The Christianization of the US Military in the War on Terror
The controversy surrounding the US Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program is but the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the frightening “Christianization” of the American military. The trend towards a more Christian armed forces has been greatly accelerated over the last decade during the “War on Terror,” which despite the protestations of both the Bush and Obama administrations is often seen by millions of Muslims as a war against Islam itself.
Muslims, already wary of American intentions before 9/11, stood up and took notice when former President George W. Bush declared after the tragic 2001 terror attacks that “this is a new kind of evil… This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while.” To Muslims, the word ‘crusade’ sounds a lot like ‘jihad’ does to us, only stronger. It evokes collective “memories” of the centuries-old and centuries-long quest by European invaders to conquer lands holy to both Christianity and Islam. It’s the last word that should’ve been uttered by a born-again Christian president trying to convince the Muslim world that America was not declaring war on Islam.
The fact is, to many top U.S. military commanders this is a crusade. When faced with the “why do they hate us” question, Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin, a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense during the George W. Bush administration, answered: “because we’re a Christian nation. We are hated because we are a nation of believers.” Boykin, who believes that Bush was appointed by God, believed in fighting jihad with jihad: “Our spiritual enemies will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus.” The three-star general appeared on CNN where he reminisced about hunting down Somali warlord Osman Atto, who claimed he was protected from the Americans by Allah. “Well you know what,” Boykin blustered on worldwide cable TV, “I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.
Top Pentagon generals have appeared in Christian fundamentalist videos. A powerful group of 15,000 high-ranking military personnel have formed the Officer’s Christian Fellowship (OCF), which operates on 80% of American bases. OCF leader, retired Air Force Lieutenant General Bruce Fister calls the War on Terror “a spiritual battle of the highest magnitude”; the organization refers to U.S. troops as “ambassadors for Christ in uniform.” Christian indoctrination, religious intolerance and bullying plagued the U.S. Air Force Academy, which was already reeling from a massive rape scandal, throughout the 2000s. National Day of Prayer services were exclusively Christian. Virulent anti-Semitism, harassment of non-believers and even discrimination against various Christian sects were commonplace. The Academy forced cadets to attend an assembly in which Christian fundamentalists asserted that the only way to stop terrorism was to “kill Islam.”
Throughout the U.S. military, from top to bottom, there is plenty of ammunition for our enemies who believe America is on a Christian crusade to destroy Islam. Biblical quotes adorned cover sheets of intelligence reports written for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Secret coded references to biblical passages about Jesus Christ were engraved into hundreds of thousands of rifle sights used by U.S. Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. troops are forced to participate in Christian prayers and to attend mandatory instruction on how the War on Terror relates to biblical end-of-the-world prophecy. Atheist troops have been harassed and beaten. Soldiers were even punished for not attending a Christian rock concert at Ft. Eustis, Virginia.
In the field, U.S. troops have vandalized mosques in Fallujah, used a Koran for target practice in Iraq and urinated on one in Guantanamo Bay. And a Bradley armored fighting vehicle rolled through the streets of Samarra during the Islamic call to prayer, broadcasting in Arabic this message of respect and friendship from the United States: “JESUS KILLED MOHAMMED.”
Ex-Marine sergeant Chris White recalled the Muslim “indoctrination” classes he attended in Qatar: The level of racism was unbelievable. Muslims were referred to as “Ahmed,” “towelheads,” “ragheads,” and “terrorists.” We were told that most Muslim males were homosexual, and that their hygiene was so primitive that we shouldn’t even shake their hands. The object was demonization through… dehumanization, so as to make it easier for us to pull the trigger when ordered to.
“Demonization through dehumanization” works, at least on a significant impressionable chunk of our men and women in uniform. “I hate Arabs more than anybody,” Iraq war veteran Forrest Fogarty proudly declared. “They’re just a backward… disgusting people as far as I’m concerned. Their customs, everything to do with the Middle East, is just repugnant to me.” “I don’t even think about those people as people,” said Marine Lance Corporal Tom Browne, returning from the first battle of Fallujah. “A lot of guys really supported that whole concept that, you know, if they don’t speak English and they have darker skin, they’re not as human as us, so we can do what we want,” concurred Josh Middleton, formerly of the 82nd Airborne.
I have repeatedly heard similar sentiments expressed by personal friends and acquaintances who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Former Army Reserve mechanic Aidan Delgado recalled an incident in which soldiers from his company mutilated the corpses of Iraqi prisoners that they’d shot dead for protesting their squalid living conditions. Delgado says the soldiers posed for grotesque photos with the bodies; one of them scooped out a dead man’s brains from his shattered skull with a spoon. “It was a real common thing in the military,” he said, “because the guys thought Arabs are terrorists, the scum of the earth. Anything we do to them is all right.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that in a 2007 Pentagon survey of U.S. combat troops in Iraq, only 47% of soldiers and 38% of Marines agreed that innocent Iraqi civilians “should be treated with dignity and respect.”
As you’ve just seen, the “Christianization” of our nation’s military forces can lead to some pretty scary results. Yet it continues apace, unchallenged by all but a few dissenting voices that are rewarded for their concern with hostility and marginalization. The excessive influence of Christianity in the US military is dangerous not only because it creates soldiers who believe that since “god” is on their side, any atrocities they commit are forgiven since they are “god’s will,” it also creates more “terrorists” who, not without reason, point to the many examples above (and countless others) as proof that the United States is indeed engaged in a holy crusade against Islam.
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