October 6, 2004
The latest in the war over soldiers use of the internet is BeerforSoldiers.com, one of several recent sites that have drawn fire from the lawyers. This is not the first time that efforts to raise funds to reward/assist fighting men via the internet has turned into a controversy. BooksforSoldiers.com has drawn less controversy, while AdoptASniper.org has tried to get gear to snipers operating in Iraq, while TakeOnefortheCountry.com was intended to allow soldiers and other military personnel deploying to have some companionship before they deployed. For example, TakeOnefortheCountry.com initially generated some discussion on blogs, and that led to more unfavorable attention. The site is apparently down as of this writing.
This is due to two reasons. First, there is the fact that in Iraq (as in Saudi Arabia), alcohol is not permitted due to local sensitivities. The prohibition on alcohol helps keep the troops, well, sober (which is important in a country with an insurgency going on). It also avoids a lot of behavioral problems. These considerations are probably the primary reason. Second, there are long-standing rules on accepting gifts. The rules are on the DODs website (all 14 pages, if you print it out). Among famous people who have dealt with the gift rules are Secretary of State Colin Powell (recounting the gift of a shotgun) and Oliver North (who accepted a security fence after he was threatened by terrorist Abu Nidal).
The highlights of the gift restrictions:
* No gift may exceed $20.
* The total amount for gifts cannot exceed $50 in a calendar year.
* No gift can be accepted from a person who is seeking official action from the government agency, conducts activities regulated by the agency, or who does business or seeks to do business with an agency. This last condition usually covers the military.
These regulations often have the troops grumbling. In the case of BeerforSoldiers.com, the following statement was posted on the website:
We would still love for you to buy us a beer but the legal folks say you can't. While the lawyers have put a damper on at least one effort, others exist, and are listed (with links below). Harold C. Hutchison (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Adopt a Sniper
Books for Soldiers:
DOD Gift Regulations: