Leadership: October 13, 2004


: It seems that yet another morale building effort for the troops has prompted a Thanks, but no thanks response from the Department of Defense. A porn store in Oregon has tried to put together an effort to send porn to soldiers in Iraq. Like the Beer for Soldiers website mentioned earlier, this is an effort the Pentagon is trying to re-direct or stop in its tracks.

The primary reason for this is cultural. Iraq and other Moslem nations are much more socially conservative than the United States. In fact, Saudi Arabias religious police make John Ashcroft seem like a social liberal. Saudi Arabias neighbor, Bahrain, has rules that are looser as long as what happens in Bahrain stays in Bahrain. Many Saudis head over there to indulge in vice. It keeps the mullahs in Saudi Arabia happy, and it keeps the Saudis who can get to Bahrain happy. 

No porn for the troops is also is a matter of order and discipline vital things needed in a combat zone. The third reason is political since 1997, smut has been forbidden from the Post Exchanges due to an amendment attached to a defense bill by Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD). In the U.S., the soldiers deal with this by going off-base for their porn (if they are so inclined). In Iraq, efforts to buy local stuff (the porn industry, suppressed by Saddam, has made a comeback) are possible, but local porn merchants have been targeted by those terrorists motivated by Islamic fundamentalism. This is another reason for the prohibition on porn seeking it out could get troops killed or wounded. The latter reason is one that many troops will accept.

For those in Iraq, there is not much of a choice even if they wanted porn without getting shot at in the process. Some troops will attempt to sneak stuff in (at least one soldier quoted in Al Santolis oral history Leading the Way brought a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue into Saudi Arabia and used it to calm down Iraqi prisoners). There is also the Internet and Internet access for the troops means that they can surf the web and get porn (as many Americans do at home). Internet time has become one of those things that end up on the black market.

The officers deal with this in several ways. Some soldiers have been prosecuted for possessing forbidden material. Often, when a soldier gets one of these magazines in the mail, they will get rid of it as soon as possible. Usually, commanders will take lesser options, like docking pay, assigning extra duty, or restricting movements. The problem with porn is that when deployed, there really is no private space. Work can go 24/7, and the tents are public areas. Ultimately, stopping the flow of porn completely is not going to happen, but the incidents will probably be few, far between, and for the most part, hushed-up. Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

DOD link for supporting the troops:


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