Smoking in the Military

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Tiny bit of perspective is needed for the Sunday Herald account of U.S troops roughing up captured Iraqis. When troops "smoke a PUC"—person under control—they are reaching back to basic training tactics still in use today:

After finishing the bayonet course, [Pvt. Craig John] Politowicz and his fellow trainees resumed discussing the "smoking" their platoon had received the previous evening when prohibited items were found in the barracks.

"Smoking" means exercising the privates to exhaustion. Sometimes drill sergeants make them do a kind of agonizingly slow push-up in which they must hold themselves alternately in the "up" and then the "down" position.

Perhaps this also violates the Geneva Convention. But there is little doubt that U.S. troops really do not know how to handle the captives they take in Iraq and no one much seems to want to fix that.

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  1. I don’t know how “smoking” (also known as “thrashing” or “getting quarterdecked”) relates to the Geneva Conventions, but this practice is extremely common and not just at bootcamp.

    Because the military has discouraged physically striking other members to settle disputes, a lot of times this sort of abuse will take place. A sergeant who wants to penalize a lesser-ranking member will make him do hours of this sort of exhausting exercise or something equally sadistic (I’ve seen people send all day digging a tank trap with an e-tool just to fill it back in as soon as they were done). I’ve also experienced my fair share of this sort of thing.

    Which is probably why they use this tactic to abuse prisoners. At boot camp, the line between imposing order and outright abuse is completely blurred. They are only supposed to make you thrash yourself for no more than 15 minutes, no more than 3 times a day. Yeah right. There were times where we spent ALL DAY “in the pit” (a sand pit full of insects and pain) and didn’t train at all. The drill instructors (drill INSTRUCTORS in the Marines; drill SERGEANTS in the Army) also tend to get creative with their discipline and that’s where it breaks down into hazing.

    It’s only natural that this method of discipline was used as a means of torture. The distinction isn’t that strong and the relationship in the minds of Marines and soldiers is undeniable.

  2. “Smoking” means exercising the privates to exhaustion.

    Is that what people are calling it now?

  3. And I know this will sound perfectly barbaric to most people, but I like the practice of thrashing and I also think there should be more leniency in allowing members to physically settle disputes.

    In 7 years of service, that was the only reliable method I ever saw.

    All right, I’m ready to be called a barbarian.

  4. It was a sad day when they outlawed dueling.

  5. Join the club.

  6. Conan, you think you’ve got it bad?

  7. Bama,
    Are you referring to this practice within the military or directed at prisoners?

  8. Not a Bama

    It is one thing when such things are practiced by willing members within an institution and another when outsiders (prisoners) are subjected to it.

    I’m sure that you know this but theCoach’s comment indicates that I was not the only one who found you didn’t make that clear.

  9. Speaking of exercising the privates to exhaustion, my drill instructors at Parris Island were fond of ordering a certain number of “bends and thrusts” as punishment.
    And one of our cadence choruses to double-time to was, “One, two, three, four; I love the Marine Corps.”
    Brain-washed us real good!

  10. I apologize for the confusion.

    I at no point condone the practice on Iraqi prisoners. Any discipline tactic that originates in boot camp has no place in the treatment on prisoners, enemy combatants or otherwise.

    That said, I do believe there is a much larger role for this (or other types of physical punishment) within the military itself.

    Hope that clears it up.

  11. Prisoners doing pushups? ::GASP!!:: The audacity!! To the guillotine with those GIs!!

  12. Great Ape,

    Let me ASSURE you that getting thrashed is categorically much worse than “prisoners doing pushups.”

    Ruthless, do you agree with me or was my experience particularly hellish?

  13. At least you hung out with that babe Ariel!

  14. Not a Bama,
    Were you in the remedial platoon at boot camp?

    Allow me to go on to say that somewhere there should be an S.O.P. that would clearly distinguish between recruits at boot camp and P.O.W.’s.

  15. Damn, how many jarheads to we have here? If nothing else, Not a Bama’s first post brought back memories.
    By the way -0811, Bravo Battery, 1/10, 97-01, Camp LeJeune. Just on the off chance that someone was around at the same time.

  16. It is one thing when such things are practiced by willing members within an institution and another when outsiders (prisoners) are subjected to it.

    Just curious: is it still “one [permissible] thing” when the soldiers are draftees?

  17. exercising the privates to exhaustion

    Yeah, I had to reread that several times myself, before it started making (more) sense.

  18. U.S. troops really do not know how to handle the captives they take in Iraq and no one much seems to want to fix that.

    But they’ll be better at dealing with bird-flu sufferers.

  19. Good point, RC.

    It’s also worth asking how willing guys who must stay in till the end of their contracts are, especially at a time when stop-loss is in effect.

  20. Yes, good point, RC. But I’ll take it a little further. Do most voluntary recruits really have any idea what they’re getting themselves into? Is it really a valid execution of “contract” when they don’t? I’m not saying they shouldn’t do that stuff to recruits, I know they gotta be indoctrinated into the idea of what war is about. But I can understand that many of them might get the idea that it’s not so bad to perpetrate on POW’s when it was done to them without it ever really having been explained to them what they would be put through in basic training. Not to justify it for one second, just saying….

  21. I’m a libertarian, but you all sound like a bunch of p**sies who don’t know sh*t about how the military works.

  22. jack – Those two phrases of you sentence create a non sequitur.

  23. Let’s try that again. The two phrases of your sentence create a non sequitur.

  24. And jack seems like a pussy for putting asterisks in his swear words. I would think a libertarian would be for free speech and whatnot. Leave the PC bullshit to joe. 🙂

    Also, calling people pussies for not knowing shit about something, and then failing to help educate the ignorant raises my trollometer.

  25. What’s with all those people who feel the need to loudly identify themselves as libertarians (or sorta-libertarian), but can be counted on to only either insult libertarians or argue in favor of various state actions?

    Is this unique, or do certain leftie sites get “I’m a communist, but you’re all pinko assholes,” posts? Or “I’m closest to communism in my political beliefs, but you communists are all evil assholes. Also, every policy suggestion you make is wrong,” posts? Or even “Real communists support cuts on capital gains taxes – I’m cancelling my subscription!” posts?

  26. Re: Comment by: TheDumbFish at October 5, 2005 03:18 PM

    Standing ovation here.

  27. Ruthless,

    I wasn’t in the remedial platoon (2074 Echo company 2nd battalion then fast forwarded to 1077 Alpha, 1st battalion), but the first platoon I was with was absolutely full of those “10%ers”. They made my life a living hell as you can well imagine.

    The other problem was that my sister met her future husband while I was at boot camp. No big deal, right? Wrong. He was a drill instructor on temporary leave with the Marine Corps shooting team. My sister told him where I was and he made it a point to call my instructors and tell them all sorts of lies about me. It even got to the point where he would call my squad bay and my SDI would put the phone on speaker just so my family could get a good laugh.

    I always thought I was a fuck-up at P.I. until I got off the island and my family explained “the joke” they had pulled on me courtesy my brother-in-law.

    I’m still pretty scarred from that whole experience.

  28. What’s with all those people who feel the need to loudly identify themselves as libertarians (or sorta-libertarian), but can be counted on to only either insult libertarians or argue in favor of various state actions?

    I think it was the Iraq War what confused a lot of libertarians. It was a big, unneccessary state action, but they loved it — some still do. Now its tough to know who the real libertarians are, so we self identify. Simple as that.

  29. Dave, I’m definitely not talking about libertarian hawks and doves. That’s a wholly unrelated thing, with fractures starting all the way back in September 2001.

    I’m talking about exactly the sorts of things I described above.

  30. Not a Bama –

    That was probably traumatizing to you (and wholly unfunny even now), but I have to chuckle darkly at that.

    Please forgive me.

  31. Not a Bama,
    So, roughly how long are you going to give it before you speak to your family again?

  32. I’m talking about exactly the sorts of things I described above.

    How did you determine which gov’t expenditures are consistent with being a libertarian and which are not? Was there a vote? Was this one of those things that got decided during the Cold War and can’t change now because of stare decisis or summat?

  33. Ah, Marines. I was going to join the Marines but they figured out I could read and do simple math.

    Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but during my little stint in the Infantry I was lead to believe the Military Intelligence pogues were the “go-to” folks when it came to torture. They were supposed to know how and when and why and such.
    Why aren’t they doing it? If you leave torture to an 18-year-old grunt with a case of the ass, well, God knows what’s going to happen. Someone ought to be in charge of this. Right?

    Or is my usual mindless, sunny optimism getting the better of me again?

  34. Military Intelligence pogues were the “go-to” folks when it came to torture. They were supposed to know how and when and why and such.
    Why aren’t they doing it? If you leave torture to an 18-year-old grunt with a case of the ass, well, God knows what’s going to happen. Someone ought to be in charge of this. Right?

    1. If you want to torture legally, then, yeah, one would want to follow your suggested approach.

    2. On the other hand, if you are going to torture illegally, then would you use: (a) somebody smart and educated enuf to know the treaties in this area; or (b) some 18 year old grunt who can be easily cut loose if any pictures leak? Everyone knows its Lynndie (because she has stormy eyes)!

  35. How did you determine which gov’t expenditures are consistent with being a libertarian and which are not?

    Dave, again, not talking about people differing on some or a few issues. I’m not even disputing the self-identifications (beyond hinting at my skepticism of, say people who call themselves almost libertarian but never happen to criticize government actions not taken by the Bush administration), but instead am referring to specific attitudes presented.

  36. 18 year old grunt who can be easily cut loose

    plausible deniability is key here

  37. “I’m still pretty scarred from that whole experience.”

    Not a Bama,
    Agent Orange was what scarred my mangy ass.

    … no, no, just joshin’
    Hey, let’s get together and order Johhny Clarke to execute some bends and thrusts.

  38. Or even “Real communists support cuts on capital gains taxes – I’m cancelling my subscription!” posts?

    Or, “Why don’t you so-called communists shut up before you embarrass yourselves any further”…

  39. Ahhh, the terminology changes but the end result is still…….

    you fuckin’ maggots are gonna do bends-n-thrusts forever. Or until you die. Whichever comes first.

    Actually, it prolly wouldn’t hurt to do a few of those now an again.

  40. “…bends-n-thrusts forever.”

    Well, it was squat-thrusts forever until they decided that they might be blowing up too many knees.

  41. one interesting thing i found was this police officer that hung out with us a lot. He said he wanted to become an american soldier, and we all knew that wasn’t possible. We told him there’s no way he could be an american soldier, but he wanted to hang out with us anyway. So there was this iraqi police officer running around our compound for no fucking reason, running up and down the stairs, and getting smoked by my squad just for shits and giggles, and he loved it. Of course, he got to go home afterwards. Eventually, since i treated him the worst, he got pissed off at me and challenged me to hand-to-hand combat. I beat his ass and he still kept coming back to get smoked by american soldiers. just an amusing anecdote.

    i don’t see anything wrong with doing it to prisoners. a little excercise never hurt anyone.

    “Front leaning rest position, MOVE!”

  42. “Well, it was squat-thrusts forever until they decided that they might be blowing up too many knees.”
    CharlesWT,
    There was a bar in downtown Quantico, VA, that had a display of medieval armor with appropriate medieval weapons. The sign by it said, “Unless your 782 gear looks like this, don’t talk to me about the ‘Old Corps’.”
    Was the name of the place “Diamond Lil’s”?

  43. What’s with all those people who feel the need to loudly identify themselves as libertarians (or sorta-libertarian), but can be counted on to only either insult libertarians or argue in favor of various state actions?

    I believe it’s the same as saying, “I’m about to hit you, but I’m on your side, so you can’t hit back, m’kay?”

    Less cynically, people say that when they have a non-libertarian idea and want to discuss it rather than just be called a statist bastard and otherwise ignored.

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