose in his hands. He could not use his left leg to control the plane's direction.

But the plane, landing on one pontoon, came to a rest in the middle of the Amazon. Life jackets had burned, as had Donaldson's stomach and mustache, and he ordered Cory to cling to the pontoon as Bowers treated his leg. The plane continued to burn. They waited 30 minutes before villagers came in canoes to rescue them.

In his statement, Bowers told investigators that he saw a white Citation airplane circling above as they waited for rescue. Bowers did not specifically identify the Citation as a U.S. aircraft, but officials in Washington said today the plane was on a drug surveillance mission operated by the CIA and had identified the Cessna as a suspected drug flight.

After two hours waiting for a rescue flight, Donaldson and Bowers were surprised to see a Peruvian air force plane flying very fast just above the treetops. Bowers told military investigators that the passes terrified Cory and Huanta villagers.

Later, in a tiny clinic in Pebas, Donaldson began losing vision and thought he was on the verge of death. He had lost three liters of blood.

His mother said simply, "It is God's work that he is alive. There is no doubt about that."

Note: Peruvian Jet Fired Without Warning, Missionary Survivors Told Friends.

Source: Washington Post (DC)
Author: Scott Wilson, Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, April 23, 2001; Page A01
Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company
Contact: letterstoed@washpost.com
Website: http://www.washingtonpost.com/

Related Articles:

CIA Crew Urged Caution About Plane, Official Says
http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread9463.shtml

Survivors Return Home, Family Deny Peru Account
http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread9462.shtml


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Comment #13 posted by kaptinemo on April 24, 2001 at 04:45:50 PT:

A letter to my Reps
Want to know how to sound like a righteously pissed-off taxpayer? Try this:

"Dear Sir,

I am writing to you to express the outrage I feel concerning the latest War on Drugs spawned shoot-down of an unarmed airplane carrying American missionaries by the Peruvian Air Force last week. Apparently, the Peruvian Air Force pilots gave no warning, they just started shooting. The mother was killed almost instantly when the bullets ripped through her and the little baby she was holding. The pilot managed to crash-land the plane in the Amazon River, but the Peruvian planes actually dived down and strafed the survivors of the crash in the water!

This War on Drugs has cost the lives of innocent people before: 17 year old Esequiel Hernandez, shot by Marine Snipers on the border between Texas and Mexico. 11 year-old Alberto Sepulveda, killed by a shotgun blast, shot in the back while lying face down (as he was commanded to by the policeman who pulled the trigger)on the floor of his home during drug raid...which, incidentally found no drugs. People like Donald Scott, Ismael Mena, Patrick Dorismond... all names that the Drug War people would like you never to hear about, because of their deadly 'mistakes' that killed innocent people...and sometimes the police tried to cover it up and lie about it.

And now, a 7 month old adopted baby and her mother have been sacrificed on the altar of this God-forsaken Drug War!

Especially when these high-and-mighty Drug Warriors are saying they are doing all this "for the children". I'm sure that this will be of great comfort to those souls in
Heaven killed so the police could 'protect them' from drugs. But that's not much consolation to their families!

As a taxpayer, I demand to know what you intend to do about this! This was done with aircraft practically given to the Peruvians; everything they have we paid for with our tax dollars! The AWAC airplane that guided the jets to the target was operated by Americans! The bullets that killed that little baby were bought with my tax money! Which makes every American taxpayer an accomplice to murder! Murder of people doing God's Work!

I warn you, this voting taxpayer will not be fobbed off with any bland acknowledgements of "You have been made aware of my feelings on the subject, and will keep them in mind" crap! I want to know what you are going to do about this! And don't you dare tell me that 'we have to expect this kind of thing in war'. Last I looked, you haven't voted for any formal Declarations of War in the last few years; what country are we fighting? Our own?

Too many innocent lives have been taken in this idiotic drug war. If someone is foolish and wants to stick poison up their nose or in their veins, no law is going to stop them
from being stupid. Just like no law was ever able to stop an alcoholic from drinking himself to death; we tried that in the 1920's and all we got was the Mafia and people drinking themselves blind.

Most people are sensible and don't use drugs...for example, I am what some people sneeringly refer to as a teetotaler. I don't drink or smoke. But I am not about to tell other how to live...which is the core of this stupid drug war. And now it is taking innocent lives.

It's long past time to declare a truce in this before more good people get killed. It's not worth a little baby's life. I certainly hope you don't think so, sir, I certainly hope you don't."

Don't leave them any quarter that they can crawl into and make placating noises in hopes you'll dry up and blow away; keep at 'em, not just this week but the next, and the next. Then thy'll know your serious. And that they really better give some serious thought about something that've all been just blathering on about.

Because in a year and a half, it'll be time to play the old political musical chairs game, again.

You can let them know that, too. In case some of them think they have a lifetime meal-ticket.


[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #12 posted by lookinside on April 23, 2001 at 22:00:53 PT:

sanity?
alot of good points are made here...most of us are
"preaching to the choir" when we post here...but most of us
are writing those letters and talking about the crimes
committed by our government too...

i'd love to see the majority of americans suddenly educate
themselves on the "war on drugs" using an open mind to see
truth when they read it...

suddenly is not how it will happen...each criminal act will
make a few thousand more fence sitters take a second look at
our government's policies...

a few more congressmen will speak out against this war
against americans...they will win re-election by a larger
majority than previously...a few more pro legalization
candidates will win election...maybe a libertarian or an
independent or two...

it will become more fashionable to speak out against the DEA
and the "drug czar"...

maybe someone like gary johnson will run for prez as an
independent, and get a scary 10-20% of the popular vote...

all it takes is speaking the truth at every opportunity, and
never letting the crooks in government get a good night's
sleep...never take the pressure off folks...we can win...


[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #11 posted by kaptinemo on April 23, 2001 at 19:17:39 PT:

Let 'em know YOU know!
Want to give your Congresscritter, Sina-a-tor and Dah Prez, Hisself, a piece of your mind? (Since most of them seem to be absolutely clueless, they'd probably be grateful for the donation of brain power.)

Go here:

http://capwiz.com/ala/home/

and plug in your Zip code. You get 'em all at once. But I'd strongly recommend that you actually write a letter; their staffs are not reading the emails as they used to.



[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #10 posted by FoM on April 23, 2001 at 18:35:12 PT
Glad you understood
I'm so glad you got it dddd. I can get real deep sometimes but it would compromise our free will and that is an important part of existing I think.

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #9 posted by dddd on April 23, 2001 at 18:11:43 PT
God and the Drug war
Legalizeit brings up many good points and questions concerning the
"Xtian religion"....But here is another way of looking at the Xtian thing.

It's obvious that Christ made a big wave in world history,after all,that's
why we call this year 2001.Throughout history,wars,slaughters,murders,
all manner of mayhem,evil,etc,,have been done by those who claim to be
Christians.Millions have also died because they chose to wear the Christian
label....If someone wants to say they are a Xtian,then that's what they say.
It's no different than saying,"I'm nice",or "I'm smart",,or "good".If you
believe there is such a thing as the devil,or satan,there's nothing stopping
him from calling himself an Xtian....In other words,there are many people
who decide to call themselves "Christians",and many of them are evil,lying
devious misguided idiots.There's plenty of Marijuana smokers out there,who
are evil twisted idiots,and in the same way that you say what you said about
"Xtians",the anti drug people make the same sort of stereotypifications about
"pot smokers",or,"drug users".Perhaps this seems like a farfetched comparison,
but I think it's valid concerning labeling and stereotyping people.

I think FoM summed up the question of why God would let tragedy and suffering
exsist in the world with;
>"We have a free will and in most times we become the victims of circumstance and it would sadden you ( God but I mean you ) because you couldn't change or stop it from happening or free will would be compromised. I think that's how I perceive God at looking at horrible tragedies."<

In other words,if God created a world where our lives were scripted in
some huge screenplay,then our lives would be like some kind of huge
puppet show that God created for his own entertainment.The part of God
that we were given,("in His image"),is the priveledge to choose what we
do.If we had no choice,we would be zombie-clones,who only did what we
were programmed to do,,void of personality......Anyone can go around
claiming to be an Xtian,but the only thing that matters is between each
individual,and God.....

..Sorry for the weird,off topic,rambling sermon.

....................May JAH shine into everyones lives.............dddd


[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #8 posted by Dan Hillman on April 23, 2001 at 13:31:51 PT
US press covers drug warriors tracks
Was just down at the grocery store...walked by the newspaper racks. All the headlines are screaming US Blameless! Peruvians did it! or words to that effect.

And that, as they say, is that. US drug warriors, as usual, have the full backing of the US press in producing deniability for the consequences of their actions.

I suppose that one way to look at it is this: at least they are admitting that something, er, less than optimal occured. Had anyone other than DEAland-ian xtian missionaries been killed, I suppose we'd be seeing "allegations" that the plane was carrying drugs after all. Or perhaps that "autopsy results" on the burnt corpses showed "positive test rusults" for [insert evil drug here].

Perhaps, for once, the right people went to their deaths.



[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #7 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on April 23, 2001 at 10:53:43 PT:

Peruvian Amazon
I have been there: 3 months in the Amazon, and 2 weeks in this specific area, and flying it.

When the weather is clear there, you can see forever. There would be no question whatsoever as to seeing a plane's markings, or having trouble picking up signals. Anyone who says differently is lying.

Now that righteous people of God (read "innocents") have been caught in the crossfire, perhaps Amerika will take notice. I would contact every representative you have from the local to national level and insist that they stop Plan Colombia and our immoral policy in South America.

On another note, I can tell you that 5-Pounder, Kaptinemo, Observer and I all rendezvous'ed at the NORML Convention. Our government should be worried. A lot of smart people oppose our policy, and insist on a new approach.

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #6 posted by reallyparanoid on April 23, 2001 at 10:43:51 PT
CIA burn?
Is it possible that, once again, the CIA has been burned by those whom they attempt to control?

Maybe Peruvians have decided to allow american weaponry to be used to interdict americans as well as Peruvians.

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #5 posted by stig on April 23, 2001 at 10:43:22 PT
I consider myself......
an "Xtian" legalizeit, but my feelings toward the typical Xtian out there are very similar to yours. It has been perverted into something that is inherently 'evil' I believe. I just can't see Jesus putting people in prison for ingesting a plant. That's what the jewish priests or the romans would have done. Looking at Xtianity now, you would think it was derived from the romans, not from God and Jesus of Nazareth.

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #4 posted by FoM on April 23, 2001 at 10:41:19 PT
legalizeit does this help?
Hi legalizeit,
I'm going to try to tackle your question. The war on drugs is closely related to christian organizations. That's a fact. The thing I want to emphazie is that people of various faiths don't all agree with the majority of others.

It always amazes me how Xtians can thank the Lord for anything... they always say this and that is a "miracle", "God's hand was with so and so", etc. ... but what about the people who were killed? Why wasn't God's hand with them too? Or, could God have killed the most innocent people on the flight to show the world what a wasteful and damaging farce the drug war is?


People shouldn't give credit to God in many situations that they do.

When bad things happen to good people this is how I see it.

Lets imagine that you are God and you know everything that is going to happen in the future but you are really a person and you are being held back from warning someone of an event you know will happen and then a tragedy strikes. Are you guilty of causing what you couldn't do anything about? No.

We have a free will and in most times we become the victims of circumstance and it would sadden you ( God but I mean you ) because you couldn't change or stop it from happening or free will would be compromised. I think that's how I perceive God at looking at horrible tragedies.

This is one way of looking at it. Just one way.

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #3 posted by legalizeit on April 23, 2001 at 09:26:34 PT
Christian hypocrites
I know there are people on this forum with Christian faith, so please excuse my ranting and sorry if anyone is offended...

It always amazes me how Xtians can thank the Lord for anything... they always say this and that is a "miracle", "God's hand was with so and so", etc. ... but what about the people who were killed? Why wasn't God's hand with them too? Or, could God have killed the most innocent people on the flight to show the world what a wasteful and damaging farce the drug war is?

More importantly for the purposes of this forum... many Xtians support the war on drugs as part of "God's Work" - ridding the world of the Sinful Scourge of Drugs. I haven't heard any of these people's comments about the nonsense going on in South America, but I'll bet that, if asked, they would continue to support it, and dismiss the deaths of the missionaries as "something that just had to happen because it was God's will."

No drug use or manufacture was a crime before it was criminalized in the 20th century, and I imagine that even the figures most revered in the Xtian religion altered their consciousness from time to time (what better explanation for some of the visions, manifestations (talking donkey, burning bush, fruit that gives "knowledge of good and evil", etc.) and other spectacular things portrayed in the Bible?)

The trouble with the Xtian religion is that it began with good intentions, but has been corrupted through the years into an arrogant, "holier than thou" movement that goes around the world with a set agenda and tells everyone that if they don't convert, repent, etc. they will be eternally damned. True, they do good works and build schools, hospitals, etc., but always with the underlying motive of winning more converts. My Seventh-Day Adventist parents always told me there was no ulterior motive to the work of their missionaries, but then again they were under the spell of a propaganda machine that IMHO rivals only that of the War on Drugs.

Enough ranting, just wanted to vent a little...


[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on April 23, 2001 at 05:25:59 PT:

I'm afraid I have to agree with lookinside
Even had all the passengers survived crash-landing in the jungle, wounded people who receive little or no medical care in a jungle don't last long; injuries compounded by opportunistic infections from the environment (microorganisms and insect bites) can make very short work of anyone injured.

A fact which I'm sure the Peruvians were well aware of.

Yep, they knew exactly what they were doing. The question is, was the CIA plane there to direct rescue operations...or forward observation and fire control for the fighter planes?

As in making sure that the passengers didn't live to make an unfavorable report to Congress about their 'treatment' - and cast a very ugly light upon an increasingly haywire, politically shaky and unpopular War on Drugs?

Pols who privately think the DrugWar is a bust but are afraid to publicly speak out against it have been handed just the excuse they needed to speak up.

Too bad they didn't find their courage sooner.

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #1 posted by lookinside on April 23, 2001 at 03:34:42 PT:

sanity?
the only reason that the jet didn't continue the strafing
runs was the 100s of witnesses watching this
fiasco...lies..lies...lies...

impeach bush...

[ Post Comment ]


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