Prisoner abuse and the rot of American culture

Posted: May 12, 2004 12:00 AM

Every decent person I know has reacted in horror to the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners in Al Ghraib prison near Baghdad. When the lewd photos emerged of American soldiers forcing prisoners to engage in sexual acts, and leading them around on leashes with hoods over their heads, and threatening them with electrocution, people were speechless and horrified.

We should be enraged and demand that those involved be severely punished. We must also remember that the vast majority of our brave soldiers are decent human beings who have been willing to sacrifice their very lives to secure freedom for others.

But should we be shocked that some Americans are capable of such barbaric behavior as depicted in the infamous photos?


  • Pornography is the No. 1 Internet industry ? No. 1. There are well over 300,000 Internet porn sites.

  • American consumers spent an estimated $220 million at such fee-based "adult" sites in 2001, according to Jupiter Media Metrix, a New York Internet research firm. That was up from $148 million in 1999. Jupiter is projecting $320 million by 2005.

  • A comprehensive 2-year study by Alexa Research, a leading Web intelligence and traffic-measurement service, has revealed "sex" was the most popular term for which people searched. According to their online searching habits, people want "sex" more than they want "games," "music," "travel," "jokes," "cars," "jobs," "weather" and "health" combined.

  • A nationwide survey of 1,031 adults conducted by Zogby International and Focus on the Family on March 8-10, 2000, found that "20 percent of respondents ? which extrapolates to 40 million adults ? admitted visiting a sexually-oriented website. According to the Nielsen Net ratings, 17.5 million surfers visited porn sites from their homes in January of 2000 ? a 40 percent increase compared with September of 1999."

  • Pornography websites earned $1.5 billion in 1999 and more than $2 billion in 2000.

  • According to a 2001 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Public Education, "by the time adolescents graduate from high school, they will have spent 15,000 hours watching television, compared with 12,000 hours spent in the classroom ... American media are thought to be the most sexually suggestive in the Western hemisphere. The average American adolescent will view nearly 14,000 sexual references per year, yet only 165 of these references deal with birth-control, self-control, abstinence or the risk of pregnancy or STDs."

  • The 2001 pediatric report also said that "56 percent of all programs on American television were found to contain sexual content. The so-called "family hour" of prime-time television (8:00 to 9:00 p.m.) contains on average more than eight sexual incidents, which is more than 4 times what it contained in 1976. Nearly one third of family-hour shows contain sexual references ..."

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The military experts are right when they say we need to discuss how we administer prisons, how we handle foreign detainees and how complaints travel up and down the chain of command. The average soldier receives three hours of training a year on the Geneva Conventions regarding the proper treatment of prisoners of war. Is it possible to deprogram and reprogram soldiers ? who come from a culture living the above statistics ? in three hours a year?

A recent poll says Americans aren't even overly ashamed of what has gone on. Why? "People out in the hinterlands can keep the perspective of the big picture," the pollster told U.S. News magazine. Oh yeah? What is the big picture? That "everyone does it"? That this was mistreatment, not torture? That these were mere "fraternity pranks"? That the Iraqis are doing far worse to each other and to our soldiers?

Forget defending it. It's indefensible. Since the photos were seen 'round the world, very few folks 'round the world now view America as the country that liberated the Iraqis from Saddam, that rebuilt roads, schools and power stations. They see America as the country that engaged in the exact reprehensible behavior we said we were going to Iraq to stop.

But, with the non-judgmental, sex-crazed, anything-goes culture that we have become at home, it seems that America has set herself up for international humiliation. Our country permits Hollywood to put almost anything in a movie and still call it PG-13. We permit television and computers to bring all manner of filth into our homes. We permit school children to be taught that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle. We allow Christianity and the teaching of Judeo-Christian values to be scrubbed from the public square. We allow our children be taught how to use condoms in school, rather than why to avoid sex. We let these things happen. They don't happen on their own.

While hearings take place to examine the horrific behavior that took place in a military prison overseas, it's time to take a cold, hard look at the degradation in our own country ? and in our own homes. If there are problems in your home, contact the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, or Focus on the Family, or Web Wise Kids for help.

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