We were not always happy with Ambassador Crocker’s often glass is full assessment of what was going on in Afghanistan when he was the Ambassador there, but the following news is not one we were hoping to read on his second post-retirement.
KXLY.com of Spokane, Washington (h/t to The Cable’s Josh Rogin) reported that Ambassador Ryan Crocker was arrested at 2:05 in the afternoon on August 14 by the Washington State Patrol for hit-and-run and driving under the influence in Spokane Valley. The report cited the State Patrol saying that Ambassador Crocker crossed two lanes of traffic, clipped a semi and damaged the passenger side of the Ford Mustang he was driving. He was pulled over, taken into custody and transported to the Spokane Valley Precinct where he received a sobriety test. He reportedly had a .16 BAC (blood alcohol concentration) on one test, twice the legal limit in Washington State. Another test reportedly indicated a .152 BAC.
“It was fairly obvious that Mr. Crocker was highly intoxicated ,” Briggs [Washington State Patrol Trooper] said, adding that the arresting trooper said that Crocker was very cooperative throughout the incident.
The State Patrol believes he was intoxicated by alcohol, not prescription drugs, due to odor and the high blood alcohol count. The WSP added Thursday there is no way Crocker could have crossed two lanes of traffic, hit the semi and continued to drive without knowing it.
On Aug. 15, the day following his arrest, Crocker pled not guilty to the hit and run and DUI charges. Both charges carried a $1,000 bail.
His next court appearance is scheduled for September 12.
Read in full here.
Just a day before this incident, Yale News reported that Ambassador Crocker has been named Yale’s first Kissinger Senior Fellow at the Johnson Center for the Study of American Diplomacy and was scheduled to teach both undergraduate and graduate students during the 2012-2013 academic year.
In his long career with the State Department, Ambassador Crocker served as ambassador six times. He was the United States Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2011 to July 2012. He was also previously United States Ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009, to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007, to Syria from 1998 to 2001, to Kuwait from 1994 to 1997, and to Lebanon from 1990 to 1993.
Of course, prior to becoming ambassador he served in a host of other places like Qatar and Iraq. In 2003, he was also a political officer at the US Embassy in Lebanon when it was hit by a suicide car bomb. A total of 63 people were killed in the bombing: 32 Lebanese employees, 17 Americans, and 14 visitors and passersby.
Almost all mention of Ambassador Crocker’s name also mentions some of the most dangerous hotspots where he served since joining the Foreign Service in the early 1970’s. We don’t stop and pause often enough to ask if we can send our diplomats to all these dangerous places in the world over and over and over again without any personal consequences on their part. What part of themselves did they lost in Beirut or Peshawar? We never really ask and they did not tell, except sometimes, decades later.
Kristin K. Loken was a Foreign Service officer with USAID who worked at the US Embassy in San Salvador for two years in the late 1970s during El Salvador’s brutal civil war was later diagnosed with “post-traumatic shock syndrome,” (the term used for PTSD in the early 1980s):
“I went to my boss and told her I thought I was going through some postwar emotional problems and asked if the State Department or USAID had some counseling services available. She said she was sympathetic but thought senior people would probably frown on my having emotional problems, and advised that disclosing my condition might negatively affect my eventual tenuring with USAID. So it would be best to keep a “stiff upper lip.” Her advice was to see a private therapist, for which she would give me as much administrative leave as I needed.”
In her 2008 FSJ article on PTSD (Not Only for Combat Veterans (p.42)), she writes about subsequently working on the Lebanon program and the 1983 US Embassy Beirut bombing:
In April 1983, I had just left the city and arrived back in the U.S. when the embassy was blown up. In the bombing, I lost my mission director, Bill Mc-Intyre, our Lebanese secretary and many other colleagues and good friends with whom I had worked for the last year.
I noticed that many of the symptoms of the previous PTSD episode returned at this time, but I felt that if I were patient, they would pass as they had the first time.
More than two decades after I first experienced PTSD, the symptoms have for the most part passed — except when I am overcome by exhaustion, physical pain, illness or stress. Then I can feel myself slipping back into a bad place.
We cannot presume to know what is ailing Ambassador Crocker or if he has been screened for PTSD. We can only hope that he gets better. An unnamed official told CNN that “the serious health problem he had in Iraq came back, so he is forced to leave a year early for genuinely serious health reasons.” The State Department Spokesman also confirmed this to the press last May without additional details when news first broke that Ambassador Crocker is stepping down from his post at the US Embassy in Kabul.
We note that Ambassador Crocker was reportedly arrested at 2:05 p.m. with a .16 BAC, twice the legal limit in Washington State. USVA’s PTSD page notes that PTSD and alcohol use problems are often found together. Below is a a description of what happens when an individual has a BAC of between .12 to .15:
.12-.15 BAC = Vomiting usually occurs, unless this level is reached slowly or a person has developed a tolerance to alcohol. Drinkers are drowsy.
Drinkers display emotional instability, loss of critical judgment, impairment of perception, memory, and comprehension.
Lack of sensor-motor coordination and impaired balance are typical. Decreased sensory responses and increased reaction times develop. The vision is significantly impaired, including limited ability to see detail, peripheral vision, and slower glare recovery.
Here are other important details on PTSD and alcohol use from USVA:
- Having PTSD also increases the risk that an individual will develop a drinking problem.
- Up to three quarters of those who have survived abusive or violent trauma report drinking problems.
- Up to a third of those who survive traumatic accidents, illness, or disasters report drinking problems.
- Alcohol problems are more common for survivors who have ongoing health problems or pain.
- Sixty to eighty percent of Vietnam Veterans seeking PTSD treatment have alcohol use problems.
We don’t know that we’ll hear from Ambassador Crocker, himself. But we hope he speaks out.
In any case, when my best friend in the Foreign Service retired, he got a signed certificate from the Secretary and once or twice a year, he gets a statement of pay from some office at State and that’s about it. He gets more correspondence on military news, pay, benefits, etc. from the U.S. Armed Forces from where he retired prior to joining the State Department.
What support can Ambassador Crocker expect from the State Department?
We’ll shortly find out.
Update: Seattle’s kirotv.com covers this here. CNN is reporting that he was charged, car impounded then released on his own recognizance. According to CNN conditions of his bail, as outlined August 15, include “refraining from committing any crimes and consuming alcohol or drugs except as prescribed by a doctor, the court docket states. Crocker was also ordered to go to a drug testing office within 24 hours and undergo alcohol testing twice a month.”
- Former Ambassador Ryan Crocker Arrested in DUI (nytimes.com)
- Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan arrested for DUI in Spokane Valley (king5.com)
- Ex-U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan arrested (cbsnews.com)
- Ambassador Crocker Arrested for DUI, Hit and Run (theatlanticwire.com)
- Crocker charged with drunk hit-and-run (cnn.com)