A Battalion of Druggies

Apropos the picture in the previous post on Kendra of star fleet, imperial stormtrooper, colonial marine – whatever kind of junkie – I am shocked to hear that UK soldiers are succumbing to the evils of drug use as well. In particular cocaine is the battle-friendly powder-of-choice. We are told today by a UK military spokesperson on Radio Four that because this drug apparently allows soldiers to stay up all night, they like to take it at parties when they are on leave (the spokesperson does not make this an actual recommendation). The numbers we are talking about here are significant: this year the equivalent of an entire battalion (679) have been discharged because the testing regime for drugs was changed to the day after a soldier returns from leave. Isn’t that clever? A first instance of applied military intelligence. Although it seems we are not sure how these soldiers are getting all this cocaine, since clearly connections with Afghanistan would surely make other substances more convenient – recall that one of the ‘reasons’ we went to war against the (now resurgent) Taliban was to destroy the poppy trade (itself now resurgent).

So, are the battalions self-medicating because their return from the killing fields of Helmand turns out to be a bit tough – arriving back in the homeland/airstrip one where most folks barely know where the war is, let alone that it escalates. I suspect our insurgents in Sangin and Naway might find it in their interests to send a care package to any grunts that look like they are due a break.

Drugs and war is such a huge theme that suggesting any further reading would be an absurdly long task of documentation. I’d start with McCoy ‘The Politics of Heroin’, which the CIA loved so well, but I hope there is someone who could offer a more up to date biblio shortcut here. I’ve mentioned Taussig’s ‘My Cocaine Museum’ book often, but there is much else as well. We all know the tales of LSD experimentation – cool-aid acid test – and can cite lines from Vietnam movies or protest songs which celebrate military weed and more (thanks Country Joe and the Fish) but today’s drug war in the east (chant war on drugs, war on drugs – Pynchon) does not really get the ethnographers it deserves. Hunter Thompson should be deployed (rocket ready) but maybe Dave Boothroyd would do.


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