Over on the MSNBC photoblog there are some enlightening shots from the frontline of the war on drugs. But they tell us the opposite of what they’re meant to.

Look at this first one. A high-explosive mushroom cloud billows up above the palm trees, rending the powder-blue, tropical sky with a fist of heat and smoke. Another secret jungle cocaine lab is out of business for good. COLOMBIA, FUCK YEAH!

A jungle cocaine lab is blown up by Colombian forces

But two shots later we find out what a cocaine lab actually looks like. And it is, well, underwhelming.

A jungle cocaine lab in Meta, Colombia

As you can see, the truth is that a “cocaine lab” is a tent with half a dozen billy cans in it. The ammunition used to blow one up costs much more that it costs to build a new one, possibly hundreds of times over. Facilities like the one destroyed in the first picture probably exist in their thousands, and that one will have been replaced within days, if not hours.

When the enemy’s infrastructure can all be bought at Wal-Mart for a hundred dollars, there is no way that blowing it up at colossal expense and risk to life can have any significant effect on supply.

What we learn from these pictures is not what a vital job the counternarcotics police are doing in the jungles of Colombia, but how futile their operation is.