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The war on drugs claims forest as casualty.
August 17, 2002 7:39 PM   Subscribe

The war on drugs claims forest as casualty. A forest fire that burned out of control for almost two weeks and devastated over 50,000 acres near San Diego was caused by a helicopter looking for pot farms, a California Department of Forestry investigation has concluded. [link via disinfo]
posted by drezdn (33 comments total)

 
That's ridiculous. Bad piloting claimed the forest as a casuality.
posted by Stan Chin at 8:03 PM on August 17, 2002


I hear the pilot also beats his wife.

Damn wife-beating war on druggers'.

[via disinfo]
posted by holloway at 8:18 PM on August 17, 2002


This was simply and accident. I'm sure the pros outweigh the cons.
posted by RGarraud at 8:22 PM on August 17, 2002


If there wasn't a "War on Drugs", especially marijuana, which is fairly non harmful compared to legal drugs, such as tobacco, alcohol, and sugar, this would never have happened.
posted by benjh at 8:28 PM on August 17, 2002


Oh, yeah, because helios neeeeeveeer crash or do anything like that, unless looking for drugs. And they neeeeveeer have helios out unless they're looking for drugs.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:35 PM on August 17, 2002


That's right, if there wasn't a "War on Drugs," helicopters would never crash and forests would never catch fire. The logic the drug war starts forest fires is the same as the campaign linking drugs to terrorism.

I dislike the drugwar as much as the next guy, but let's pick a better fight.
posted by Stan Chin at 8:36 PM on August 17, 2002


This could be the most effective operation of the entire drug war! After all, they stopped the pot growers in that area for at least a year. Everything else was just unfortunate collateral damage.
posted by srboisvert at 8:48 PM on August 17, 2002


Hey, it's the collateral's fault for being there in the first place! There is no such thing as an innocent victim.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:06 PM on August 17, 2002


Hey, the argument that the the war on drugs is responsible for a forest fire is just as valid as any argument justifying the war on drugs itself.....they are both moronic. Why don't we just go back to the days of prohibition?
posted by banished at 9:26 PM on August 17, 2002


It's evil fossil fuel's fault! If only the helicopter were using solar power, there would have been no fire!

Evil fossil fuel!
posted by hama7 at 9:33 PM on August 17, 2002


watch the DEA ask to have access to satelite survelience so that more of these copter crashes dont happen.

speaking of which, when was the last time the US won a war of any type?

WWII?

i think we should just go back to only participating in wars we can actually win.
posted by tsarfan at 9:35 PM on August 17, 2002


RGarraud:

Do me a favor, and tell that trite platitude to my parents, who were evacuated and almost lost their home. Use that shallow pretext to console those people that did lose their homes.

Keep telling yourself that and all the bad men will go away...
posted by Samizdata at 9:48 PM on August 17, 2002


Instead of focusing on the first sentence of the post, what about this from the article linked to.

Called the Pines fire, the blaze started on July 29 outside the town of Julian, about 40 miles northeast of San Diego. By the time it was brought under control, it had burned through 56,500 acres of land, turning 37 homes, 116 barns and other outbuildings, and 161 vehicles into cinders, for an estimated $10 million in damage. Between 500 and 1,000 people were evacuated, and 24 firefighters injured.
posted by drezdn at 9:57 PM on August 17, 2002


It's evil fossil fuel's fault! If only the helicopter were using solar power, there would have been no fire!

Evil fossil fuel!


The fire was caused when the helicopter clipped a power line. If anything, the helicopter was flying to close to the ground.
posted by drezdn at 10:01 PM on August 17, 2002


stan:
I dislike the drugwar as much as the next guy, but let's pick a better fight.

This fight is fine. The less ridiculous warrants for revatively harmless pot the less people shot while reaching for their cell phone, the less cops fighting gangbanger dealers, the less non-violent drug offenders in jail, and now we can add the less piloting errors.

Let's see, last time it was a plane of missionaries blown out of the sky because of the world-wide paranoia over some drugs. Don't dismiss each example of drug war nonsense. Take them as a whole and then tell me if this is worth fighting over.

St. Pierre has the proper outlook in my opinion:
“There’s no doubt that most of the outdoor marijuana-eradication efforts are not only a waste of money to begin with,” says Allen St. Pierre, head of the NORML Foundation, “but the immense property and environment damage that has been caused by this marijuana-eradication program in that forest is so many times greater of the value of any illegal marijuana found there. This is another gross excess in the War on Some Drugs.”
posted by skallas at 10:05 PM on August 17, 2002


The definition of casualty is "one hurt in an accident or a war." The fire was caused by a helicopter, searching for pot plants, hitting a power line. The forest was harmed by this accident.
posted by drezdn at 10:07 PM on August 17, 2002


ok, this has nothing to do with the war on drugs, but i see it as somewhat related:

"BEND, Ore. -- An air tanker fighting a wildfire in central Oregon accidentally dumped up to 2,000 gallons of flame retardant into Fall River, killing nearly all the fish along a 4-mile stretch, officials said."

"oops"
posted by gluechunk at 10:08 PM on August 17, 2002


This fight is fine. The less ridiculous warrants for revatively harmless pot the less people shot while reaching for their cell phone, the less cops fighting gangbanger dealers, the less non-violent drug offenders in jail, and now we can add the less piloting errors.

I disagree, causing an uproar over a illogical argument will weaken the cause (See: PETA). There are many, many more solid points on why the drug war is ineffective as we all know. However, remotely connecting a devastating forest fire to the drug war reeks of desperation. "Is this all they can come up with? Pothead whackos." kind of thing.

The fire was caused by a helicopter, searching for pot plants, hitting a power line. The forest was harmed by this accident.

Then tell me why you don't blame the power company for putting up lines that cause helicopters to crash.
posted by Stan Chin at 10:29 PM on August 17, 2002


Um, before people moved in, these areas would burn down fairly regularly. It's a natural behavior. The problem with forest fires isn't the "forest", which generally begins to rejuvenate almost immediately; it's the people and the stuff people have built there.

I think it's society's fault. It got in the way of a perfectly good fire.
posted by dhartung at 10:42 PM on August 17, 2002


Samizdata:

Sorry to hear about your parents. But I will continue to assert that "accidents will happen". On whom do you blame the dozens of forest fires that occur due to natural causes?

Seems to me that you're reading a bit too much into my post or perhaps you're shadow boxing with your emotions.
Good day.
posted by RGarraud at 10:50 PM on August 17, 2002


stan: Then tell me why you don't blame the power company for putting up lines that cause helicopters to crash.

Have you even considered how low the the pilots must fly to spot a circled pot farm? Or how this work may be dangerous and how our infrastructure is not designed for choppers to be dicking around under 1,000 ft?

stan: I disagree, causing an uproar over a illogical argument will weaken the cause

It is an example of DEA buffonery and anti-drug zeal. Like I posted above, its one symptom of a major problem and worth noting. I'm curious as to the 'illogic' here. This is a criticism of DEA bloat and the sometimes dangerous consequences of spying on our own people. I think its important for people to know that this botched pot farm search cost them a significant part of forest and 21 million dollars.
posted by skallas at 11:03 PM on August 17, 2002


I have never smoked pot once in my life... never had much use for it, actually. (Go figure... me all clean and sober but still supporting decriminalization).

But something just doesn't set right with a government commiting so many resources to fight a failed "war on drugs" when our own CIA has had a fairly spotty history regarding such things. Never fear... the CIA has the the official version.

And, of course, now the drug war is justified, since its a "terrorist thing".
posted by FilmMaker at 12:09 AM on August 18, 2002


Skallas, my argument is that there was no intent by the DEA for the helicopter to crash. So one cannot place the blame on the Drug War for the forest fire.

If I crash my car on the way to work, the fault is mine, not my employer's for putting me in the situation in the first place. I would have never crashed if I didn't have to go to work.

I'll give you this:

It would have never happened if the helicopter wasn't there to begin with.

The risk of an accident was increased because of the nature of the mission.

This being so, there is still no intent by anyone for that helicopter to crash. And without intent, there is no blame. Forest fires and helicopters crashing from power lines do occur without the intervention of the Drug War. Statiing that "DEA buffoonery and anti-drug zeal" causes helicopters to crash is a fallacy.
posted by Stan Chin at 4:19 AM on August 18, 2002


RGarraud:

I realize there is a certain amount of collateral damage in any war. But generally that damage is done during an actual attack.

In this case, just looking apparently during a random sweep has caused a great deal of damage and destruction. In addition, this sweep found nothing.

Do you then consider this an acceptable price for our "war on drugs?"

Let me phrase it this way. If you lost your home in a similar situation, would you happily step up and agree that you were doing your patriotic duty helping combat drugs, which weren't found?

I'm sure that would help you sleep at night in your bed at the Salvation Army...

I grow progessively more tired looking at the absurd amounts of capital we pour into this "war" while seeing a relatively poor return on investment, and the rhetoric grates on my nerves. I'm not saying we should stop, or legalize certain less deadly compounds. I'm saying we need to re-evaluate how we are handling this and look for a new plan. Look at the recent failure of the D.A.R.E. program, for example.

I think it is time for a new battle plan.
posted by Samizdata at 7:52 AM on August 18, 2002


Samizdata:

You make a good point.

I agree that a new battle plan should be in order.

It seems that hardly a year goes by without an announcement that the gov. has pulled off a sophisticated and well-coordinated drug bust.

Yet somehow the drugs keep pouring into the country. No matter how many traffickers are arrested, no matter how many tons of powder are seized, there's rarely a ripple on the street.
posted by RGarraud at 10:38 AM on August 18, 2002


Actually, dhartung, you've got it half right.

These coastal forests burned pretty much every year (usually the fires were set by native americans managing the woods for increased wildlife, berries and acorns), but precisely because the fires were so regular, these forests rarely burned down. Instead, the fires burned low and fast, consuming brush, grass and young trees, and leaving the older growth unharmed.

A combination of logging (which eliminated the old trees and left the woods choked with even-age stands), fire supression (which allowed brush to build up) and, now, development have meant that many forests which 100 years ago would have burned healthily now go up in annihilating "stand replacement" fires.

That said, I think the war on drugs is pretty stupid, too.
posted by AlexSteffen at 1:54 PM on August 18, 2002


Just a thought: I wonder if anyone would be looking to level blame if the helicopter that crashed had been searching for a kidnapper or murderer who had run into those woods to hide.
posted by Dreama at 3:12 PM on August 18, 2002


stan: If I crash my car on the way to work, the fault is mine, not my employer's for putting me in the situation in the first place. I would have never crashed if I didn't have to go to work.

Actually to be more accurate in this case we would be something closer to the insurer than the driver. Who do you think is paying for this mess? US taxpayers. So, if you used your car in a dangerous manner for hard to defend reasons (war against pot) you simply will not find insurance. That's the private sector, it makes sense. In the drug war, propaganda and rhetoric rule not reason or economics.

Dreama: Many simply don't see growing pot as a crime, and those that do probably don't put it on the same level of crime as kidnapping as kidnapping produces real victims.
posted by skallas at 4:10 PM on August 18, 2002


Dreama: The point was, as best we know, they weren't following a lead, but just sweeping the area...

And I suppose I shouldn't bring up the rash of military aircraft related accidents lately...
posted by Samizdata at 12:41 AM on August 19, 2002


Skallas and Samizdata -- the point is, the helicopter could have been in the area for a number of reasons, some legitimate (in your eyes or in general) some not so. It is only the anger and resentment over the war on drugs which has led to it being "blamed" for the fire. If the copter had been searching for something else, it seems highly unlikely that the other thing, whatever it might have been, would be so vehemently blamed. "Search for Runaway Teen Takes Forest as Casualty" "Search for Fugitive Illegal Immigrants Takes Forest as Casualty" "Search for Alternative Entry to Flooded Mine Takes Forest as Casualty" are simply not links that we would've seen. But because it was a search for illegal drugs that some of us would like to see legalised, we throw blame onto something that was completely accidental. It's an exercise in futile complaining.
posted by Dreama at 4:12 PM on August 19, 2002


Heck, the helio was doing geological surveys, would you blame geologist when the chopper crashed.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 4:20 PM on August 19, 2002


Uh, hmmm.

There should be an 'if' between 'Heck,' and 'the' and the sentence should end in a question mark.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 4:21 PM on August 19, 2002


Dreama: Frankly, my anger had nothing to do with the drug sweep other than that it didn't need to be there. We, as Americans, are developing a tendency to inflict "accidents" on both ourselves and our foreign neighbors by employing ill-trained and/or rambunctious pilots in populated areas.

For example, does anyone remember a couple years ago involving Marine pilots, a helicopter and an Italian ski lift? Do a little research. This isn't the only one.

Besides, had this been a civilian vehicle, there would be a flurry of civil and criminal charges, not to mention a slew of lawsuits. Since it isn't, the affected will have little or no course...

By the way, please don't lump me into the legalization crowd. I'm more of a "The war on drugs as it stands doesn't work" type of guy...
posted by Samizdata at 5:12 AM on August 20, 2002


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