Washington DC, (TFC)— Overseas, Trump’s administration has conjured looming clouds of unease over US military operations. As tensions mount with Russia and North Korea, US Special Operations pepper earth with raids, airstrikes, and disappearances. Increases in the frequency and intensity of their operations, however, reap reports of rampant drug abuse among operatives. As the days go on, it would seem the reports are only more substantiated.
The concerns even pushed House defense lawmakers to propose a full review of SpecOps culture and conduct. According to Washington Times, they demanded US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) review its units to confirm or deny rumors of rampant drug abuse.
These coincided with military presentations warning teams, particularly Navy SEALs, that crackdowns were coming. Some anonymous personnel reputedly confessed to journalists their peers not only tested positive repeatedly, but stayed in. Some speculate this was due to a lapse in drug tests during the operators lengthy, sometimes distant deployments.
Following drug tests across SOCOM, Washington Times reports, 59 cases of use were detected in the Naval Special Warfare Command. Some were found involving SEALs, others officials wouldn’t confirm or deny. Speaking in anonymity, former operators punctuated the high intensity lives these individuals lead. They also spoke to the disappointment they feel with operatives who make decisions which bring probes. As if those who use drugs, even to cope, are turning their backs on the entire community.
Whereas some feel drug abuse among teams is a long-running virus, others were skeptical. Everyone stresses how trained, determined, and downright unique the people in special operations are. The untold levels of special selection they go through are thoroughly rigorous. Standards are through the stratosphere, and some teams even get dietitians. In an environment like that, tales of drug use surprise some former operators and their colleagues. Not because people used drugs, but because it happened repeatedly and was widespread.
CBS put the drug controversy on the record with a headline calling the drug use “staggering”. Their piece focused on the dismay of former and current operatives who remained anonymous. According to the review, the Navy’s Special Operations Command had the highest rate of drug abuse in the entire fleet.
Regardless of whether drug issues among operators is rampant, it appears to exist nonetheless. If it’s on the rise, then several factors could be at work. The simplest of which hearkens back to the Trump Administration’s use of special operations forces in 2017.
Under Trump, JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) have been involved in hard hitting raids, airstrikes, and abductions. Units in Syria are ever more involved in combat, and are now accompanied by US Marines ground-side. Throughout Africa, including well known hot spots like Somalia, operators are launching joint kill-capture operations with native troops. As renounced journalist Jeremy Scahill once said, the world is a battlefield.
The consequences of this mission uptick paints news feeds crimson as they stream from abroad. In Yemen, US Special Operations including SEALs are killing large numbers of civilians during raids including women and children. One of the more publicized raids took the life of a 6-year-old girl, numerous others, and one Navy SEAL. The young girl was the daughter of American Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, killed by US drone strike 2011. When his teenage son was killed shortly afterward by the US, no solid explanation was given.
More of al-Awlaki’s relatives were also killed in Trump’s Yemen raid, including brother-in-laws. Some of those individuals, in fact, had actually escaped previous assassination attempts. Did the president consider the toll on US troops when promising followers he’d target the families of suspected militants? PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and its effects on soldiers, didn’t stop the calls for blood. Drug abuse among special operations teams may be a consequence Trump and his following perhaps didn’t anticipate. Though reports indicate operators have tested positive, it’s unclear for what. SOCOM did, however, screen for cocaine, MDMA, cannabis, methamphetamine, and heroin.
As customary with special operations, we should have a minimum expectation for transparency. Explaining how cavernous the corridors of spec ops and intelligence squads is difficult. However, a lengthy article by The Intercept covering war crimes, mutilations, and other abuses by SEAL Team 6 found one common thread. It was expressed simply by one military source for the story, “when you win on the battlefield you don’t lose investigations.”
Think of it this way: Officially, SOCOM tested for a wide variety of substances all unique in effect and consequence. Included in the screenings were uppers and downers, things which metabolize differently in the body. Whereas cannabis can stay in the system for weeks or months, stimulants and opioids can leave within days.
That being the reality, one must wonder if SOCOM believes these violations actually occurred during distant deployments. If an operative is occupied for weeks, or months and tests positive for something which metabolizes quickly, there are two possibilities. Either the person was using on a very regular basis, or the context of the screenings isn’t being accurately portrayed.
Could the violations have occurred while they were on home, or on bases? As discussed in the Intercept piece, what measures were taken to contain the issue? If people are caught, will they be actually punished? What’s punishment for a unit worshiped by a country as hero’s?