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1.24.03
Politics and Economy:
Bill Moyers on Drugs and Modern War


As Doris Lessing talked about the horrors of war, I thought of those two American pilots facing a possible court martial right now for mistakenly killing four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan last year.

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Bill Moyers
Bill Moyers
on Drugs and Modern War

From an altitude of some 10,000 feet they fired without being certain the movement on the ground was the enemy. So now they stand accused of "reckless disregard" of orders.

I can only imagine what it's like to be sent on such an assignment in the first place — to kill people from afar, not knowing who they are. Then, to learn you have made such a mistake. Those of us who have never been there are fortunate we're not so tested.

The hearings into how this happened have revealed that American pilots routinely use drugs to keep them awake on combat missions. "Go-go" pills, they're called, and they enable pilots to fly and fight beyond normal hours. When they return, they're provided "no-go" pills — tranquilizers, to induce the sleep lost on duty. It's an old practice, dating back to World War II and continued through Korea, Vietnam, and the first Gulf War ten years ago.

Drugs, it seems, are the hidden weapon of modern war. Their use in Vietnam was so rampant, many soldiers came home addicted. Drugs had helped them fight the enemy and the depression that often is unseen visitor of the killing field. But when those addicted came home, they were largely on their own; our government, whether Democrat or Republican, considered waging a war on drugs more important than helping addicted people recover.

It's just as true today, and we have to wonder what it says about the conscience of a nation that will feed its soldiers drugs to help them fight, and then, leave them to a private hell where they must fight alone.

That's it for this week.

What do you think? I'll be reading your messages on pbs.org.

For now, I'm Bill Moyers.

Tell us what you think.

Moyers Talks with Doris Lessing

Focus on Iraq

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