The news story last week, with its tale of sexual and religious abuse of
Muslim prisoners at Guantanomo, was reminiscent of earlier reports of abuse of
prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In both cases women participated in
subjecting Islamic men to pornographic degradation and religious
Those responsible for the abuse at Abu Ghraib, currently being tried in
military courts, insist that they were following orders. If anyone is prosecuted
for similar crimes at Guantanomo they will doubless say the same. While I do not
have much trust that military and governmental authorities are likely either to
behave morally or tell the truth, that is not what concerns me here. Rather, I
suggest that such behavior is a reflection of American culture at the beginning
of the third millenium, and an indictment of our society.
Does anyone for a moment think that women of my mother’s generation,
which came of age in the 1940s, would have behaved like this? Is not such
behavior the result of exposure to pornography? What sort of culture accepts
that its young women would possess such easy familiarity with such things?
It is common even among Christians, who should know better, to describe
Islamic radicals as madmen, and to claim that they hate the United States
"because we are good; because we are free." How odd this is, not to pay
attention to one’s professed enemies.
Among other reasons, the Islamists hate the United States for the sort
of culture we export. Since the invasion of Iraq pornography has become widely
available in that country, as it has wherever we have planted our flag.
Pornography, abortion, insipid and obscene pop culture: these are the things the
Muslim militants associate with our nation.
In the Middle Ages when Muslim armies threatened Europe, people
refered to Islam as the "scourge of God." The destruction which followed in its path was seen as divine punishment for sin. People turned to penitence.
How far this is from our self-righteousness, how far from our inability to see
ourselves as others see us, let alone as God sees us.
This blindness extends to the roots of the conflict. Al Qaeda is
rightly and roundly condemned for its attacks on innocent civilians. Yet how
many Americans will fail to defend our country’s use of nuclear weapons against
Japan at the end of the second World War? This is not lost on Osama bin Laden,
who in his writings has invoked the moral logic of Hiroshima to justify his
attack on the World Trade Center. Indeed, if Hiroshima can be justified the only
argument is whether circumstances justified 9/11, not the inherent immorality of
If Christians are willing to honestly take stock of the moral state of
America today we are likely to view the Islamic threat as our ancestors did: the
scourge of God, these fierce monotheists sent to awaken us to repentance. And if
the battle is jihad vs imperial pornocracy, perhaps we should at least
philosophically declare neutrality.