Budgeting Wars: Part I
President George W. Bush released his 2008 budget on Monday, cashing in at $2.9 trillion dollars. It includes $481 billion for defense costs, plus another $142 billion to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There's another $313.4 million for the U.S. Department of Justice "to address violence against children, including sexual exploitation through the Internet," according to the White House Office of Management and Budget. More on that in Part II.
Our troops and their families who are sacrificing themselves to save us from annihilation need and deserve all the moral support we can give them and all of the resources our national budget can bear. For that reason, government officials must make sure that none of our limited resources is spent in ways that harms rather than helps our troops and their families.
Members of Congress, including some in the President's own party, oppose the war in Iraq on philosophical and political grounds, as well as monetarily.
Many continue to cite abuses at the Abu Ghraib military prison in Iraq as an excuse to oppose the war. Certainly, the abuses at Abu Ghraib must not be repeated. But that requires a lot more than re-training guards and interrogators.
Much of what is depicted in the 279 photos and 19 videos taken at Abu Ghraib resembles behavior in hard-core pornography, which is readily available to our troops via the Internet, magazines and DVDs.
Porn peddlers feign patriotic support with phony offers of free porn to the troops. Our military chaplains are faced with the fallout.
Chaplains are reporting that pornography addiction is a serious problem among our troops, even though alcohol and porn are banned for those serving in Iraq:
In Iraq, alcohol and pornography - including Internet porn - are banned for enlisted personnel out of sensitivity to adherents of the country's dominant religion, Islam. But despite the prohibitions and blocking software on military computers, Father Mark Reilly, who served as a Marine chaplain in Iraq this year, said increasing numbers of both men and women serving in Iraq have access to porn and have become addicted.
"I don't think I've ever been confronted as much face-to-face with men and women - in and out of the confessional - saying, 'I'm addicted to porn and I don't know how to get out of it,'" Father Reilly said. "They're looking for a life preserver. It's wrecking their marriages. Like any addiction, they lose control."
British historian Joanna Bourke said that at their worst, pornography causes imitative behavior like the Abu Ghraib photos - made by and for porn addicts. "The abuse is performed for the camera," she wrote in the London newspaper The Guardian. "These obscene images have a counterpart in the worst, non-consensual sadomasochistic pornography."
Rochelle Gurstein in The New Republic said that the Abu Ghraib photos "speak to the coercive and brutalizing nature of the pornographic imagination so prevalent in our world today." Patrick Novecosky, "War porn - U.S. military in Iraq facing growing problem of porn addiction," Catholic Online, Sept. 13, 2006.
Last year, New Life Ministries, a Christian group, shipped 11,000 "sexual purity" kits mainly to Iraq and Afghanistan as a defense against pornography for the troops. But increasingly, troops at home are requesting the kits. Unfortunately, the demand has outpaced New Life's funding support (20,000 sent, and only 13,000 of them funded):
Chaplain Randy Brandt, stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany, said the kits have helped combat the "problem of pornography." "Even while we were in Iraq, the pervasion of this problem was evident - soldiers had porno CDs they could play on their personal DVDs, and they had sexually suggestive magazines 'graciously' donated for the soldiers' entertainment," Brandt said. "The problem is an age-old one with the military: Soldiers are far away from home for a long time, sexual frustration sets in, and the visual stimuli become the easiest release." But Brandt said the real problem starts when the soldiers return home. "The soldiers come home, many are addicted to this type of sexual stimulation and either consciously or subconsciously they begin to compare their current relationship with the visual/Internet/virtual reality that they are used to and unfortunately, the real woman - wife or girlfriend - rarely can measure up," Brandt said.
"Battle Kits Fight Porn, Adultery in the Military," Jan 6, 2006: http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=1474638
President Lincoln would have applauded the efforts of New Life Ministries, as evidenced by his "Executive Order - General Order Respecting the Observance of the Sabbath Day in the Army and Navy, November 15th, 1862," which reads in part:
The discipline and character of the national forces should not suffer nor the cause they defend be imperiled by the profanation of the day or name of the Most High. "At this time of public distress," adopting the words of Washington in 1776, "men may find enough to do in the service of God and their country without abandoning themselves to vice and immorality." The first general order issued by the Father of his Country after the Declaration of Independence indicates the spirit in which our institutions were rounded and should ever be defended:
The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country. (Emphasis in original).
The Department of Defense (DOD) cannot effectively protect our military from pornography and its copious adverse consequences by banning porn only in Muslim countries. The DOD needs to understand why the troops at home are ordering the "sexual purity kits" - they need homeland security from pornographers.
For starters, the DOD must strictly enforce the Military Decency and Enforcement Act of 1996 (Act) on U.S. military bases, which it hasn't been doing. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the constitutionality of the Act in General Media Communications v. Cohen and the Supreme Court denied review.
The Act prohibits the sale or rental of sexually explicit material on property under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense. "Sexually explicit material" is defined as "an audio recording, a film or video recording, or a periodical with visual depictions, produced in any medium, the dominant theme of which depicts or describes nudity, including sexual or excretory activities or organs, in a lascivious way."
Military personnel and family members tell us that porn is available in the PX on their base. That means the DOD is wasting budget resources by subsidizing the very material that harms our military and their families.
In late 1998, I reviewed 11 magazines purchased in the PX at an Army base in Northern Virginia. Nine of the 11 should have been prohibited under the Act. Some met the definition of obscenity under Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 73 (1973), which means that the government would be in violation of its own law, 18 U.S.C. § 1460, prohibiting sale of obscene matter on federal property.
Next, our government needs to follow the lead of the libertine Swedes who get what our government officials have yet to grasp - what people watch affects their behavior, for evil as well as good.
Sweden will no longer permit civil servants, soldiers and politicians to stay at hotels that offer pornographic TV programs after a government agency blacklisted accommodations with x-rated viewing options in 2005.
"The move against blue movies came from the military, which in Sweden negotiates deals. … The entire public administration uses the same hotel deals, so this should affect almost everybody," Major General Åke Jansson, who heads the military logistics unit that arranges the deals, told AFP. Starting on July 1 deals will, as far as possible, only be made with hotels that are pornography-free. The Swedish military, which welcomes female recruits and seeks to convey an image of gender equality, wants to do its bit to protect women, both in the porn industry and in hotels, Jansson said. "In the military, we have been working to curb attitudes that are degrading to women, which in no way can be accepted," he said.
The initiative stemmed from discussions with Swedish women's organization ROKS, which claims that x-rated movies lead to increased abuse of women and widespread degrading attitudes towards them. "We talk to a lot of abused women, and in many cases it turns out that men's interest in porn is linked to the abuse," head of the ROKS campaign Tina Olby told AFP. The measure would also protect women working as hotel maids "who are forced to clean up after the men who watch these films," she added. Jansson said his unit's special deals account for 92,000 hotel nights each year worth 80 million kronor (11 million dollars). "We think we are so big that we can really have an impact on the (hotel) industry," he added. However, the military will not stop at just hotels in its drive to wipe out "unacceptable" attitudes towards women, he said. "We have also decided to halt the sales of so-called men's magazines in all stores" on military bases, he said.
"No more hotel porn for Swedish government officials," Apr. 6, 2005: http://www.thelocal.se/article.php?ID=1235&date=20050406
If Sweden considers itself big enough to have an impact on the hotel industry, there's little doubt that Uncle Sam could end pay-per-view porn in American hotels if it stopped contracting with those like Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Radisson and Sheraton that are shamelessly profiting from hard-core porn, much of which is prosecutable under federal law.
The following e-mail received last August illustrates the problem.
"It is common to pick up the remote and move through the "regular" television channels in my room and run into porn that plays without my ordering it. On one particular trip, ironically, I was in the hotel as part of a federal grant. Our federal tax dollars were paying for over 200 rooms. Additionally, children are now traveling extensively as part of field trips and staying in rooms without adults. They are being exposed to this unsolicited porn, just as I have been."
If it's a matter of existing contracts, at a minimum, the government needs to require that pay-per-view porn access is off and stays off in every hotel room it pays for.
That brings us to the U.S. Department of Justice, the federal agency charged with enforcing the federal obscenity laws.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who heads the DOJ, released a statement about his 2008 budget, which includes the following: "In total, the budget provides $25.4 million in program increases for crimes against children and obscenity," which he calls one of DOJ's "major priorities."
A $25.4 million dollar increase to fight "crimes against children and obscenity" should have to be justified based on past performance. The fact is that in the past six years, the DOJ hasn't made a dent in the hard-core porn industry, which leaves the troops, our kids and the rest of us vulnerable to exposure.
If we're wrong, DOJ should prove it. But please don't try to placate us with more promises and misleading statistics that have nothing to do with prosecuting the adult porn industry. The stakes don't get any higher than national defense and the welfare of our children.
Jan LaRue is Chief Counsel for Concerned Women for America.
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