Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sacrificing the war on terror for the war on drugs

The Associated Press reports that an increasing number of soldiers are being kicked out of the military for drug use.

Drug use is also an increasing reason that soldiers are being discharged from the Army, up 40 percent since 2002; last year 1,986 soldiers were kicked out of the Army for using marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and other illegal drugs. By contrast, soldiers thrown out for alcohol dropped from 251 in 2002 to 164 last year.

Rod Powers, a retired sergeant in the Air Force who writes an advice column on the Web about military service and has written books on the subject, said that the drug-use discharges probably reflect more sophisticated drug-testing policies in all military branches.

"The military is getting smarter about drug testing, with better science and more random tests," he said. "I hear from a lot of young recruits thinking they can beat a urinalysis, but I tell them it's not so easy."

In a time when enlistment is dropping and the military is stretched way too thin fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, why would the government work extra hard to kick soldiers out of the service for drug use? If a soldier's performance is impaired by his or her drug use and others are being put at risk, of course the military should act. But it makes no sense to randomly test soldiers to search for arbitrary drug use.

Where are our priorities?


kaptinemo said...

If you think that this is shocking then ruminate on this: In 2003, twenty-one members of the Iowa National Guard were found to have failed their drug tests; they were sent to Iraq anyway, and face dishonorable discharges when they return home...assuming of course they do return home, intact. The military is so stretched that the usual punishment - immediate expulsion - wasn't used.

That's how bad things are in this misbegotten War on Terror. I have not been able to find any mention yet on the 'Net as to the fate of those troops as of today; I suspect that the affected personnel will be allowed a 'general' discharge and let quietly off the hook. Anything else is risking a mutiny, and Uncle knows it.

800 pound gorilla said...

Not to get too far off topic: what about all the gay soldiers fluent in Arabic that were forced out because of "don't ask, don't tell"? We definitely have our priorities askew. Of course, our military intervention in Iraq has nothing to do with terror - unless one takes the view that we invaded so as to strengthen the appeal of terrorist organizations so that we would have a never ending war to keep people in line.

The main reason employers drug test employees is that addiction to high priced street drugs - thank you Drug Czar - compromises employee moral standards and contributes to pilfering. In the military it's all about political correctness and making a statement. When you're hard pressed for bodies the followup punishment may also be scarce but the message is unmistable: we're talking about dangerous drugs here and don't you pay attention to the total lack of scientific evidence or our total unwillingness to defend the policy or otherwise subject our behavior to public scrutiny.

Someone in one of the forums I visit suggested that the War on Terror would supplant the War on Drugs. Apparently, having a two front war provides more distraction from real problems than a one front war.

Adam Scavone said...

This doesn't even touch on would-be recruits.

Last spring, I met with recruiters twice before determining that I could serve, but that I would not be able to get the security clearance required to attend Officer Candidate School, despite having bachelor's and master's degrees, and therefore could not be an officer in the U.S. military.

Hell, a "don't ask don't tell" policy for drug use is looking pretty good.