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 backtracked his comment. But that apology was not sufficient to allay Muslim-fear or suspicion, which within days of invasion of Afghanistan was bolstered by offensive graffiti written on dropped bombs and missiles. In the name of providing food to starving Afghans, American forces dropped canned ham, which is haram for Muslim consumption.[1] Then came the Iraqi invasion with its willful orgy of massacre, destruction and detention -- displaying once again American Armed Forces’ colossal religious intolerance, which led to the creation of extremists like Zarqawi. If such activities were not enough in adding salt to the injury, Bush Administration’s tacit approval of the iniquitous activities of some evangelizing Christian groups who wanted to proselytize Muslims left few doubting about the new Crusade against Islam [2] Samaritan’s Purse, e.g., was no friend of Muslims; it had advocated invasion of Muslim countries. Its leader Franklin Graham has a reputation for bigotry for holding very hostile views about Islam. And yet he, like his dad Billy, was very close to both the Bush (Sr. and Jr.) Administrations! Through his hobnobbing with Graham, George W. was not fooling anyone except himself!

Evangelization with a barrel of a gun that is pointed towards the enemy is nothing new for Graham and his ilk. [3] During the first Gulf War, in spite of an unambiguous agreement between the Saudi and American governments that no proselytizing would be allowed inside the Kingdom, Graham sent thirty thousand copies of the (so-called) New Testament in the Arabic language to American soldiers for distribution among the Saudis. He said, “I think we need to do all we can to use [the US military] presence to share with the people of that region the faith that our nation was built on.” In the spring of 1991, when the Kurds were duped into believing in Sr. Bush’s false promise for self-rule if they had rebelled against the Ba’athist regime, which eventually led to the slaughter of many, Graham said, “What a time to preach the gospel to these people! America is number one with them right now. They’re eager to listen to anything we have to say!” His activities during the Bosnian crisis were similarly ignoble, and very insulting and repugnant to the raped Muslim victims of Christian militancy.[4]

Such heinous behaviors – seen only amongst despised animals like the hyenas and vultures - have disgusted and offended many conscientious, pious Christians. But these Christian missionary extremists are not perturbed by such sentiments of their fellow Christians and have never shied away from exploiting religion -- taking the message of their lord to the bombed out, orphaned, starved, disarmed people whose territories have been devastated by the citadels of Christian power. As a mater of fact, they are at the both ends of the war – before and after. It was by design that Franklin Graham gave the prayer at President George W. Bush's inauguration and was invited to give the Good Friday prayer at the Pentagon.

Many concerned Muslims have long known about the Christian missionary agenda for “the 10/40 window,” which includes most territories of the Muslim world in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central, South and Southeast Asia -- lying between 10 degrees and 40 degrees north latitude. Thus, it was not difficult to understand why Graham’s evangelizing group and other missionary zealots had been trying to evangelize Iraq and Afghanistan so aggressively. Because of the sensitive nature of evangelization in war-devastated places like Afghanistan (with no Christian population) and Iraq (with approximately 96% Muslim population), many experts warned the Bush Administration against allowing such missionary activities. And yet, the Bush Administration decided not to interfere with such activities. By January 2005, the International Bible Society had already sent 10,000 booklets (and was preparing to send another 40,000 copies by May of 2005) for distribution amongst the Iraqis suggesting that Christ had brought peace to Iraq. [5] With the active involvement of the U.S. military, copies of the Bible in the Dari and Pushto were sent to Afghanistan for distribution amongst the Afghans. Even the foreign Muslim workers working for the Occupation forces did not escape from such proselytism. Swahili language Bibles were sent to Iraq to evangelize the Ugandan workers employed by the U.S. military. [6]

Could all such evangelization efforts happen in a war zone without the approval of the Occupation forces? No. Worse still, proselytism is not limited to civilian missionary zealots like Graham. It is actively nurtured within the U.S. Military by a very powerful segment that sees battlefields as their personal mission field to go and harvest souls. Invasion and occupation provide the necessary backdrop for such activities. 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." [7] 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” (to quote: “We are 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. [8]

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.[9] These Christian chaplains are reshaping American soldiers’ mindset – the way they perceive their military duty and the way they fight. They are the Christian Zarqawis of the U.S. military. It was, therefore, not surprising to learn that Lt. Col. Bob Young (stationed now at Kandahar Air Base) had given a PowerPoint presentation to the Afghan leaders, which can only be described as insulting to the Afghan people. In this, he boasts that if Afghanistan wants to achieve democracy she has to choose Jesus (and not Allah), following America’s model. These extremist Christians within the U.S. Armed Forces are obviously behaving like “government paid missionaries” crossing the line between church and state."[10] 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 a brave and courageous Staff Sergeant Jeffery Humphrey who told him about a murderous campaign that was conducted in Samarra, Iraq on an Easter day: “A chaplain brought around a copy of Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic film Passion of the Christ, which they then put on constant play throughout the day. When they came under attack, the … Army Special Forces to whom he was assigned, had their Iraqi translator, an Iraqi American Christian, paint in giant red Arabic letters on the side of a Bradley fighting vehicle the words “Jesus killed Mohammed.” Then, while they put the translator on the roof with a bullhorn, shouting in Arabic, “Jesus killed Mohammed,” and then … training American guns on anybody who responded, the Bradley fighting vehicle rolled out into the city of Samarra and drawing fire everywhere it went, leading the Special Forces to conclude that every single Iraqi who took offense at these words, “Jesus killed Mohammed,” was part of the enemy and therefore needed to be destroyed." [11]

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.[12]

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? [13] How about the cold-blooded murder of worshippers in mosques in Fallujah? [14] 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." [15] This group is growing at three percent a year.

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." [16] 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..." [17]

According to Mikey Weinstein, founder of MRFF, some 75 senior Pentagon officials, who advocated for invasion of Iraq, including the Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, are pushing the mission of an extreme right-wing fundamentalist Christian organization called the Christian Embassy. The matter was brought to the attention of Secretary Gates who failed to take any action against them. As a matter of fact most of them have since been promoted.[18]

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. [19] As a global power, can America afford to be seen as a neo-Crusading power of our time?

Notes:

[1]. Even during the Bosnian Crisis, the U.S. and Allied Forces were accused of distributing and dropping canned food containing pork amongst Muslims.

[2]. Christian Science Monitor, April 17, 2003.

[3]. http://www.altmuslim.com/a/a/a/2094/

[4]. Graham explained his motive: "By helping refugee families... we'll be earning the right to preach Christ to these families and their Muslim neighbors."http://www.inminds.co.uk/occ-articles.html

[5]. http://www.christianaggression.org/item_display.php?type=NEWS&id=1107708809

[6]. http://www.pubrecord.org/religion/890-rights-group-uncovers-other-cases-of-military-proselytizing-christianity-to-muslims.html

[7]. For a shorter version of the video, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbJ63Y4R0dA

[8]. “Crusade for a Christian Military”: Are US Forces Trying to Convert Afghans to Christianity? – Democracy Now, Amy Goodman: http://www.democracynow.org/2009/5/6/the_crusade_for_a_christian_military

[9]. One can see the impact of Christian zealots within the U.S. Armed Forces even during the time of President Clinton when bombs were dropped with offensive graffiti. http://www.millat.com/ghalibcom/events/iraq98/us_sorry_for_bomb_graffiti_.htm

[10]. “Crusade for a Christian Military”, op. cit.

[11]. Ibid.

[12]. Ibid.

[13]. On May 18, 2003 a US soldier was removed from Iraq after using a copy of the Qur'an as a target in a shooting practice, riddling the Muslim holy book with bullets. [Islam Online, May 30, 2003]

[14]. In November 2004, the killing of nearly 40 unarmed Iraqis inside a mosque in the northern city of Fallujah by a US marine battalion prompted widespread international condemnation. [Islam Online, May 30, 2008]

[15]. http://www.pubrecord.org/religion/140-stephen-mansfield-vs-mikey-weinstein.html

[16]. Ibid.

[17]. As cited by Chris Rodda in http://www.pubrecord.org/religion/140-stephen-mansfield-vs-mikey-weinstein.html

[18]. http://www.democracynow.org/2009/5/6/the_crusade_for_a_christian_military

[19]. See, e.g., Kamran Pasha’s excellent article around this theme: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kamran-pasha/bible-and-guns-why-soldie_b_195973.html