Murphy's Law: May 10, 2004


Despite being forbidden alcoholic beverages by their own commanders, and local customs, soldiers are opening and operating bars, and enjoying cold beer in, Iraq. And they are getting away with it.

Since the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Defense has forbidden alcoholic beverages for troops in combat zones. While this has reduced drunkenness and the resulting discipline problems, it has not helped morale much. In Iraq, the troops have found a way around the problem. Since most troops are accustomed to drinking in a saloon, it occurred to soldiers that it was possible to have a bar and beer, without having alcohol. Thus they could at least have the relaxing atmosphere. They also found local Moslems who helped them get beer legally. 

Islam forbids drinking alcohol under any circumstances, and one of the consequences of that is the popularity of non-alcoholic beer in the Middle East. Many Moslems quaff the real stuff anyway, but they generally do so in private. The ability to drink the non-alcoholic stuff in public, while enjoying the company of friends, has become popular. This sort of thing is actually encouraged by Islamic conservatives, because for centuries they have had to tolerate local Christians who could, according to their religious customs, dink alcohol (and often legally produce and sell alcoholic beverages as well.) While Moslems were not supposed to purchase booze from the local Christians, they did so anyway, and this did little to improve relations between Christians and the Islamic purists. 

So soldiers are, with the approval of their commanders, setting up improvised saloons. Here, the troops can go to relax, unwind and have a cold beer. All legal, not offensive to the local Moslems, and theres no hangover. Not much of a buzz either, but you can get plenty of excitement  the next time you go out on patrol or do a convoy run down the MSR (main supply route) to Kuwait. 


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