Thursday, May 29, 2008

Holy Warriors


The Marine in question has been reassigned:
The US military confirmed yesterday that a marine in Fallujah passed out coins with Gospel verses on them to Sunni Muslims, a military spokesman in the Iraqi city said. The man was immediately removed from duty and reassigned.

The coins angered residents who said they felt that the American troops, whom they consider occupiers, were also acting as Christian missionaries in a predominantly Muslim nation.


Yesterday, the US military apologised for the incident, telling McClatchy special correspondent Jamal Naji that action would be taken following an investigation.

This can’t be productive:

They checked to be sure that he was a city resident, and when they were done, Anad said, a Marine slipped a coin out of his pocket and put it in his hand.

Out of fear, he accepted it, Anad said. When he was inside the city, the college student said, he looked at one side of the coin. "Where will you spend eternity?" it asked.

He flipped it over, and on the other side it read, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16."

"They are trying to convert us to Christianity," said Anad, a Sunni Muslim like most residents of this city in Anbar province. At home, he told his story, and his relatives echoed their disapproval: They'd been given the coins, too, he said.

Proselytizing by members of the U.S. military in Iraq has been a consistent problem, and it goes straight to the top. It certainly doesn’t help win hearts and minds to cast our occupation of Iraq as a religious crusade.

To his credit, President Bush has consistently framed the Muslim faith in positive terms. A week after 9/11 the president gave his famous "Islam Is Peace” speech, and he’s continued to to say positive things about Islam since then. Last week the Administration even issued guidelines advising against use of words like “jihadi” and “Islamofascism” in government documents--much to conservatives’ dismay. Hatemongering is no fun when even the torturer in chief isn’t behind you.

So I have to wonder why so many in the military still have the mistaken idea they’re on some kind of holy mission. Why would former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld rally behind a zealot like Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, when he should have been reprimanded?

Why this?

The Anti-Defamation League Tuesday called on members of the U.S. Senate and House Armed Services Committees to hold hearings on what the group termed "coercive proselytizing and religious activity in the military."

The organization said the effort was aimed at creating specific guidelines to ensure that the military remains "accessible and welcoming to servicemen and servicewomen of all faiths, and to those of no faith at all."

The 2007 Department of Defense Authorization bill, approved by the last session of Congress, directed the Secretary of the Air Force and the Secretary of the Navy to rescind their existing guidelines on religious activity, the ADL noted.

And this:

A military watchdog group is asking the Defense Department to investigate whether seven Army and Air Force officers violated regulations by appearing in uniform in a promotional video for an evangelical Christian organization.

In the video, much of which was filmed inside the Pentagon, four generals and three colonels praise the Christian Embassy, a group that evangelizes among military leaders, politicians and diplomats in Washington. Some of the officers describe their efforts to spread their faith within the military.

The U.S. military is open to people of all faiths and no faith. We still haven’t adequately explained to the world why we’re in Iraq, but the absolute worst thing that could happen is for the people of the Middle East to successfully cast this as a clash of civilizations.

So, cut it out, people. This is not Christianity-vs-Islam. Making the war look like some holy crusade will only make a dangerous situation much worse. Jesus isn't going to return just because you memorized every word of the "Left Behind" series.