Christian Extremists Within the U.S. Military - Myth or Reality?
By Habib Siddiqui
When President George W. Bush called his war on terrorism a “crusade,” very few Muslims doubted his evil intention. In the face of strong condemnation at home and abroad, he quickly apologized. But that apology was not sufficient to allay Muslim-fear or suspicion, which within days of invasion of Afghanistan was bolstered by a plethora of events – from offensive graffiti written on dropped bombs and missiles to air-drop of canned ham on the fleeing refugees, let alone systemic destruction of Islamic sites. With Bush’s incessant bombing campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq more and more people got a flavor of his toxic cocktail of Christian fundamentalism and brute military power.
Occupation without extermination or conversion is a useless exercise for a Crusader. True to that Christian spirit, Bush was not satisfied with the mere killing of hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians and utter destruction of invaded territories he wanted to “salvage” the souls of all those who dared to stay alive – maimed, orphaned, widowed, child-less. Thus came the Christian missionaries – the likes of Franklin Graham - to snatch the Muslim soul. However, they were not the only Yankee carpetbaggers gathered in the “10/40 Window” to earn a Godly reward. There were more. The soldier-preachers. Very few doubted about their existence after Bush’s imperial gamble.
A powerful segment within the U.S. military, the Chaplain Corps, has been preaching to the soldiers to see the battlefields as their personal mission field to go and kill, and harvest souls of those that survived. This revelation may sound absurd in a country that preaches separation of church and state, unless you are following closely the ideological transformation of the best equipped fighting force.
A recently released video-tape “Inside Story” by Al-Jazeera puts to rest all doubts about whether or not the U.S. military encourages proselytism in war-devastated countries (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntZz37IZ1uk&feature=channel). In that, video-taped a year ago, correspondent James Bays shows the U.S. service members in Bagram Base discussing proselytizing in Afghanistan with Lieutenant-Colonel Hensley, the top military chaplain in Afghanistan. They discussed about “hunting people for Jesus.” Lt. Col. Hensley is heard saying that the US soldiers in Afghanistan have a mission basically to carry out the work of God. And then he declares that the U.S. military is now the “new Israel.” A closer look also revealed that Hensley was wearing a T-shirt showing his affiliation with a fundamentalist group called Chapel NeXt, and at the background there was also a Christian cross inscribed over a map of Afghanistan.
These are very disturbing images about the U.S. military. It shows that the American military, in essence, has become the recruiting and breeding ground for the soldiers for Christ. A significant number are religious zealots who join the military simply to kill and die for the Christ. Others are indoctrinated by fundamentalist military chaplains. The latter are assiduously changing the secular military to a Christian chauvinist fighting force. And this change did not happen overnight.
According to Jeff Sharlet, contributing editor for Harper’s Magazine and author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, from the time of President Reagan Chaplain Corps in the U.S. military has become predominantly Christian fundamentalist, comprising of about 80 percent fundamentalist chaplains today. These Christian chaplains are reshaping American soldiers’ mindset – the way they perceive their military duty and the way they fight. These extremist Christians within the U.S. Armed Forces are obviously behaving like “government paid missionaries” crossing the line between church and state.” And yet, the Pentagon has not reprimanded such officers.
We also learn that these Christian evangelist chaplains are enticing violence by brain-washing their soldiers (e.g., intoxicating their mind with religious hatred) to commit horrendous crimes, which are nothing short of terrorism and war crimes. Sharlet cites how a young Lieutenant got so charged up religiously after viewing Mel Gibson’s film “Passion of the Christ” (which was made available by the Chaplain) that he had his Bradley fighting vehicle painted with the Arabic words “Jesus killed Muhammad.” Then, he put his Arabic translator on the roof with a bullhorn, shouting in Arabic, “Jesus killed Mohammed,” and rolled out into the city of Samarra. He killed every single Iraqi who took offense at those words.
And it seems that the U.S. military rewards men responsible for committing such war crimes. Lieutenant John DeGiulio, the man who drove that Bradley, is now Captain John DeGiulio, promoted since. In his conversation with Sharlet, DeGiulio boasted that he destroyed everything he saw on one whole block, blowing up every single thing, and that he was able to do this, because “God was on his side” and because he had been spiritually armored by watching Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. He was thankful to his chaplain for preparing him for that kind of “spiritual battle” on the streets of Iraq.
Is there a connection between how a soldier acts in a war zone with his/her teachings? Absolutely! How else can we explain the wanton destruction and defilement of mosques by American soldiers? How about desecration of the Qur’an? How about the cold-blooded murder of worshippers in mosques in Fallujah? How about almost daily killings of innocent civilians by the U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan? To these soldiers and officers pushing the button or pulling the trigger, the non-Christian victims simply don’t count. After 9/11, like President Bush, they have started seeing America’s conflicts as what they described as “spiritual war” - between good and evil, where America is on the side of good. As already noted above, the fundamentalist chaplains are doing their part to indoctrinate every soldier. The goal of the Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF), an organization consisting of over 15,000 officers and operating on hundreds of U.S. military installations worldwide, is to “create a spiritually transformed U.S. military, with Ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit.”
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is at the forefront of its battle to curb the poisonous influence of Christian evangelists – who are nothing but religious extremists—within the U.S. military. It has documented cases of undue pressure that are being put on the military recruits to join Christian fundamentalist groups. MRFF’s six-month long investigation has revealed a well planned and coordinated effort within the U.S. Military by organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ’s Military Ministry to “Evangelize and Disciple All Enlisted Members of the US Military” and to “Utilize Ministry at each basic training center and beyond.” If that was not enough to be alarmed, consider Campus Crusade’s plan for the nation. In the October 2005 issue of the organization’s “Life and Leadership” newsletter, Maj. Gen. Bob Dees, U.S. Army (ret.), Executive Director of the Campus Crusade, said: “We must pursue our particular means for transforming the nation—through the military. And the military may well be the most influential way to affect that spiritual superstructure. Militaries exercise, generally speaking, the most intensive and purposeful indoctrination program of citizens…”
Since 9/11, we have been fed myths about al-Qaeda’s goals to kill non-Muslims and establish an Islamic Caliphate in the world, let alone force Islam upon the dhimmis. Little attention has been paid to America’s own brand of al-Qaeda that has been growing at an alarming rate, and more ominously, within its own military. With all the lethal weapons at their disposal, these soldiers for the Christ – the Christian Zarqawis—within the U.S. military are more dangerous than anything we can imagine. And what is more frightening is that, as MRFF has documented, they’re so dominant within the military that they have become, in some ways, the mainstream rather than the fringe. Al Jazeera video cannot be explained away as an isolated, out of context incident. Here, unlike OBL’s shadow organization, we are not dealing with myths but hard facts about U.S. military’s own transformation into a fighting force that embraces an extreme version of Christian fundamentalism. Sadly, we have not yet seen any effort within the Pentagon to curb the influence of this cancerous entity.
For years, the U.S. government has complained about the presence of religious extremists within armed forces of South Asian countries. Through its failure to check religious militancy in its own backyard, the U.S. government has only substantiated its deplorable hypocrisy.
If the Obama Administration is serious about change from Bush’s reckless policy of tying Christian fundamentalism with national interest, resulting in a world disorder (let alone spiraling America’s economic recession) to an equitable policy towards a more cohesive world order, it must renounce its own brand of al-Qaeda growing within the Armed Forces. It ought to know that when its military goes into another country with a killing machine in one hand and a Bible in the other, such a behavior is arrogant and stupid. It can only create resentment and repercussion, and produce the likes of Zarqawi among the victims. But more importantly, such images fit directly into Al-Qaeda’s meme that Americans are engaged in a new Crusade to destroy Islam. As a global power, can America afford to be seen as a neo-Crusading power of our time?
Video Proves Proselytization Rampant at U.S. Military Bases, Mikey Weinstein http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/video_proves_proselytization_rampant_at_us_military_bases/
Bush: God told me to invade Iraq, Rupert Cornwell http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/bush-god-told-me-to-invade-iraq-509925.html
The Crusaders : “The Christian Taliban Is Running the Department of Defense”, Robert Koehler http://www.truthout.org/article/robert-koehler-the-christian-taliban-is-running-department-defense
Iraqis claim Marines are pushing Christianity in Fallujah http://www.mcclatchydc.com/251/story/38820.html
Jesus killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian military, Jeff Sharlet http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/05/0082488
Not so fast, Christian soldiers, Mikey Weinstein and Reza Aslan http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-oe-aslan22aug22,1,2971273.story?coll=la-news-a_section&ctrack=5&cset=true
Soldiers inAfghanistan given Bibles, told to “hunt people for Jesus” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/04/soldiers-in-afghanistan-g_n_195674.html
The war against Islam, James Carroll http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2005/06/07/the_war_against_islam/
Witness for Jesus in Afghanistan http://informationclearinghouse.info/article22544.htm