Pornography And Iraq

I had nothing to say except to express my revulsion and horror that some of our troops have committed shameful acts against their hapless Iraqi prisoners. Until now.

So begins Patrick Madrid of Envoy magazine in a column for Envoy Encore (find it at that is our guest editorial this week. He continues:

Early this morning, I logged onto the Internet news sites and saw the latest round of images of U.S. troops leering and mugging for the camera as they forced Iraqi men to stand naked and hooded, made them sprawl across one another on the floor in groups, simulating homosexual acts, humiliated them for the cameras in other sexual ways, dragging a naked Iraqi man on the floor, a dog leash around his neck, and other atrocities.

It occurred to me that the reason this is happening — and the reason our country might be shocked but shouldn't be in the least surprised that this is happening — is the following: The pornography chickens are coming home to roost. Or to say it the way the Bible does, the American, indeed Western, fascination and enslavement to pornography has sown the wind and now we're reaping the whirlwind (see Hosea 8:7).

The massive and steadily expanding availability of pornography, in all its forms (including, I'm sure, some that you and I would never even dream of), has become so widespread that it pervades every element of our culture: movies, TV, books, music and beyond.

It's no longer just seedy men skulking around back-alley bookstores and porn theaters in the bad part of town. These days, pornography is as common and as mainstream as cable TV (where much of it is easily available). It has a place in many, perhaps most, American homes. Perhaps in your own home.

Several Catholic priests I know have told me in recent years that the incidents of even married women confessing sins involving porn (and related sexual sins) is skyrocketing. And that's just from those Catholic women who still go to confession. The actual number of women involved with pornography is, I fear, staggeringly high. Much higher than we might imagine.

Teens and even children are now being shaped and distorted by the steady diet of pornography that swirls all around them. Hardly a week goes by without some new story involving grammar-school students getting busted for sexual antics (and sometimes crimes) on campus, in school buses, even in the schoolroom. Third-graders don't naturally know about this kind of behavior, much less act it out, unless they are learning it from somewhere.

The multi-billion-dollar porn industry is finding and forming eager consumers at every level. Its many tentacles slither across our culture, snaking their way into our homes through our computers, televisions, radios and DVD players.

Which leads me to my thesis about the “bad apples” among our troops in Iraq. Of course it's only a minority of Americans there who are acting out these macabre sexual impositions against their Iraqi captives, but it seems to me that it's a significant minority. They reflect the moral state of the nation. They are America.

And though we recoil in shock and embarrassment when confronted with their stupid and shameful antics with the prisoners, we shouldn't be surprised by their behavior. They learned it here, stateside, on the Internet, in the movies, at their neighborhood video store, in their hotel rooms, in their living rooms.

Is it any wonder that when, suddenly, these military “bad apples” (the blandly innocuous term so many people have called them on talk radio these last few days since this story broke) are acting out the depraved images that litter the minds of people who are enslaved to porn? I don't think so.

It's terrible to have to say such things about our fellow citizens — American men and women in uniform who are there in Iraq in our name — but what other conclusion can one draw from this? What else would explain their sexual, pornographic depredations against the Iraqis?

Yes, we're shocked by these pictures. We should be repulsed and horrified. But not surprised.