Reevaluating General Order 1X
Tom Ordeman, Jr.
General Order 1-X (GO-1X) was developed in the mid-1990's to govern American troops' conduct in the Balkans. Its requirements codified orders from prior operations, notably the Gulf War, and subsequently proliferated throughout the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR). After 9/11, GO-1X enforcement became ubiquitous throughout the USCENTCOM AOR. Uniformed and civilian personnel must abide by its restrictions in an effort to secure popular support through compliance with Islamic cultural norms.
With deployments to USCENTCOM projected to wane, and the joint force incorporating lessons learned from recent operations, now is the time to revisit GO-1X. What is its purpose? Has it served that purpose? Does it present opportunities for improvement?
GO-1X's initial shortfall is version control. For example, the term "General Order One" competes with General Orders for Sentries. Existing differences between the individual services' general orders notwithstanding, GO-1X's title competes with rote knowledge imparted during recruit training.
Additionally, multiple GO-1X versions exist, issued at various times by overlapping authorities. Casual web searching produces examples dating from 1996 to 2013, issued by at least six different commands. While their proscriptions are broadly similar, numerous variations and inconsistencies breed further confusion. For example, the 101st Airborne Division requires that any found currency be "collected, recorded, secured, and stored until it can be delivered to the appropriate authority". I Marine Expeditionary Force clarifies restrictions on smoking. The 3rd Infantry Division prohibits personnel from intentionally becoming non-deployable for medical reasons, causing redeployment of oneself or another soldier through pregnancy, or circumventing official channels to inform another soldier's next-of-kin of an injury or death. The latest USCENTCOM issuance, May 2013's GO-1C, omits these requirements. The potential for confusion is obvious.
GO-1C forbids personnel from: any activities related to, up to and including the consumption of, alcohol or controlled substances; exchanging local currency at unofficial exchange rates; private firearm ownership; gambling; possessing or destroying national treasures; keeping pets or mascots; photographing or videotaping detainees, casualties, sensitive equipment, or security infrastructure; possessing pornography; confiscating private property from host nation citizens; religious proselytization; or violating host nation laws.
Of these proscriptions, only those forbidding alcohol and pornography are actually USCENTCOM AOR-specific. Restrictions on controlled substances, currency, gambling, national treasures, and religious matters are USCENTCOM-relevant, but globally applicable, and either are or should be covered by existing regulations. Restrictions regarding firearms, pets, photography, videography, property, and host nation laws are universal. This arbitrary inclusion of existing regulations into GO-1X undermines those regulations' authority, and provides additional opportunities for confusion.
Reconsideration of GO-1X requires an understanding of the complexities of sharia (Islamic law).
Westerners' perception of Islam is influenced by the Judeo-Christian tradition. Thus, many see the Quran as Islam's ultimate authority, commensurate with the Bible's role in Christianity. Many overlook the Hadith and Sunna, which lack clear Christian corollaries. The Hadith (narrative) consists of statements attributed to the Prophet Mohammed, while the Sunna ("direct path") derives from records of his lifestyle. Judeo-Christian corollaries include Bible editions that render Christ's words in red ink, the Gospels' description of Christ's lifestyle, Roman Catholicism's observance of church tradition, Judaism's consultation of the Talmud, and the writings of early church fathers like Augustine. Together, the Quran, Hadith, and Sunna form the corpus of Islamic authority. Multiple versions of the Hadith and Sunna exist, and an individual collection's authority varies according to its age and proximity to the Prophet Mohammed. Early in Islamic history, the adoption of a given Hadith or Sunna collection led the ulema (Islamic jurists) to establish competing maddhabs (schools) of fiqh (jurisprudence).
Western-style pluralism is a recent novelty for Islamic audiences. "Islamism" represents the traditional view that religious and political authorities are synonymous. Thus, in the Islamic tradition, religious scholars are simultaneously legal scholars, somewhat akin to American Constitutional law experts. The challenges of applying aged legal precedents to modern cultural challenges are broadly similar. In Anglophone nations, distinct national bodies of precedential case law are founded upon English Common Law. Conversely, in the Islamic tradition, the Quran constitutes Islamic "Common Law", while the madhhabs represent "precedent"/"case law". Thus, "sharia" varies throughout the Islamic community (ummah), rather than being monolithic. Fiqh influences many aspects of a Muslim's daily life. Excluding the Sunni/Shia split, differences of fiqh caused most of Islam's ecumenical schisms. Not surprisingly, entire books have been written on this subject.
Unfortunately, the sweeping proscriptions outlined in GO-1X's various versions fail to take these intricacies into account.
GO-1X and Sharia
While many inconsistencies exist, for brevity's sake, three will be examined in detail: dietary restrictions, prohibitions against pets, and personal grooming.
GO-1X's most controversial restriction may be its alcohol moratorium. The Quran says:
O ye who believe! Strong drink and games of chance and idols and divining arrows are only an infamy of Satan's handiwork. Leave it aside in order that ye may succeed."
Some Islamic nations ban alcohol outright, while others restrict its sale to Muslims, and others are more permissive still. In most Islamic nations, expatriates typically consume more alcohol than locals. These cultural mores inform GO-1X's directive against alcohol. However, despite American enforcement, coalition partners eschew these bans. According to noted Navy SEAL Chris Kyle:
“Being an American, officially I wasn't supposed to be drinking. (And officially, I didn't.) That asinine rule only applied to U.S. servicemen. We couldn't even buy a beer. Every other member of the coalition, be they Polish or whatever, could. Fortunately, the GROM liked to share. They would also go to the duty-free shop at Baghdad airport and buy beer or whiskey or whatever the Americans working with them wanted."
In Afghanistan, German forces notably received a daily beer allowance. An American soldier notes of his French colleagues:
Many Americans have asked me, “Is it true the French served wine at dinner and had wine in their MREs?” The answer is yes and no. They not only served wine at dinner, they sometimes served it at lunch as well. The firebase I was on, which wasn’t that big, had three bars. The regular French Joes could have all the alcohol they wanted in their tents."
American authorities also forbid alcohol while ignoring other dietary restrictions. Sharia categorizes all food as halal (permissible) or haram (forbidden). Halal observance is often strict: as journalist Michael Yon observed in one Afghan village, potential food is haram unless specifically authorized by the Prophet Mohammed. The Quran specifically forbids pork:
“He hath forbidden you only carrion, and blood, and swine flesh, and that which hath been immolated to (the name of) any other than Allah. But he who is driven by necessity, neither craving nor transgressing, it is no sin for him. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."
Several madhhabs prohibit shellfish consumption; others exempt shrimp and prawns. However, since 2001, multiple MRE menus include pork, and at least one - Jambalaya - includes both pork and shellfish. In Afghanistan and Iraq, dining facilities held regular steak and lobster nights. In USCENTCOM posts where personnel can live on the local economy, pork is a popular commodity at commissaries. American troops strive to avoid exposing Muslims to haram foods - for example, by sending halal MREs to Syrian refugees in Jordan, or dropping halal rations to Afghans early in Operation Enduring Freedom. The inconsistency is obvious. Even the alcohol ban is subject to loopholes:
“As an exceptional matter to recognize special holidays, occasions, or events, the Commander, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, within the Combined Joint Operations Area Afghanistan (CJOA), has non-delegable authority to grant written, event-specific, waivers to paragraph 2(a)(1), for personnel subject to this Order. The Commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), within the CJOA, has non-delegable authority to grant waivers to paragraph 2(a)(1), for U.S. Service members and DOD civilians assigned to purely North American Treaty Organization billets (i.e., Headquarters, ISAF)."
NATO's incorrectly rendered name notwithstanding, such caveats constitute further inconsistencies. One former soldier speaking on condition of anonymity notes that, while deployed to Iraq, his unit was authorized two beers apiece on Super Bowl Sunday, only to witness the unconsumed remainder being destroyed by TCN catering staff - likely at significant taxpayer expense. Terminal Lance cartoonist Maximillian Uriarte describes a similar incident:
"I happened to be in Iraq during my second-ever Marine Corps Birthday experience... [W]e were allotted two beers each, which was pretty great considering we were in Iraq. As soon as the day came, Marines were going to the extent of taking aspirin in anticipation for the alcohol so it would have a stronger effect on them. While this isn’t recommended by most doctors, pharmaceutical labels, Corpsmen, and people with common sense; the thought of only ingesting two alcoholic beverages is just too much to handle for some."
The message is clear: alcohol consumption is an egregious affront to Islamic values, to be prevented under threat of disciplinary action, unless it takes place during the Marine Corps' birthday or the Super Bowl.
By contrast, while embedded with Omani troops during the 1970's Dhofar Rebellion, British forces were allowed alcohol. Notes retired Royal Marine Brigadier Ian Gardiner:
"Alcohol was available in much the same way as in a British officers' mess, and the routine of daily life would have been familiar to British officers serving in a hot climate at any time in the past hundred years or so... There was an acknowledged risk of overindulgence in alcohol. This did happen from time to time, and one was discouraged from taking booze back to one's room and drinking on one's own."
Like present-day Afghans, Dhofaris were conservative Muslims living in austere conditions, and initially distrustful of counterinsurgent forces. The Dhofar campaign is universally recognized as an overwhelming success - despite the alcohol consumed by British troops.
Another example is GO-1X's ban on adopting pets. While counterintuitive to Westerners, sharia looks unfavorably upon dogs. One authoritative hadith reports:
"Abu Dharr reported: The Messenger of 'Allah (may peace be upon him) said: When any one of you stands for prayer and there is a thing before him equal to the back of the saddle that covers him and in case there is not before him (a thing) equal to the back of the saddle, his prayer would be cut off by (passing of an) ass, woman, and black Dog. I said: O Abu Dharr, what feature is there in a black dog which distinguish it from the red dog and the yellow dog? He said: O, son of my brother, I asked the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) as you are asking me, and he said: The black dog is a devil."
In another respected hadith, the Prophet Mohammad states that keeping company with dogs voids some of a Muslim’s good deeds, and that they should be killed. Sharia deems dogs unclean, but mandates their humane treatment. Two ahadith relate stories of God granting forgiveness to those who offered water to thirsty dogs. In another account, the Prophet Mohammed ordered sentries posted to prevent his army from disturbing a dog and her puppies while in transit. Sharia offers provisions for working dogs, though sources disagree whether dogs may be sold. Muslims typically dislike dogs, though even this is inconsistent. Wilfred Thesiger, writing of his travels in 1940's Arabia, notes:
"We had a saluki with us... My companions said disgustedly that he was not worth his keep. They had expected great things of him. But they played with him, and allowed him to lie on their blankets and drink from our dishes, for, although dogs are unclean to Muslims, the Bedu do not count a saluki as a dog."
Michael Yon notes:
"Kuchi dogs have a reputation for ferocity and fighting. This one has slept without bothering a soul. There is something of a caste system for dogs in Afghanistan. Normal dogs often are treated badly, while the fighting and hunting dogs are treated with respect."
Conversely, Westerners love dogs, and utilize military working dogs (MWDs) in spite of Islamic sensibilities. Famous examples include a Labrador/Newfoundland cross that was recovered after a lengthy disappearance in Afghanistan, and a Belgian Malinois that reportedly participated in the bin Laden raid. US Army officer Kevin Hanrahan operates a website about MWDs, while Foreign Policy published two photo essays about MWDs after the aforementioned bin Laden raid. They work as searchers, crowd controllers, bomb and contraband detectors, and serve as valued companions. MWDs exceed tentative Islamic provisions for dogs' use as shepherds, guards, or for hunting, and cannot be fully reconciled with sharia or host nation cultural sensitivities. Retired US Army Colonel Gerald Schumacher, quoting an American contractor, notes:
"Part of my mission in Iraq includes conducting dog handler training classes at the Baghdad Police Academy. Given that the Muslim culture views dogs as filthy and unclean, it is very difficult to find Iraqis [who] will even work near them. Sometimes we can find a couple of Christian police cadets [who] don't have a problem with dogs. The Iraqis treat dogs with disdain and often kick and throw rocks at them... Most Iraqi people won't even look at a dog. I think our dogs don't much care for them either. Their hatred of dogs becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The dogs probably sense the hostility and are reacting in kind."
Quoting the same source, Schumacher notes:
"While I can't prove this, I actually think that sometimes I am a lot safer because I'm with Blek. An insurgent suicide bomber takes one look at me and Blek, and he knows that if he detonates his explosives the dog remains will be all over him. I've heard that they believe that if they die spattered with dog parts, they will be considered unclean and unacceptable to enter heaven."
Aside from MWDs, American allies sometimes keep battlefield pets. Journalist Chris Terrill deployed to Helmand Province with the Royal Marines in 2007. He highlighted two adopted local dogs' contribution to unit morale. Robert Kaplan, embedded with American Special Forces in Afghanistan in 2003, reports:
"The Lithuanians distinguished themselves by their handy decision to bring a pregnant cat along on the deployment, which produced kittens that in turn killed the field mice in their barracks."
Considering Russia's epidemiological challenges in Afghanistan and Chechnya, the Lithuanians exhibited uncommon sense borne from experience. However, American forces prohibit such practices. USCENTCOM's 2013 issuance specifically mentions rabies concerns, but nonetheless provides conditions whereby personnel in some locations can adopt pets. (During more than a decade of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, American forces have sustained only one rabies death attributed to ineffective post-exposure prophylaxis.) The potential benefits of keeping pets at the discretion (and subject to the corresponding discipline) of lower echelon leaders should be obvious.
A third example, not codified in GO-1X, represents a missed opportunity. DoD grooming regulations prohibit beards. Justifications include hygiene, professional appearance, and the ability to maintain an airtight seal when wearing gas masks. Authorized exceptions to policy occur mainly in the special operations forces (SOF). Popular satire website The Duffel Blog parodied this with such articles as "Pentagon Study Finds Beards Directly Related To Combat Effectiveness" and "Soldier Kicked Out Of Special Forces Because He Can’t Grow A Beard". However, even SOF troops' facial hair has been targeted in recent years. By contrast, beards are required by many madhhabs. One authoritative hadith states:
"Yahya related to me from Malik from Abu Bakr ibn Nafi from his father Nafi from Abdullah ibn Umar that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, ordered the moustache to be trimmed and the beard to be left."
Conservative Muslims encourage beard growth in deference to this pronouncement. Beards can also bridge broad cultural gaps between troops and local nationals. Robert Kaplan, quoting Army Special Forces Major Kevin Holiday, relates one example:
"The other day I had a meeting at the provincial governor's office... All these notables came in and rubbed their beards against mine, a sign of endearment and respect. I simply could not get my message across in these meetings unless I made some accommodations with the local culture and values. Afghanistan is not like other countries. It's a throwback. You've got to compromise and go a little native."
Other ISAF partners relax grooming standards for troops deployed to Afghanistan, particularly in austere positions. During the aforementioned Dhofar Rebellion, British troops grew beards, which facilitated relationships with local actors. Despite multiple justifications to relax grooming standards (particularly in Afghanistan), few American troops are allowed such leeway.
Several additional examples are noteworthy:
• Coalition troops eschew the restrictions associated with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
• Multiple GO-1X issuances attempt to regulate troops' sexual urges virtually out of existence. Although troops can purchase softcore men's magazines at USCENTCOM post exchanges, these can be retroactively confiscated as contraband. (These restrictions are often circumvented by deployed troops.)
• In the Islamic tradition, even wedding festivities are typically gender-segregated. By contrast, USCENTCOM installations have officially sanctioned mixed-gender dance classes and massage parlors.
• Citing proscriptions against proselytization, senior personnel have prevented subordinates from holding private religious study groups during non-work hours. In 2009, officials destroyed Dari/Pashtu-language New Testaments provided to American troops for distribution. By contrast, after a 2012 incident in which Qurans defaced by Afghan prisoners were incinerated in accordance with sharia, the ensuing host nation demonstrations compelled ISAF commander General John Allen to publicly apologize.
• GO-1C details conditions whereby personnel may visit mosques in Egypt, raising the question of why prior guidance about being "directed to do so by military authorities, required by military necessity, or as part of an official tour conducted with the approval of military authorities and the host nation" was insufficient.
• From Islam's founding, Islamic authorities granted non-Muslims (dhimmi) latitude to live in accordance with their own beliefs. Acknowledgment of this status may be more productive than mandatory adherence to an arbitrary selection of Islamic practices.
"[No new technologies or weapons systems] would have helped me in the last three years [in Iraq and Afghanistan]. But I could have used cultural training [and] language training. I could have used more products from American universities [who] understood the world does not revolve around America and [who] embrace coalitions and allies for all of the strengths that they bring us."
- General James N. Mattis, USMC
GO-1X's mandated sacrifices are premised upon the belief that limited adherence to sharia will secure the coveted human terrain and encourage good order and discipline. It is incumbent upon senior leaders to ensure that troops' sacrifices facilitate the achievement of American strategic goals.
GO-1X fails to meet these criteria. It replicates redundant directives, and appeals to oversimplified stereotypes representing a rudimentary understanding of the diverse cultures within the Islamic tradition. Recent events in Afghanistan and Iraq suggest that any contribution GO-1X adherence may have made to winning the human terrain was nullified by other events. GO-1X undermines morale and breeds contempt for host nation personnel with whom troops must cooperate. For negligible strategic benefit, GO-1X enforces unnecessary deprivations upon troops while sending the signal that their commanders do not trust them to behave like adults.
GO-1X fails to adequately serve its purpose of helping troops to secure the human terrain. To improve upon the current status quo, senior leaders should consider the following recommendations:
• USCENTCOM and other COCOMs should exercise authority for COCOM-specific guidance. Such guidance should be renamed to prevent confusion with General Orders for Sentries.
• Competing issuances should be rescinded. Should subordinate or rotational commands deem additional guidance to be necessary, COCOM-specific guidance and other existing regulations should be referenced, rather than recreated, in memoranda for the record.
• Monolithic COCOM-wide directives are unrealistic. Guidance covering both Egypt and Kazakhstan is every bit as untenable as guidance covering both Australia and Mongolia. COCOMs electing to issue AOR-specific restrictions should do so by country, rather than by region.
• Country-specific guidance should be developed by subject matter experts, such as Foreign Area Officers, Defense Language Institute personnel, or inter-agency partners. Such guidance should be subject to cost/benefit analysis, perhaps utilizing third party think tanks to ensure analytical rigor and objectivity.
• The current bans on alcohol and pornography do disproportionate harm to troops' physical and mental health, and to morale. Wherever possible, and particularly in combat zones, they should be rescinded with the expectation that abuse of either will result in appropriate disciplinary action. Restrictions must remain in place, but the outright bans have proved counter-productive.
GO-1X inconsistently implements conflicting versions of a monolithic approach to cultural sensitivity. Senior leaders should seize the opportunity presented by current strategic conditions to evaluate its effectiveness since 2001, and to capitalize upon that information pursuant to the morale and effectiveness of the joint force.
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 A former field grade officer suggests that few senior leaders would support allowing alcohol over concerns regarding good order and discipline, and the desire to display respect for local customs. The use of an unpopular and ineffective appeal to cultural sensitivity to enforce good order and discipline raises a number of concerns as to the morale and discipline of the joint force.
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 Ibid; Book 49, Number 49.23
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 An Army National Guard Medical Corps officer who deployed to Afghanistan as a defense contractor reports that he and other contractors maintained seals on their gas masks on all occasions despite having grown full beards.
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 While deployed to Kuwait as a security contractor, I grew a beard. I am not a Muslim, but I was frequently asked if I was, which allowed me to build relationships and disarm several tense situations in a manner which would not have been possible had I been clean shaven.
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 Austin, Lloyd J., III; General Order 1C; United States Central Command; MacDill Air Force Base, Florida; 21MAY2013; paragraph k.1. http://www.christianfighterpilot.com/articles/files/go1c.pdf
 Abizaid, John P.; General Order Number 1B (GO-1B); United States Central Command; MacDill AFB, Florida; 13MAR2006
 While deployed to Kuwait, one of my co-workers, who considered himself a Muslim, occasionally visited a mosque near company housing to pray. Conversely, while vacationing in Oman, I toured the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, though not on "an official tour conducted with the approval of military authorities and the host nation". By the letter of GO-1X, our organization had grounds to discipline both my co-worker and I, though neither of us violated the spirit of GO-1X.
 Herman, Michael; Intelligence Power in Peace and War; Cambridge University Press; Cambridge; 1996.
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Just a snippet from the life of a defense contractor coming out of Iraq in 2006----after a long 24 month on the interrogation front with two two week breaks--- I was finally leaving but Kuwait could only get me on a R&R flight led by a LTC in charge of the air movement headed to Dallas.
We landed in of all places Dublin to refuel---well being the only three civilians on the flight and all leaving Iraq for good we were told we could not get a pint of Guinness in the airport beer bar---we were told that if we did we would be reported and potentially not allowed back on the return flight---our response was we are no longer ID card carriers, and no longer in Iraq but in Ireland--- as we had turned our IDs in at BIAP and hey if we are kicked off the flight then the US Army will simply have to pay for our return flight anyway and we were trying to save the government return transportation costs that was part of our contracts.
We had our beer, got back on the plane, got some really bad looks thrown our way, made Dallas and headed home.
GO One was a total wasted effort-just check what the German Army got issued in AFG.
If you trust soldiers to die in a foreign country in an area with religious sensitivities THEN you must trust them to handle say a beer occasionally in a correct fashion----
Besides being totally stupid the next stupid idea the military had was to not fly the American flag in any base in Iraq so as to not give the appearance that we were "occupiers"----the same soldiers who were forbidden a beer were dying and or getting seriously wounded daily during that period under that flag but could never display it--and that is normal????
Fighting and dying but no beer and you had to deny you were an American--- does that make sense to anyone???
I absolutely agree, and I find it pretty telling that no one has jumped into the fray to defend it. My experiences as a contractor were similar to yours. I saw more folks fired for being stupid enough to get caught with pornography on their work computers than for incompetence, insubordination, or even safety violations. (Our facility was paralyzingly safety-conscious.) It's a shame that neither General Mattis nor General Petraeus, both of whom are smart enough to know better, didn't at least do a sanity check on GO-1X when they were respectively heading USCENTCOM.
I've always seen this particular GO-1x as a special type of abomination, designed more to deflect liability from commands than any actual good order and discipline concerns. Something from the mind of SJA rather than a commander's desire to regulate his troops to be more effective. GO-1X should be a prime example of bad regulation that is impossible to enforce effectively, whose effects are completely un-measureable and qualitatively un-analyzable, enforced selectively and often by fiat. It's a type of regulation that makes men break it without even trying. I've seen a junior soldier crucified because his family unknowingly sent him a travel bottle of liquor in a care package while officers made no secret of their massive porn collections walked about with no concerns. We'd all be better off to let an infantryman take a a couple of shots off duty in his CHU and enjoy some nice movies without having to hide it than ruin him and waste our time enforcing this foolishness.