Military Slang: Is there a "Charlie" for Iraq, Afganistan?

Please pardon my posting, but I was wondering…Is there any “nickname” used by U.S. troops in Iraq, or Afganistan, for enemy soldiers? Like “Charlie” was used in Vietnam, or even “Skinnies” in Somalia or “Boches” in WW I?

And I’m just curious, btw. I’m not itching to use a new slur against anyone myself.


IANInTheArmedForces, but I’ve heard “raghead” and “sandn*gger” in use among current and former military people I know. I am not aware of any less offensive names, and I have an inkling that they might call Iraqi forces, for example, simply “Iraqis.” Hopefully someone who knows more will come along shortly.

[sub]Alereon does not condone the use of offensive slurs for anyone. Especially ones he can’t even bring himself to type.[/sub]

Some military men - not the brass, of course - have been quoted using those terms. Camel jockey and other common slurs for Arabs and Muslims are probably also making the rounds.

I think it was much more rude than that, ie camel f****r… probably…

Actually, camel driver is an ancient insult. My philosophy prof told us in 1969 that the Quran warns against associating with camel drivers. I have no cite for it, as I’m not Islamic.

Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if “camel driver” went all the way back as slang against the Assyrians. They were the first to use camel-mounted units in warfare.

I’ve also heard “towelheads” used by military people to refer to middle easterners. Charlie was sort of an interesting slang, because it wasn’t really derogatory in the way that these other ones we’ve mentioned are. (Viet Cong = Victor Charlie in the phonetic alphabet). “India” (Iraqis) would really be too confusing, and “Romeo Golf” (Republican Guard) sounds like some sort of cheesy European car.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, with the new kinder gentler US military, not to mention all the media presence, soldiers were strongly discouraged from using ethnic slurs to refer to the Iraqis.

I’d guess that using the slurs mentioned above is highly discouraged. Considering the huge media presence in the area, as well as the sensitivity involved (the US is going out of its way to wage a PR campaign, here), I seriously doubt soldiers are using terms like “sandnigger” in public. IANAS, but I can’t see those in power allowing this on their watch. Sure, troops in the field probably use the terms at times, but I’d be surprised if the brass didn’t come down hard on units that made the US look insensitive to the Iraqis.

During Desert Storm, when we were trying to be politically correct we just referred to them as the “Bad Guys”.

I was in the reserve during Desert Storm. I went active duty trying to get there. No such luck (thank God in retrospect!), but I don’t remember anyone calling them anything other than the “bad guys” or the “Iraquis.” Not formally, anyway. The common parlance among some guys was pretty much as stated above.

Political correctness aside, I think it would behoove the military to call the enemy something – that goes a long way towards the dehumanization factor. It’s hard for most people to kill another living, breathing human being, but not hard to kill an inhuman “kraut,” “charlie,” or “slant-eyes.”

Balthisar and others have some good points, and there’s one that hasn’t quite been stated. We kinda jumped from “Charlie” to the racist terms. Charlie wasn’t a racist term; as posted above, it had roots in military terminology. The racist terms were gook, slant-eyes, etc etc etc.

I wouldn’t call this a good thing, personally.

I’m with Marley. I think a very good thing to call the enemy would be, “Those individuals in the Armed Forces of the nation with which we are currently in an armed conflict.” Too wordy, though.

A friend of mine joined a branch of the military and was in basic when the 9/11 attacks happened. He said guys referred to “them” as “abib’s.” (Pronounced “Ah-beeb.”)

I don’t condone the use of racist nicknames and I am only passing this along because it seems relevant.

Among other things, that kind of dehumanization isn’t limited to soldiers. Are Iraqi soldiers ragheads, but not the civilians? It’s a little hard to believe. And it can be a problem when the war has ostensibly humanitarian aims. On top of which, I remember hearing there was an upswing in hate crimes against Arabs during the Gulf War. It’s not just the soldiers who are supposed to think the enemy isn’t human, oftentimes people stateside learn the same thing…

I suppose most of this isn’t really relevant to the question, so I’ll make sure I don’t take this any further off course. But it’s hard for me to interpret such a thing as helpful.

That’s a disadvantage in a way. Dehumanization is primarily for the soldiers. I’ll not hesitate to kill someone if it’s in the defense of my life or that of my family. But it’d be hard to kill the Iraqi “me” without somehow denegrating him. I’m sure “racist” names are officially banned by the military; there are other suitable dehumanizing names.

There’s a restaurant here in Dearborn, MI, called “Arab Kabob.” My Arab coworker says that the Arabic letters indicate the place is called “Iraqi Kabob.” So, yeah, it was/is an issue even now.

Depending on the type of leader in charge, it could be to the government’s benefit that even the populace think along the sames lines. The treatment of the enemy Eurasians in “1984” comes to mind. Aren’t we all Satan-spawn in the eyes of some middle-easterners?

According to the Washington Post Magazine this weekend, a lot of soldiers have been using the term “hajjis” to refer to Iraqis.

‘Towelheads’ sucks

Friends of mine who have served in the ME referred to the locals as “smufties.” I have no idea why.

Every unit in which I’ve served, those who went around using racist slurs got disciplined. Luckily, I don’t do that so I had nothing to worry about.

Barney: I wonder if those Soldiers are aware of the actual meaning of that word.