Monday, May 4, 2009

It looks like a crusade

US Soldiers in Afghanistan Told to "Hunt People for Jesus... So We Get Them into the Kingdom":

Military officials at Bagram are caught on tape urging US soldiers to evangelize in the Muslim country.

New video evidence has surfaced showing that US military forces in Afghanistan have been instructed by the military's top chaplain in the country to "hunt people for Jesus" as they spread Christianity to the overwhelmingly Muslim population. Soldiers also have imported bibles translated into Pashto and Dari, the two dominant languages of Afghanistan. What's more, the center of this evangelical operation is at the huge US base at Bagram, one of the main sites used by the US military to torture and indefinitely detain prisoners.

In a video obtained by Al Jazeera and broadcast Monday, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, is seen telling soldiers that as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility "to be witnesses for him."

"The special forces guys - they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down," he says.

"Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business."

The translated Bibles appear to be the New Testament. According to Al Jazeera, US soldiers "had them specially printed and shipped to Afghanistan." On the tape, one soldier describes how his church in the US helped raise money for the bibles. Al Jazeera reports that "What these soldiers have been doing may well be in direct violation of the US Constitution, their professional codes and the regulations in place for all forces in Afghanistan." The US military officially forbids "proselytising of any religion, faith or practice." But, as Al Jazeera reports:

[T]he chaplains appear to have found a way around the regulation known as General Order Number One.

"Do we know what it means to proselytise?" Captain Emmit Furner, a military chaplain, says to the gathering.

"It is General Order Number One," an unidentified soldier replies.

But Watt says "you can't proselytise but you can give gifts."
Trying to convert Muslims to any other faith is a crime in Afghanistan. The fact that the video footage is being broadcast on Al Jazeera guarantees that it will be seen throughout the Muslim world. It is likely to add more credence to the perception that the US is engaging in a war on Islam with neo-crusader forces invading Muslim lands.
Most Americans are under the impression that the reason the US has troops in Afghanistan has something to do with preventing Osama bin Laden and his cohorts from using Afghanistan as their training ground. I seriously doubt, that outside of wingnutia, that most Americans would support some form of religious crusade. Unfortunately, what Scahill reports above is precisely what you get when you have a president (the former president Bush II) who uses religious imagery in characterizing the military efforts in Afghanistan (and for that matter Iraq). Leaving aside the question of whether the US should have ever gone to war in Afghanistan in the first place, we can at least note that the war seems to have been spun one way for public consumption, and executed in a much different way outside the public eye.

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