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.


About john hutnyk

Writer on culture, cities, diaspora, history, film, prisons, colonialism, education, Marxism. Studied and taught in Australia at Deakin and Melbourne Universities; and in the UK in Manchester University’s Institute for Creative and Cultural Research; before moving to Goldsmiths in 1998, and becoming Academic Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies in 2004-2014. Has held visiting researcher posts in Germany at the South Asia Institute and Institute fur Ethnologie at Heidelberg University, and Visiting Professor posts in InterCultural Studies at Nagoya City University Japan, Zeppelin University and Hamburg University, Germany, Sociology at Mimar Sinan University, Istanbul, Turkey and at the Graduate institute for Social Research and Cultural Studies, National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan. Immediate past adjunct Professor of RMIT University, Melbourne and GIAN Visiting Professor Jadavpur Uni Kolkata.
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2 Responses to A Battalion of Druggies

  1. Renegade Eye says:

    Vietnam had choice self medicating available.

  2. Pingback: Russell Brand’s Elegantly Addled Drug Career Takes Flight in New Cross « trinketization

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