Crusaders of the 21st Century
by Charles Lemos, Mon May 04, 2009 at 08:33:17 PM EDT
Of all blunders to commit, this one is beyond the pale and only sure to arose the ire of the Islamic world unnecessarily. US soldiers at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan have been filmed with local language Bibles and urged to be "witnesses for Jesus" despite anti-proselytizing rules.
In the video obtained by Qatar's Al Jazeera, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, is shown telling US 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."
Al Jazeera's James Bays reports. I cannot in good conscience support any effort that involves proselytizing in Afghanistan. Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley must be removed from his position and reprimanded if not court-martial for breaking the military's anti-proselytizing rules. It is not our business to save souls. That is not the nature of the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Whatever goodwill the President has so far engendered in his attempts to reach out to Muslims across the globe stands to be lost because of the reckless zeal of evangelical Christians who seem to view the US military as a modern day crusading institution.
Update [2009-5-5 1:29:25 by Charles Lemos]:Al Jazeera has an update to this story.
The US's highest ranking military officer has said it is not the US military's position to promote any specific religion, after Al Jazeera revealed footage of troops apparently preparing to convert Afghans to their Christian faith. "From the United States' military's perspective, it is not our position to ever push any specific kind of religion, period," said Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Monday. The US military has also confiscated Bibles that Christian US soldiers in Afghanistan had apparently intended to give to local Muslims, a military spokesman told Al Jazeera. In addition, some of the soldiers who appeared in the video have also been reprimanded, US government and military officials told Al Jazeera's James Bays. The video, shot about a year ago, appeared to show military chaplains stationed in the US air base at Bagram discussing how to distribute copies of the Bible printed in the country's main Pashto and Dari languages.
I am not sure if this is the end to the story or not but Jeremy Scahill has more at the Huffington Post.