In War and Alcohol
March 13, 2007 7:45 AM   Subscribe

A war on alcohol in the US Military. This is supposed to be a dry war.
posted by Gnostic Novelist (31 comments total)
Weird that they have criminalized their own so readily. In the years before the invasion, more so before the first Gulf War, Baghdad was a notorious party city with alcohol readily available. Some traditional sufi sheikhs I know say the people there are being punished now for neglecting their religion for so long.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:56 AM on March 13, 2007

A marine I know was demoted in rank for running a pretty extensive underground network of alcohol procurement. His story is detailed in this book: Blood Stripes.
posted by mattbucher at 8:08 AM on March 13, 2007

Some Army medics have been known to fill intravenous fluid bags with vodka, Army officers said.

Geez, don't screw that up. Though being fed an entire bag on alcohol intravenously would be a heck of a way to go.
posted by GuyZero at 8:24 AM on March 13, 2007

Dude, "That Guy" is an "Army of Just One More", "Drinking All that He Can Drink", "Taking an Edge off Life" and "Doing More Shots by 8 a.m. than Most People Do All Day".
posted by cog_nate at 8:25 AM on March 13, 2007

Temper fi?
posted by cortex at 8:30 AM on March 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

The article's worth reading just for this.
posted by nevercalm at 8:33 AM on March 13, 2007

There is nothing like a cold beer after a hot day ah killin'.
posted by MapGuy at 8:35 AM on March 13, 2007

No, Semper Fighting Cock.
posted by cog_nate at 8:44 AM on March 13, 2007

I am beginning to think that the only thing that might have saved my son's life, the only thing that might save the lives of other soldiers in Robert's position, is mandatory counseling for everyone who returns from deployment to any combat zone: 1 hour/week, private session, everyone...privates to generals.
posted by taosbat at 8:49 AM on March 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

Sorry, I meant to reference these paragraphs from the lead link:

But at a time when the military is fighting two major ground wars, the often serious consequences of heavy drinking has emerged with increasing clarity as more troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other mental health problems, military officials and mental health experts said.

“I think the real story here is in the suicide and stress, and the drinking is just a symptom of it,” said Charles P. O’Brien, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine who served as a Navy doctor during the Vietnam War. There is a high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder among Iraq veterans, he said, adding that “there’s been a lot of suicide in the active-duty servicemen.”

posted by taosbat at 8:58 AM on March 13, 2007

Well, at least they're fighting for my right to drink. Or something.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:00 AM on March 13, 2007

You know what might raise awareness of the toll taken on soldiers is a nationwide tavern tour. Soldiers can drink with the common man, get to know him, then, when a car backfires or something, reflexively kill the common man.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 9:17 AM on March 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

When I was deployed to the Persian Gulf on an Aircraft Carrier, bringing alcohol on board was a HUGE no-no. Throughout cruise, I always wondered why the Tomcat guys were always coming into the galley late at night filling up those 'Big Gulp' coffee mugs with Coca-Cola. I naively wondered 'how the hell can they sleep after drinking all that caffiene?'

It took me a good 5 months to be informed / figure out that they were getting sloshed every night from liquor mailed to them from home.
posted by matty at 9:44 AM on March 13, 2007

taosbat, if you'd mentioned previously about Robert, I missed it, and I'm doubly sorry. In addition to you/him, I already knew of two KIA and one WIA each one person removed from me in just the last fourteen months or so.

You're right about the counseling, although I wonder what the sessions might be like for O-6s and above -- probably a whole different thing from the others. The military and Veteran's Administration are having to learn all over again some stuff I thought it had started to learn toward the end of Vietnam but seems to have institutionally forgotten to whatever degree they knew.

I can appreciate what the military's motivations are for trying to take away alcohol, but there sure needs to be something as an outlet. Except under fairly unusual circumstances, as an ACDU you can't easily get laid and/or otherwise let your metaphorical hair down. Even during the Cold War, the stress and boredom coupled with nitpicking discipline and bull$shit rules was enough to drive people to drink, figuratively and literally, and alcohol seemed to be the one socially acceptable self-administered medication. Now, with the current unpleasantness, the stressors have been ratcheted way up and they want to crack down on the booze.

Back when the US Navy was oil-fired steam boilers, there was lotsa engine-room heat and out-of-the-way places for making raisin jack. I wonder how they do that aboard gas-turbine-driven "small boys"?
posted by pax digita at 9:47 AM on March 13, 2007

I would just like to applaud the linking of one of my favoritest places on the inter-tubes, modern drunkard magazine. I regularly *weep* with mirth while reading their articles.
posted by Parannoyed at 9:50 AM on March 13, 2007

WTF? The poor bastards are out there dying for your stupid imperial ambitions, the least you could do is let them have a drink.

C'mon yanks! Theres got to be magnetic ribbons for this or something.
posted by Artw at 11:22 AM on March 13, 2007

Let me get this straight: Neither hot gay sex, nor martinis? What are these guys supposed to do for fun?
posted by Mister_A at 12:26 PM on March 13, 2007

"No soldier can fight unless he is properly fed on beef and beer."
-John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough

Make sure that the beer - four pints a week - goes to the troops under fire before any of the parties in the rear get a drop."
-Winston Churchill to his Secretary of War, 1944
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 12:28 PM on March 13, 2007

From the second link: For that reason I would like to imagine that with every defiant sip of Iraqi liquor I am striking a blow for freedom in this benighted country.

This made me chuckle. I get that drunk kids with guns = bad. But you have got to give them their down time. They can't be on 27/7, it's a fast track to driving them all insane. But then, that would be in line with how we are treating them already. Use them till the break. Then recruit more.

Obviously the other nations military forces in the area have figured out a way to make alcohol among the troops work.
posted by quin at 12:50 PM on March 13, 2007

It's pretty clear that an element of the US command is made up of moralizing ninnies. Just look at Pace's idiotic comments. Maybe you should make winning the war your priority, asshole. Consider the idea, at least.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:00 PM on March 13, 2007

Thank you, pax digita. I haven't said much about it. I posted an AskMe 10 days ago but I haven't really had the heart to follow up on it yet. Robert died last Thanksgiving and I'm still pretty raw.

I think the only way to get past the stigma of counseling, etc., in the military is to just make them all get counseling...paid for, but not provided directly by, the military.
posted by taosbat at 1:09 PM on March 13, 2007

From mr_roboto's link:

"I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is okay to be immoral in any way."
- Marine Gen. Peter Pace

Considering the state of our country, our military and this war, this statement just pegged then blew out my irony meter.

/shakes broken box. Damn it, that was an expensive one too.
posted by quin at 1:10 PM on March 13, 2007

clearly prohibition doesn't work in any form

unfortunately this policy is hurting those guys who want to wind down with a beer or 2 just as much as the people diving into the bottle - because they are still getting the pain the the juice somehow
posted by evilelvis at 1:40 PM on March 13, 2007

clearly prohibition doesn't work in any form

Actually, i think prohibition works pretty damn well in a setting where people give up all kinds of personal freedoms by joining. Whether it's a smart or useful idea is another issue.

Also, everyone knows being "that guy" means wearing the t-shirt of the band you're going to see to the concert.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:47 PM on March 13, 2007

I still think the most poignant moment in A Farewell to Arms is when the narrator talks about how drunk they had to get before going over the wall.

Or was that For Whom the Bell Tolls?
posted by bardic at 2:38 PM on March 13, 2007

And in addition to getting paid ten times as much, why the hell would you serve as a grunt when you could work for a mercenary outfit like Blackwater? I doubt those guys are teetotalers.
posted by bardic at 2:39 PM on March 13, 2007

Going on a (slight) derail here: Right now, several tens of thousands of soldiers from all over NATO are involved in an operation in a country (Afghanistan) that is home to 90% of the world's opium production. Considering how well things went re. drug addictions in Indochina, I must wonder how they manage to keep a lid on it in Afghanistan...
(Answer: the probably don't...)
posted by Skeptic at 4:39 PM on March 13, 2007

I have a good friend who was conscripted into the Australian army during the Vietnam War. He tells stories about how, one day a week, if you obtained more than a certain quantity of beer, you didn't have to pay for it. It was an incentive for the grunts to enjoy themselves and not get so angry at the officers.

As a driver with access to a dump truck, a supply of ice and unlimited beer, he maintains he drive the largest esky^ in the world to the beach once a week to get shitfaced and race stolen american trucks.
posted by Jerub at 5:18 PM on March 13, 2007

If the US military is at war with alcohol, it is at war with itself.
posted by telstar at 5:19 PM on March 13, 2007

When I was in the Navy, the alcohol problem I witnessed seemed, to me, to be mainly about unhappy guys drinking alcohol and getting drunk (out of control anger) when what they really wanted was to smoke a nice doob and relax. But there was no war at the time, and the herb was the favorite of the times (mid 70's).

I can't help but wonder whether they'd be better served if they could have a beer or two in the appropriate time, rather than having to circumvent regulations to get liquor. But I can make no pretense to understanding the military as it is today, or the environment in which they operate. Perhaps it's still true, that they'd rather have a nice doob and relax awhile.

However, we're talking about an illegal war being run by those whose interest is not in the troops nor in anything recognizable as "winning" the war.
posted by Goofyy at 2:45 AM on March 14, 2007

And it's not like they can go to a town nearby to blow off steam or go out at night--they can't leave the bases in Iraq (in Afghanistan probably too)
posted by amberglow at 3:54 PM on March 16, 2007

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