Methamphetamine Driven Combat Operations
Based on combat observations and medical studies by the US and British military
it is becoming apparent that methamphetamine use among the terrorist population
is on a dramatic increase. Used as a strategic tool methamphetamine offers those
in the Iraqi Area of Operations a whole new trend of issues that compromise the
safety of those combating terrorism. Whether operating as a contractor or a
soldier the dangers associated with methamphetamine use among those you are
fighting need to be addressed.
First reports of the drug appear to have come out of the Basra area. Known as
pinkies the stimulant was in the form of a tablet.
Stimulants in the combat zone are nothing new. The fact that we are encountering
them in the War on Terror should not surprise us in the least. The Germans
used methamphetamine during World War II. We all heard of the blitzkrieg
conducted by German forces during the early days of the war. German soldiers
would march for days taking up large pieces of land and conquering everything in
their wake. Everyone thought that the German soldier was some sort of super
soldier that could not be stopped. They marched, fought and destroyed with
little food or rest.
The fact of the matter is that the soldiers were not super at all. Officers
were handing out stimulants (most notably methamphetamine) prior to operations.
While under the influence of meth the soldier required very little sleep and
minimal food (stimulants also act as appetite suppressants).
The Japanese also gave its Kamikaze pilots
stimulants prior to their suicidal flights. The commanders certainly wanted
these guys feeling ten feet tall and bullet proof when taking off from the
runway toward their targets. Commanders could arrange and even order the
suicidal attacks, but they needed an insurance policy to make sure the pilots
completed the kamikaze operations. It apparently worked. Take fanatical
ideations and offer the first time high of a powerful stimulant and you have
deadly combination for all involved.
The American military has also dabbled in
the use of stimulants to keep troops alert and combat ready. My inclination is
that the side effects out weigh any perceived advantages.
People under the influence of
methamphetamine can behave in a manner that is odd, even under combat
applications. Reports coming in are stating that multiple shots are being
required to bring down the person under the influence of meth. It is also being
noted that those using meth during a battle are taking ridiculously errant
risks, which doesnt make sense to someone who has the standard military are
fighting mindset. An example of this is a terrorist standing in the middle of
the road taking shots at an entrenched combat effect squad of military
personnel. What may be construed of fanaticism may just as well be a meth driven
high or a combination of both. The results and consequences might be the same,
but the motivation may be different. Either way if the reckless move of
standing in the middle of the street results in the discharging of their weapon
it still may result in friendly injury and death and thus an effective result
for the bad guys.
On the tactical end of the phenomenon the
soldier / operator must be very careful and not underestimate the possible
combat effectiveness of meth in a gunfight. Motivation and / or training are
what drives a battle whether on the streets of Indianapolis or the alleys of
Baghdad. American police officers have been dealing with this drug for a long
time and we respect its effects on the user. Tactics and training are sometimes
the only thing that saves a police officers life when confronted with someone
under the influence of meth. But first they have to recognize what they are
dealing with and now so does the soldier / operator / contractor operating
It is important to understand this drug in
order to fight against it and those under its influence. It is also important to
know that the introduction of methamphetamine into a group of individuals also
offers a strength and weakness that can be recognized exposed thus acted upon.
The leaders of fanatical groups may very
well have already recognized the recruiting psychology and the advantages of
using meth to control the base of their fighting force. American drug dealers
have been using this method for years. If they control the drug distribution
they control the group using it. The question is how long can they control it.
Obviously, any organized group that we are fighting in the War on Terror has a
common ideology extremism. The early introduction of a drug like
methamphetamine may in the beginning give them another common ideation to count
on each other with. But addiction and the long term physical and mental effects
can be unpredictable.
Terror group leaders have probably learned
that they have a window to control their people with meth and get as much use as
possible out of them before throwing them into an act that like a suicide /
homicide bombing mission as addiction starts to take over. Meth will eventually
deteriorate the mental and physical well being of any user. This can be a risk
on any group that relies on orders being followed and fanatical acts being
committed. As the addiction takes over loyalty may to the drug and way the
On the reverse side of this concept meth
can be used to establish courage for a first user to commit a suicide / homicide
action. It is possible they will more than likely feel invincible to this world
and gladly engage in an act that they may be originally hesitant to do. One
distinct advantage is powerful stimulants tend to increases a persons imprinted
thought pattern. If they hate someone or something before ingestion. They may
rage it or them after the drugs have introduced to their system. If they feel
they are going to paradise prior to ingestion they may be certain of it after
they take ingest the drug.
I would be curious to find out how many
suicide / homicide bombers got cold feet and never continued with their course
of action. The danger of a drug like methamphetamine may override any cold feet
they would normally be inclined to experience. Thus, this makes them a even
likely to go through with their mission and detonate the bomb.
However, the drug has its obvious demons.
Methamphetamine is one of the few illicit drugs that is capable of changing the
motives of a person even a religious fanatic / extremist. A person with
fanatical ideas can be quickly overcome by the addiction of meth just as easily
as an American youth. Motivation of the terrorist can (I am hesitant to say
will) transfer from their religious extremist ideations to full commitment to
the drug and getting more of it. Period. Everything other than methamphetamine
may take a back seat.
Lets look at a textbook definition of methamphetamine:
Methamphetamine is a powerful synthetic stimulant that increases the
bodys metabolism and causes the user to experience euphoria, increased
alertness, the sense of increased energy and well -being.
Methamphetamine literally overrides the body natural capability to govern
rational thought and action. It also is capable of overtaking the bodies natural
defense system to save itself. Meth takes over two major systems of the human
body the nervous system and the pulmonary. Someone who is shot while under the
influence of meth may bleed out faster due to the elevated heart rate and blood
pressure. It also can override the bodys natural defense mechanism to stay
alive. However, having said that overriding may very well leave them effective
in a combat situation as they are dying. How many times have we heard the guy
kept shooting even after I hit him several times in the chest with my rounds
just wouldnt go down. Obviously a person who remains combat effective even
after being engaged and shot continues to be a threat.
A disruption of the nervous system is
going to be the quickest way to end the threat of someone under the influence of
methamphetamine who is engaging you. If nerve impulses to the trigger finger
cannot make it there, the weapon obviously cannot be fired.
Financial gain for some has tremendous
potential in the war zone. Somebody has to supply this stuff to others and money
is always going to exchange hands. Illicit drugs, like methamphetamine, are
bulky and they must be transported from one place to another. This makes those
involved in its distribution vulnerable. They cannot send it through the
inter-net or beam it through the air. There is one thing that a drug deal
requires trust believe it or not. We always hear about drug deals going bad and
someone getting killed. It is in fact one of the biggest risk we take in police
work conducting undercover operations. However, keep in mind that for every drug
deal that goes wrong many more go without notice. That is because the trust
factor was successful. This allows a tiny open angle for success counter drug
operation, which in turn can lead to counter terrorism operations. Following the
drugs as well as following the money may be able lead to success military or
police actions on the front in the War on Terror.
As we are seeing in Afghanistan the sales
of illicit drugs can fuel the flames of terrorism and 4th Generation types of
conflicts. However, there are some distinct differences between the two areas.
Afghanistan has been cultivating the poppy plant for generations they are good
at it and their precursor source is abundant in the country. I can only assume
that at this point the precursor for methamphetamine pseudoephdrine is not
being mass-produced in Iraq. The drug must come into the country. In Afghanistan
the poppy is being exported. In Iraq the stimulants are being imported as
opposed to exported. This may change in the future, which is why someone must
get a grip on it now. If a distribution foothold is established we may quickly
see the export of drugs like methamphetamine come out of Iraq and to other
countries like the United States. This is not out of the question, as we all
know in American law enforcement a drug like methamphetamine is easy to produce.
The operational side of is production dictates that its clandestine labs can
produce unlimited amounts of the drug when all supplies are available and they
can be mobile or static, depending on the enforcement levels raised against it.
Will the stimulant problem in Iraq be a
problem for us in the future? We are already seeing it being used as a tool
during firefights and bombings. Whether it expands from there only time will
tell if left unchecked.
About the Author
Greg Ferency has been a police officer for the Terre Haute Police Department
(Indiana). His assignments have included a county-wide Drug Task Force. He has
extensive experience in drug related crimes as both an investigator and
undercover officer. Greg Ferency has specialized training and experience in
methamphetamine related investigations. He has certifications from the DEA
Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement Team in the area of Basic, Site Safety and
Tactical Operations. Greg has been at the scene of over 550 methamphetamine lab
scenes as both lead investigator and site safety officer since 1999. He is a
court certified expert in methamphetamine and its associated clandestine labs.
Greg has trained law enforcement, civilian groups, educational system employees,
medical staff and correctional personnel in methamphetamine and other drug
related topics. Greg Ferency is the author of
Narc Ops: A Look Inside Drug Enforcement. And, he is the
editor of SWAT Digest. Greg can be reached at