Operation Futilityrnby Jonathan EllisrnKilling Pablo: The Hunt for thernWorld’s Greatest Outlawrnby Mark BowdenrnNew York: The Atlantic Monthlr Press;rn2%pp.,$2S.OOrnMark Bowdcii was interviewing arnretired U.S. military offieer for hisrnbook Black Hawk Down when a framedrnphotograpli eauglit his ee. In it, a gronprnof jnbilant sokliers posed around therncorpse of a hloodv, fat man. Curious,rnBowden asked about the picture. “That,rnnn friend, is Pablo Escobar,” the officerrnsaid to Bowden. “I keep that on m wallrnto remind me that no matter how richrn(ni get in this life, von can sHll be too bigrnfor our britches.”rnBowden realized he had just stumbledrnonto something big. Here was a picturernof die just-slain Pablo Escobar in die possessionrnof a retired U.S. military officer.rn()biousl, die United States had been arnlot more aetic in himting down thernColombian drug lord dian most peoplernknew. Bowden .spent die next few carsrnuiicartliiiig the stor. His liook, KillingrnPablo, is an exciting and informativernpiece of inestigaHe journalism diat raisesrntroid)hng questions about America’srnuse of co ert forces throughout die w orld.rnCjolombia’s cocaine-trafficking pioneersrnwere not like Pablo Escobar; rather,rnaccording to Bowden, the were “plavborns, relatixeK well educated Colombiansrnwho considered themselves fashionablernand smart.” But as the popularihrnof cocaine soared in the United States,rnthe plabos began to make a lot of mone.rn”\’lienccr diat much mone is beingrnmade illcgalh,” writes Bowden, “itrnattracts sharks.” Wlien Escobar elbowedrninto die cocaine business, he was alreadvrnwell known in Medellin as a ieious streetrnthug. After the local cocaine chief inrnMedellin turned up murdered, the plavl)rno traffickers were amazed to find thatrnthc now w orked for Pablo Escobar.rnIn short order, Escobar and his Medellinrncartel were running Colombia’s cocainernbusiness. Escobarrnoersaw their delier^ routes, exactingrna tax on e en” kilo shipped. Itrnwas pure muscle, an old-fashionedrns ndicate, but the residt was to creaternfor the first time a unified andrnstreamlined cocaine industrv.rnSolidifing die business also meant spreadingrnseeds of corruption. Judges, politicians,rnand die police could either acceptrnEscobar’s bribes, or they could die withrndieir principles.rnIf E,scobar’s rise sounds like an echornfrom America’s Prohibition pa.st, it should.rnWith the use of a profitable but illegalrnsubstance as his ladder, Escobar murderedrnand bribed his \a to the top. Escobar,rnliow’cser, outdistanced his Prohibition-rnera ancestors—widi the possiblernexception of the Kenned tamil^b-rnmiles and miles. Bv the U)80’s, E.scobarrnwas not onl rich, he was Bill Gates rich,rnhis status affirmed by Forbes, whichrnranked him among die ten weahhiestrnmen in the w orld. And, in 1982, Escobarrnwon a seat in Colombia’s congress as arnsub.stitute delegate. He was, as the- sa,rnThe Man.rnBow den does not spend much time retracingrnEscobar’s ascendancy, whichrnworks fine. It onlv takes a few dozenrnpages to persuade readers tliat Escobarrnwas a reolting hmiian being, a perertrnwith a Caligulan sexual appehtc. and arnbeast who relied on murder the wav arnpitcher relies on his fast ball. Eor diose ofrnus ignorant of Colombia?) histor, Bowdenrnincludes a brief section on Colombia’srntradihon of nurturing iolence andrnoutlaws, and Escobar’s place widiin thatrntradition.rnHad it not been for America’s hardeningrnstance toward drugs in the 1980’s, Escobarrnmight still be alixe: MeDonald’sobcse,rnordering teenage prostitutes diernway we order pizza for delivcr. Cocainernwas fasliionable in the United States, butrnwe were officially at war against drugsrnand just saving “no.” Remorseful iippiesrntook to the airwa’es in anti-drug commercials,rnsharing stories of how thev lostrndieir families, homes, and BMW’s to diernevil wliitc powder. It was all so terrible,rnand men like Pablo Escobar were to blame.rnUnder Presidents Reagan and Bush, thernUnited States began strong-arming Colombiarnto stop the drug lords from eorruphngrnour people.rnColombia, or at least those parts of therncountrv not on Escobar’s pavroll, reluetandrnwent to war again.st die Medellinrncartel. It soon became obious that Escobar’srnnione had corrupted the nahon’srninstitutions. Tlie poor reered him as arnhero fighting to ocrdirow Colombia’srnclass system, and, Bowden reports, Escobarrneen enjo’ed the support of man’ inrnthe Catholic Church. Those who turnedrndown Escobar’s money faced assassination.rnThousands (including judges,rnpoliticians, journalists, and police officers)rnwere murdered while die manhuntrnfor Escobar dragged on. Three of fivernpresidenhal candidates in the 1989 electionrnwere assassinated, and a fourth escapedrnafter the jediner he was supposedrnto be riding in was blown out of the sk’.rnMore than a hundred innocent peoplerndied in diat attack.rnClearh’, Colombia could not subduernthe monster w idiout help. Had the UnitedrnStates been asked, enlightened thinkersrnhere probablv woidd lia’e suggestedrnthat we parachute the 82nd Airborne di-rnision into Colombia to root out die drugrnlords. But Colombia was a land buzzingrnwith anti-American senriment, and PresidentrnBush was limited, at first, to sendingrnhundreds of millions of dollars in aidrnand, later, to dispatching a gaggle ofrneoert forces.rnBowden’s sketch of the U.S. armadarnused to track Escobar is one of die morernhiinioroiis sections oi Killing Pablo. Asrndie Cold War was winding down, eervrnU.S. agenc- diat had relied on the communistrnmenace for fmiding was nowrnscrambling to find new enemies andrnmore mone. Drug lords, it seems, suitedrntheir needs.rnEen’ direction-find ing, surernlance, and imager} team in die arsenalrndescended on Medellin. Thernair force sent RC-n5s, C-nOsrnadajDted for sophisticated imagery,rnU-2s and SR-71s. The nay sent Psrn,s])v planes. The CIA, which alreadyrnhad its ow n two-pro|3 DernHavilland over Colombia, nowrnsent Sehweizer. a remarkable machinerndiat looked like a big gliderrnand could sta silentK aloft oer arntarget for hours on end. . . . Therernwere so man American spy planesrnoer Medellin, at one point secnteenrnin the air together, that the airrnforce had to assign an AWACs, anrnairborne warning-and-control center,rnto keep track of dicni.rnEscobar met his end on December 2,rn199-5, gunned down as he fled one of hisrnMedellin hideouts. A DEA agent took arnphotograph of the kill, the same photographrnthat picjued Bowden’s interest. Of-rnNOVEMBEK 2001/27rnrnrn