World

This is your army on drugs

Beware the new blog meme about hash smoking in the Afghan National Army. Yes, i referenced it a few weeks ago, but i did so for humor and was quick to point out that U.S. soldiers got just as high a generation ago in Vietnam. I then went on to make the point that the problem isn’t ANA guys getting high. The new, embryonic meme is that an Afghan National Army of the sort talked up by D.C. isn’t possible because, “all the men there– yes, all of them– are stoned all day, every day on the strongest hash (much of it opiated) on God’s earth.

Wow, that’s a lot of bullshit for one sentence.

The writer makes the statement based on six months in Afghanistan in the early 1970’s, and the statement undermines the meme of the drugged — and hence ineffective — ANA.

If all Afghan men are stoned all day every day, then all the Talibs are also stoned all day every day. They appear to be able to fight fairly well, no? So as i’ve said before, the problem isn’t the hash smoking.

But let’s get something out of the way right up front. DownWithTyranny is talking about things s/he knows nothing about when s/he makes the claim about Afghanistan having the best hash in the world. I’ve never been there (which is about the same as having been there almost 40 years ago), but i’ve smoked Afghan hash in Amsterdam. It isn’t. Try Arcadia, California or any of the Dutch growers.

More importantly, i’d like to see some evidence that getting high makes someone a terrible soldier. Historically, marijuana (and even opium) are most often used by people who do hard labor and live hard lives. Chinese coolies did some of the most back breaking work this side of chattel slavery, and the majority of them were full blown opium addicts. Marijuana arrived in Jamaica with Indian contract laborers who taught the island’s former slaves how to cultivate and use cannabis; the word “ganja” comes from India. And there’s still the Vietnam example wherein plenty of guys with M-16’s smoked dope of a far higher quality than anything the hippies back home had (unless they had friends in Nam), and they managed to do a fair share of killing under the influence.

I’m against the escalation too, and i don’t see the ANA being built to anything resembling what Obama or the General’s describe. But if the anti-war left is going to latch on to this “the ANA are a bunch of worthless high-ons and won’t be able to get it together because they’re worthless high-ons” argument, then the anti-war left can kiss my ass. What do i care if all Afghan men want to get high all day every day? What business of mine is that? More importantly, look at the hell their country’s been dragged through for the sake of Great Power Games. Can you blame them?

I guess that some people can, because it’s easier than putting the blame where it belongs. The grand plan of the D.C. mandarins isn’t going to fail because Afghans get high; it’s going to fail because it’s a stupid plan.

Fuck, why is it always the brown people’s fault? And why do old hippies feel compelled to pretend that they still know what they’re talking about?

18 replies »

  1. Well, I don’t blame them for getting high, if that’s what they’re doing. As for me, I can’t imagine that being stoned in a firefight would be a good idea. Damn. I can’t imagine driving in that state, let alone trying to kill someone who isn’t on my side while not being killed myself.

  2. Russ: Agreed.

    JS: I’ve never been stoned in a firefight, but from what i’ve read situations like being shot at mostly turns off the high. Like other things, people who use it regularly are affected much differently than people who use it sporadically. I don’t really drink, so i’m pretty much useless after three beers or so, but i know lots of people who can do many things effectively with that much alcohol in their systems…and being high does a lot less to impair cognitive and physical functions than drinking alcohol. (e.g. even the most bazooted can generally pass a road-side sobriety test)

  3. Well, I know that sailors in wooden-sailing ship/floating fortress era were given double rations of rum before going into action and that alcohol made it easier for Wellington’s men to stand up to the murderous bombardment at Waterloo. So, clearly, there is SOME value in having your mind altered in combat. Even in Wellington’s day, though, there was discussion about whether the trade-off of alcohol-induced courage made up for a slower rate of fire as that same alcohol impaired motor skills.

    Doubtless, a flood of adrenaline during combat counteracts some of the effects of any drug. But I’m just speaking for myself, here. If it were I, I’d want the full benefit of the clarity and improved reflexes one gets from adrenaline. I wouldn’t want it modified by drugs. And, sheesh, the long term muzziness from heavy marijuana use is not something I’d want to carry around with me every day in a war zone.

    But this is about me. I like to be in control of my faculties. You mileage may vary.

  4. It probably comes down to drug of choice more than anything, though in the Afghan example liquid courage is prohibited so there isn’t much choice.

    It may also be important to note that all the videos going around of ANA guys getting high show them smoking spliffs. Those aren’t “hash cigarettes” since you can’t roll hash up and smoke it. So they’re not doing the equivalent of the American style of rolling up straight grass and smoking it; mixed heavily with tobacco, the effect is not quite the same.

    My guess is that the Afghans use hash the same way guys in Vietnam used Thai stick, to knock down the adrenaline after the fact rather than prepare for battle…and to combat the boredom and anxiety between battles. (And it’s easier to carry around than booze.)

    BTW, i’m not sure what about this is so different from the USAF handing out methamphetamines to pilots.

  5. Hmm, let’s see… Just so I know my audience here, how many people who have thus far commented on drugs and combat have 1. Done virtually every type of drug on the planet. 2. Gotten into more than 10 fights, with or without weapons, 3. Fired more than 1000 rounds from any type of weapon while drunk or stoned, outside of combat. 4. Driven under the influence of multiple drugs, including alcohol?

  6. Ahm, I wouldn’t comment on #1, thanks. I’ve certainly been in more than 10 fights. Easily. No weapons. I’ve certainly fired well over 1,000 rounds in my life, but never while under the influence of anything, and I haven’t driven under the influence of anything since I was a teenager.

  7. The point of the questions was to find out if anyone involved in the discussion happened to be a combat vet with a long history of drug abuse. Someone who read the thread happened to think of me when it came to drug use, firearms use, and hurting people, and thought I might have something to contribute. They also seemed to think that most of the commentators were just batting little pseudo-intellectual shitballs back and forth with no real experience to draw on. But I would have deferred to the stoned vet. More later….

  8. I’d be happy to read the contribution of a stoned vet, though the piece that the comment thread is based on really has nothing to do with being stoned in combat. As for batting “pseudo-intellectual shitballs”, it should be clear that i really don’t care if people are stoned (in combat or elsewhere). And while i don’t have all of the list, i’ve got the better part of it and more than enough of the important parts to understand this issue better than your average pseudo-intellectual.

  9. though the piece that the comment thread is based on really has nothing to do with being stoned in combat.

    More importantly, i’d like to see some evidence that getting high makes someone a terrible soldier.

    Isn’t this a question about being stoned in combat? Maybe Jason thought your own question was worth addressing; especially you and JS have been going on about it for several comments now.

  10. You’re right, Ann. I did ask that question, though it was addressed (at least in my mind) to the bloggers perpetuating the meme about worthless, ANA soldiers smoking hash, because it sure as shit looks like a set-up by the left to blame the failure of a Democratic administration on someone else. When i last wrote on the subject, i pointed out the statement from an ANA commander saying that ANA recruits were the absolute bottom of the barrel in Afghan society. That seems more important to me than what they choose to smoke.

    I also told Jason that i’d be very interested to hear the perspective of a stoned, combat vet…but so far, Jason has only promised contribution.

  11. Here’s the thing: I see what you mean, what you’re driving at and the point of the original article.

    I couldn’t have parsed it from this, though: More importantly, i’d like to see some evidence or from the following thread. That seemed a bit odd at the time. However, since the comments picked upon it and were taking an interesting if tangential turn, I thought that the viewpoint of someone with a great deal (unfortunately) of simultaneous experience of weapons, violence and drugs might be interesting.

    As for his not being on an acceptable response schedule, your commenter might be waiting for his chronic physical disability to subside for a while, at least long enough that the light of the monitor as he replies doesn’t trigger a week or so of incapacitating pain. Just a thought.

  12. Ok. There was no schedule or acceptable response schedule. I don’t know Jason from Adam (though i guessed who he was sometime today). His introduction into the thread sounded like he was either a cop or the standard “I know more than anyone here — even though nothing i say can be proven — so you’re all wrong and I’m right” internet trolling. He was never attacked or even questioned. I’ll admit that i was leery. His first comment sounded like the opening salvo of a pissing contest.

    But since he didn’t introduce himself, how the fuck am i supposed to know about any possible physical ill effects he might suffer from looking at a computer monitor?

    Ann, you’re focusing on one sentence, and that’s fine…except the four sentences after that one pretty well express what i think the answer to my question is. It still stands, i’d be interested to hear what Jason (or anyone) has to say.

    Well, that’s not exactly true…i really don’t care anymore.

  13. INteresting about Afghan troops being called “the absolute bottom of the barrel.” That was the attitude towards soldiers in many places at many times in history. Post Marian Roman troops and British troops from the late 17th to the mid-19th centuries come to mind, and they were among the best infantry in history. So, I don’t think being the bottom of the barrel (and assuming the officer in question wasn’t, say, a Tajik commenting on Hazara troops so that his comment was both racist and inaccurate) precludes having a first-rate army. That’s up to the officer corp, it would seem. It’s important to have first-rate officers in some ways. High-performing enlisted troops seem to have come from the lowest of classes at times, and I’d bet it can be done again.

  14. You can’t know. That’s my point. Not everyone is hanging about on the internet all the time, and for a myriad of reasons.

    If you think I called you out because I know this poster, you’re only about two percent correct. Not everyone can be reasonably expected to have read your entire oeuvre. You introduce yourself anew every time you write a new piece. Lemme sum up: your rude, rude commenter may be rough around the edges, but you come across as an arrogant know-it-all on a regular basis, as does almost everyone here. Hooray for that, I say… but don’t expect pussyfooting in return.

    And I’m sorry, Lex, but I wasn’t focusing on one sentence, you and JS were in your own comments. I thought you had some interesting ideas and might want to hear a different point of view. Now that you’re so insulted you can no longer parse what you yourself wrote, I have no idea whether that horrid man will return. I wouldn’t bother, but hey. I’m the mean one. 🙂