Sunday, May 15, 2005

What We Fight For

There we were sitting around the table in our conference tent a little while back, the commander, the staff and I, pondering in detail, all the mundanities which seem to govern our lives now, when the question was asked “What exactly is covered under General Order 1?”

USCENTCOM General Order 1, is a blanket order issued by the CENTCOM Commander, General Abizaid, which, among other things specifies all the prohibited activities of US service members while deployed in the region.

“So what exactly is covered under General Order 1?” the question was repeated.
“No sex.” Someone threw out.
“No alcohol.” Someone else added.
“No pornography.” said another.
“You know,” some smartass chimed in “all the things we fight for.”

OK, so I was the smartass, but I was only joking….kind of.

We are deployed in a country dominated by a population that prescribes to the Muslim religion under which these things are prohibited, and in the course of winning their hearts and minds, we find it a prudent courtesy to refrain from these activities ourselves. I completely understand both the letter and the spirit of the regulation and whole-heartedly support it.

What simply boggles my mind though, is the minor furor that erupted recently over an unfortunate placement of articles in an edition of Stars and Stripes distributed throughout both Afghanistan and Iraq. On one page of this particular edition was an article discussing the military’s continuing plan to deal with sexual assaults and on the opposite page another article proclaimed an upcoming free distribution of Maxim magazine throughout the combat theater.

Articles and letters to the editor popped up in newspapers, websites, and blogs almost immediately vilifying the military for our insensitivity and outright stupidity. I read a particular letter to the editor in Stars and Stripes later by a German Reverend implying that it was no small wonder the US military was replete with sexual predators when we distribute free porn to all our service members and whip them into a hyper-sensitive state of sexual frustration.

Now I have flipped through a few copies of Maxim magazine as well as similar publications that are sold by AAFES here in country. Are there photographs of attractive women? Yes. Is the intended to be provocative? Yes, without a doubt. Is it pornography? If you have either been freeze-dried for the past 30 years or living in a cave without access to daily newspapers, network television (let alone cable), video games, or any one of the mainstream women’s magazines that promise better bodies and secrets on “How to drive him wild in bed.”, then yes, you might consider it pornography.

Whether he considers it pornography or not, the good reverend’s implication was: “Show soldiers pictures of scantily clad women and their minds will turn to thoughts of lust.”

Reverend, the people you are talking about are young men who have been separated from their families and friends for months. Show them a picture of a brick and their minds will turn to lust.

“However comma” as my friend Jim would say, that isn’t the point. At the very core of a self-ruling democratic society are the underlying principles of freedom of choice. The right to choose the religion I subscribe to and the right to speak and write what I choose being two of the critical tenets. I can’t begin to describe the hypocrisy that I see in statements that imply that the American society as a whole can legally imbibe in alcoholic beverages and download pornography from the internet to their heart’s content and still be trusted to act as a decent and responsible member of society while a soldier or Marine can not be trusted to view printed material that is veritably puritan in comparison to what’s available on the rack in any corner convenience store, without succumbing to some Mr. Hyde transformation into a rapist. It becomes even more ironic when you consider that the service member is ingrained with a value system dictated by discipline and because of this they are charged with the defense of our constitutionally protected democratic way of life.

Be that as it may, I still find it difficult to accept criticism of our nation’s collective value system from someone who resides in a country where the drinking age is 16, the national beverage of choice is beer, and both gambling and prostitution are legal. I, however, will continue to remain sober, celibate, and literally wholesome for the foreseeable future. So even though it's a bit of a stretch to say that we fight for sex, alcohol, and pornography, if our actions are supporting the American public's constitutional right to these things, so be it; it's their choice, and I'll fight for that every time.


Anonymous said...

My name is Sgt Hook and would like to help answer your call for children's shoes. Shoot me an email at if you're interested. We ran a pretty successful shoe drive from over there www.operationshoefly and would like to see the effort continue. It really does make a difference.

Sgt Hook

SEO Guru said...

Very nice read bro...

Anonymous said...

Well, I certainly hope you continue fighting for our seems no one else is.

The Congress, the Universitys and the Legal system all seem to want to take them away.

Papa Ray
West Texas

MKL said...

Wow SGT Hook, good to hear from him, even if it is just a comment. One of the best milbloggers I've seen. For sure, contact him about shoes!!

I'm not sure of the CENTCOM GO#1 but that seems to be a SOP thing. Didn't the US military operate under those same type of orders back in WW2? Have you seen many charges regarding violation of that order?

I've sent packages to a Marine, a soldier in the 101st and currently one in the 299th IN and Maxim/FHM are always included. One of those servicemembers pointed out that those magazines plus "others" can be found in Iraqis' homes and when he arrived and replaced a unit there was quite a stack of items left behind...

Toni said...

I find the response from the German Minister laughable considering what Germany considers an applicable job to send a female on unemployment bennies. See this link:
'If you don't take a job as a prostitute, we can stop your benefits'

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