MAIL RESTRICTIONS

LGF is shocked! that soldiers stationed in southwest Asia aren’t allowed to receive pornography or non-Islamic religious materials. While I don’t agree with the policy, it’s a longstanding one–going back to Desert Shield at least, as I noted a few weeks back.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, Military Affairs, Religion
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. rkb says:

    James,

    I do agree with that policy. By launching a *preventative* (as opposed to pre-emptive) war against Iraq on fairly iffy legal grounds, we are in a delicate situation there. Don’t get me wrong, I think we needed to do it and I support the wider reasons for our being there.

    But precisely because we DO want to do something large and bold, i.e. to introduce a secular, pluralistic society with representative government & a religiously / politically neutral education system, it behooves us to act with discipline and seriousness of purpose. Our troops can get along without nekkid pictures for a while and our religious soldiers do have chaplains, services and other spiritual support. The presence of porno, or of well-meaning but blundering people who just HAVE to “witness” to Iraqis would be both offensive and counter-productive to our purpose there. Several thousand people died during the last month … we need to act with the discipline and self-retraint that suggests they did so for a serious cause.

    I write that with some familiarity with military life … my husband is a retired officer and I teach at one of the service Academies.

  2. James Joyner says:

    RKB,

    In Gulf War I, I found it rather offensive. I had no desire to receive either religious paraphanalia or porn–which, by Saudi standards, includes virtually anything that had a picture of a woman baring so much as her legs–but the idea that the Saudi government should have any so whatsoever in what mail our soldiers received was outrageous; were it not for our presence, the Saudis would have been helpless to defend themselves against the Iraqi military.

    I haven’t thought about the policy much in regards to this specific war. Here, we did need the cooperation of the Kuwaitis and others. But, really, since we run our own mail system and live segregated from the local society, I don’t see what business it is of theirs.

  3. rkb says:

    James,

    I think the problem is that our troops really aren’t segregated from the Iraqi people in this war. We have units all over the place and there is a lot of intentional mixing that goes on as we work with Iraqi citizens to build trust and establish daily operations in the cities and towns.

    Don’t think of this as imposed by the Kuwaiti government, think of it as OUR careful, professional conduct aimed at achieving the objectives before us. While the Kuwaitis might have some concerns re: what goes on in their own country, I think the real issue CENTCOMM is addressing is our presence within Iraq. And there it’s quite likely that porn, or Bibles and prayer tracts etc. would eventually cause deep offense. If nothing else, it would inflame religious passions just when we are trying to earn trust for a secular government. Soldiers with porno — or well-meaning soldiers with Bibles all around — would only strengthen the call for an Islamic government in Iraq. Not a good thing, therefore, IMO.

  4. When I was stationed in Japan in the early 80s, it was both Japanese law and official policy not to bring “extreme” pornography in-country. That was largely defined as anything that showed pubic hair. Japanese Customs officials rarely checked our bags on entry. We could’ve been bringing in all kinds of forbidden porn, and at least one guy I knew carried a collection of movies (on Beta, because the quality was better) everywhere he went.

    But the Post Exchanges sold the stuff as well.

    In Desert Storm, and more in Desert Shield, the Saudi’s regulations on female attire were very restrictive. After a while the ladies just ignored them.

    I suspect that a similar outcome will — sooner or later — come to pass in Islamic Iraq.

  5. Malthusiast says:

    R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I’ll show you what it means to me in my post entitled “DO NOT EMAIL THIS PORNOGRAPHIC PHOTO TO THE MIDDLE EAST”.