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June 2, 2011

Porn in the USA

Yvonne Ridley

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I wonder what the US Administration makes of the idiom that includes the words pot, kettle and black.

The reason for this recent musing comes from revelations that a stash of pornography was found during the infamous Abbottabad raid in Pakistan by US Navy seals.

Not only did the Obama gang boast that they’d finally got the world’s most wanted man but they gleefully revealed a few days later that among the “millions” of intelligence documents was a pile of porn.

Of course we’ve not seen an ounce of evidence to support either of these claims, so not surprisingly there are those demanding that the Americans either ‘put up or shut up’.

Obama argues he will not release pictures depicting the al-Qaida leader’s death because they are too graphic and could offend and inflame Muslims across the world. It’s an odd argument since he then sees no problem in allowing people to think the al Qaida leader wiled away his days with his head buried in dirty magazines.

But quite frankly, ever since the WMD lies peddled by the US Government to justify the invasion and war in Iraq were exposed most people hold a healthy scepticism towards any official statements coming out of Capitol Hill. The gullible truly want to believe their government and so they do, but cynics – and they are growing in number even in America these days - recognise weak, transparent propaganda when they see it.

And the OBL porn revelations were indeed weak, highly predictable but also hypocritical. I say this because if you chip beneath the thin veneer of US respectability and family values the country is awash with X-rated smut. Had Osama bin Ladin checked in to the Marriott, Westin or Hilton hotel chains in America he could have had his pick of X-rated in-room, movies.

I’m told that demand is so high that the blue movie business generates more money than hotel mini-bars.

In Obama’s Apple Pie America, cable and satellite companies pump pornography into millions of homes where the American Dream has, for some, become X-rated.

And the Americans are keen to share – I remember one of the first things that followed the arrival of US forces in Afghanistan was the sex industry. Scores of channels promoting straight and gay porn suddenly became readily available on television sets without even the need to subscribe.

Yes, I bet that really helped Tony Blair and George W Bush’s crusade to liberate Afghan women.

The internet is also awash with obscene material which exploits women, and it is downloaded daily from US military bases across the world – some sites are so patriotic they even offer their services free of charge to those serving Uncle Sam.

The scale of the problem is so vast that 12 years ago Congress banned sales of sexually explicit material on military bases to keep the Christian right happy but it was never rigorously enforced.

I can reveal that certainly in Guantanamo the porn industry was very much in evidence when I visited with a documentary crew. You’ll have to take my word for it because the Gitmo PR team that escorted me around the base in May 2008 stopped me from filming the shelf racks at the local shop which was awash with dodgy magazines and videos. I still remember one lurid title “Debbie Does Dallas” sitting next to Penthouse.

I thought it would make a sharp contrast to the filming we’d just done in the library used by the Guantanamo detainees where shelves were filled with English classics, Islamic works and copies of the National Geographic.

Of course the reading material accessed by the detainees was specially selected by the authorities but perhaps the Pentagon should be equally selective over the material its soldiers access because there is a link between sexual predators and their reading and viewing material.

Just a few weeks ago 17 veteran and active-duty soldiers filed a lawsuit against the Pentagon. They accuse the U.S. military of permitting a culture that tolerates rape and sexual assault. Reports show that as many as 3,250 reported rapes or other sexual assaults took place in the U.S. military, in 2009 alone. Military sources admit the unreported incidents could be as high as 16,000 because 80 percent of the victims may not have reported the incidents for fear of reprisal.

Instead of peddling silly propaganda about the stash of porn found in Abbottabad, I suggest American authorities look closer to home.

Interesting that those briefing the media about OBL’s alleged porn stash did so on condition of anonymity … well I wonder what they have to hide?

Could it be a case of porn, kettle and black?

British journalist Yvonne Ridley is patron of the London-based human rights organization Cageprisoners and European President of the International Muslim Women’s Union.

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