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S&M Soldiers: How Sexual Politics Has Undermined the U.S. Military

Rev. Aris P. Metrakos

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Americans are rightly shocked by the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. But my fear is that the young men and women who brought us Abu Ghraib are nothing less than the fruit of two generations' worth of a skillfully waged culture war by America's extreme left. What we are seeing is the "progress" brought about by the sexual integration of the military, the internet proliferation of pornography and homo-erotica, and the kinder-gentler approach of military indoctrination used to train the new "Army of One."

Military insiders can't say these things because to do so would be career suicide. Simply put, the social experiment of the sexual integration of the military has yielded the expected results: promiscuity and a breakdown of discipline.

I graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1978. The date is significant because the first co-ed Academy class was graduated in 1980; therefore, I spent two years at Annapolis in a male-only environment and two years in a sexually integrated institution. We can draw a straight line from the feminization of our nation's military academies to Abu Ghraib. And let's not be nave. This prisoner abuse scandal has just as much to do with human physiology as it does with sexual politics.

Put young men and women in close quarters for a prolonged length of time and the inevitable happens. The sex drive of a 20-year-old human is far more powerful than the good intentions of the enlightened progressives who promoted the sexual integration of the military as a way to advance feminist doctrine. Some might say, what's the problem? Haven't we accepted as doctrine that one's sex life has nothing to do with one's job performance? Maybe in the White House but not in the military. It is extremely difficult to enforce discipline and maintain a chain-of-command in an environment in which most of the boys and girls are showing off for one another and many are trying to get in one another's pants.

Yet, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal exposes more than the inherent short-comings of the sexually-integrated military. Look at the "raw material" that our armed services get today: a generation exposed to virtually non-stop internet porn, the misogynistic message of much of rap, the affirmation that a Crucifix in a jar of urine is art, round-the-clock news stories that account the salacious details of horrible sex crimes, the glamorization and societal acceptance of homo-erotica, and the desensitizing gratuitous violence of movies and video games. For the past forty years, the left pigeon-holed anyone who decried the moral disintegration of America as fundamentalist, neo-puritanical, homophobic, anti-feminist bigots. Could we please look carefully at the pornographic images that our Military Police have so skillfully produced for us and realize that, through our leaders' unwillingness to say that some things are just plain wrong, and big media's eagerness to make money at all costs, that we are eating our young? It is no accident that twenty-something American soldiers are comfortable parading an unclothed prisoner around on a dog collar and leash, forming a human pyramid of naked men, and performing sex acts for an audience.

The new politically correct way of training recruits is failing to impart a sense of discipline, and by all accounts the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib reflected more than anything else a breakdown of discipline. This is perhaps the most serious -- and most important -- lesson we can draw from this sorry episode. I serve as a parish priest in a city that is home to America's largest military training base, and for a long time military recruits had attended our Sunday morning service by the score. Many whom I met were what we veterans call squared-away -- spit and polish soldiers. Sadly, most were not. Their uniforms were sloppy, boots unshined, and deportment casual and slovenly. More than a few had paired off as dating couples and they used their Sunday morning trips off-post to sneak away to find an out-of-the-way place in our community center to hold hands and to neck. At one point our parishioners were so scandalized by the soldiers' behavior and appearance that I had to call the young people aside and remind them that most of the men in our parish were veterans and that these recruits' unmilitary bearing and conduct was an affront both to these veterans and to their country.

Marines, aviators, rangers, and spec-ops types might say, "Don't sweat it, Father, that's the Army for you." I don't buy that line of reasoning for a minute. In 1975 while a midshipman at the Naval Academy, I had the privilege of graduating from the Army Airborne School at Ft. Benning, Georgia. With a few exceptions, the students and instructors I encountered in the Army were among the most impressive members of the warrior class whom I have ever met.

In the summer of 1977, I was part of the cadre of first-class (senior) midshipmen at the academy tasked with training the new plebes (freshmen). No plebe was physically abused, but all were tested to their limits. One young man was pushed so hard that he broke down and had to be medically discharged. We were young, but we knew what we were preparing ourselves for: Vietnam had just ended and the Cold War was in high gear with no end in sight. A few short years later, I was a 26-year-old commanding an airplane with a crew of 12. We operated independently in the Mediterranean region against Soviet targets and played chicken with the Libyans. It is an understatement to say that the ability to establish and maintain discipline served me well during these missions.

Today, recruits going through boot camp are given "time-out" cards, wherein a person who is being too stressed-out by training can get a 15 minute reprieve from the drill instructors' "corrections." Some might argue that in a technological age, the smarts needed to maintain complex equipment eclipses a by-gone era's necessity to be able to wage war face-to-face against a determined enemy. Anyone who believes that is invited to read the accounts of combat coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Abu Ghraib "horror" has revealed once and for all an even greater horror: those who advocate the sexual integration of all aspects of society, the removal of all sexual taboos, and the feminization of traditionally masculine worlds like boot camp -- are winning. As a result we are all losing. It's no wonder that some of our service-persons> would turn a combat-zone prison into a theater of sexual performance art. Maybe the disgust engendered in each of us by Abu Ghraib will help swing the pendulum in the other direction, before it's too late. After all, the next time we go to war, we might not have the luxury of fighting a relatively limited engagement against third-world insurgents armed with Soviet-era weaponry.

Rev. Aris P. Metrakos is a Greek Orthodox priest and pastor of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Columbia, SC. A former Naval Aviator, he spent seven years on active duty prior to attending seminary.

Posted: 5/30/04



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