A New Iraq Culture Smart Card

“Don’t use your left hand for contact with others,” advises the U.S. Marine Corps in a new edition of the Iraq Culture Smart Card (very large pdf) which is distributed to military personnel in Iraq. “It is considered unclean.”

It seems late in the day for such niceties. Amid the daily brutality of the Iraq war, there is probably little to be gained by courtesy or to be lost by mere rudeness.

But the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity evidently thinks otherwise.

The MCIA has produced an updated Iraq Culture Smart Card, dated May 2006, which features rudimentary information on Iraqi customs, religion and language. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News and is available here (in a very large 22 MB PDF file).

No Responses to “A New Iraq Culture Smart Card”

  1. Capt. Jean-Luc Pikachu July 11, 2006 at 6:01 PM #

    If there’s little to be gained and little to be lost, then it’s better to err on the side of courtesy. We must remember that an occupied people are still people…

  2. streiff July 12, 2006 at 10:23 AM #

    Not new.

    These were handed out in the first Gulf War and were handed out in 2003.

    [As noted above, the latest card is a new edition, dated May 2006 --SA]

  3. streiff July 12, 2006 at 10:39 AM #

    Not to be argumentative but your statement: “It seems late in the day for such niceties” implied, to me, that this was a new project not just a new edition of a decade old card.

    Most military forms have be updated annually so I’m sure you’ll find a 2004 and 2005 edition of this card out there, too.

    [Point taken, thanks. There was indeed a 2004 edition. --SA]

  4. Carl July 17, 2006 at 6:35 PM #

    Similar cards were issued in 1990-91 and I have copies, somewhere, of the 2003 and 2005 versions given, respectively, to the Marines, Marines and U.S. Army National Guard.

    My Arabic got to be rather good, I thought, and one is always encouraged to be as polite and humane as possible.

    If only others in uniform saw it so.

  5. Ron Schmidt July 18, 2006 at 6:02 AM #

    Nothing New! I remember being issued something similar in Vietnam in 1969 by the Army. I found it very useful.

  6. will gilmore July 18, 2006 at 9:51 PM #

    After returning from Vietnam in 1970 I was an instructor in Vietnamese culture – aimed at familiarizing Marines with proper social protocol etc. I always told my class something told to me by a South Vietnamese soldier: He’d rather we Americans didn’t attempt to speak Vietnamese, because it meant he could better understand our insults.

  7. martin g July 19, 2006 at 12:11 PM #

    Awwww shucks . . .

    I just finished coloring this in :


    and now they tell me :
    “ The thumbs-up gesture traditionally is an offensive Iraqi insult, equivalent to using the middle finger in the Western world. “

    Doh !

  8. Ron December 4, 2008 at 9:14 PM #

    [i]It seems late in the day for such niceties. Amid the daily brutality of the Iraq war, there is probably little to be gained by courtesy or to be lost by mere rudeness.[/i]

    This just screams out your, and the FAS’s bias, and diminishes the (already low) status of science in American society.

  9. Steven Aftergood December 4, 2008 at 9:29 PM #

    Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed in the course of the war (source). Courtesy, while commendable, cannot change that terrible fact.