Morale: The Porn Wars


November 7, 2007: As if fighting the Global War on Terror was not difficult enough, the troops are now facing a loss of freedom in their choice of reading material. This censorship effort is coming from a number of anti-pornography groups who are not happy with the results of a Pentagon policy banned hard core porn, but allowed magazines like Playboy and Penthouse to stay in military exchanges.

This is not the first time such a problem has arisen. In 2004, an effort by an Oregon porn shop to send porn to troops was shot down. The military does restrict porn in some areas, but often for cultural and political reasons. This is particularly true in the Middle East.

Iraq and other Moslem nations are much more socially conservative than the United States. In fact, Saudi Arabia's religious police make the Religious Right seem like social liberals. Over in Bahrain, the rules are looser – as long as what happens in Bahrain stays in Bahrain. Many Saudis head over there to indulge in vice. It keeps the clergy in Saudi Arabia happy, and it keeps the Saudis who can get to Bahrain happy. It also is a matter of order and discipline – vital things needed in a combat zone.

But for areas where such things are not a problem, the DOD has allowed Playboy to remain on the shelves. Part of this is because of the fact that some rules are harder to enforce. Some troops will attempt to sneak stuff in (at least one soldier quoted in Al Santoli's 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).

This of course, did not sit well with religious groups at home. They have launched an e-mail and letter-writing campaign to get Playboy tossed (as the State Department did in 2005). And so the troops find themselves fighting to protect the right of people to try to deny them the right to choose their own reading material. – Harold C. Hutchison ([email protected])




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