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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.

Jeremy Scahill

 by The Intercept

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.

Former Afghan prime minister Ahmed Shah Ahmedzai told
Al Jazeera there must be a "serious investigation," saying, "This is
very damaging for diplomatic relations between the two counties." Sayed
Aalam Uddin Asser, of the Islamic Front for Peace and Understanding in
Kabul, told the network: "It's a national security issue ... our
constitution says nothing can take place in Afghanistan against Islam.
If people come and propaganda other religions which have no followers
in Afghanistan [then] it creates problems for the people, for peace,
for stability."

A US military spokesperson, Major Jennifer Willis, denied
that the US military has allowed its soldiers to attempt to convert
Afghans and said comments from sermons filmed at Bagram were taken out
of context. She said the bibles were never distributed. "That specific
case involved a soldier who brought in a donation of translated bibles
that were sent to his personal address by his home church. He showed
them to the group and the chaplain explained that he cannot distribute
them," she said. "The translated bibles were never distributed as far
as we know, because the soldier understood that if he distributed them
he would be in violation of general order 1, and he would be subject to
punishment."

The video footage was shot about a year ago by
documentary filmmaker Brian Hughes, who is also a former US soldier.
"[US soldiers] weren't talking about learning how to speak Dari or
Pashto, by reading the Bible and using that as the tool for language
lessons," Hughes told Al Jazeera. "The only reason they would have
these documents there was to distribute them to the Afghan people. And
I knew it was wrong, and I knew that filming it ... documenting it would
be important."

The broadcast of this video comes just days after a new poll of
White Americans found that, in the US, church going Christians are more
likely to support the use of torture than other segments of the
population. The Pew Research Center poll found:
"White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to
say torture is often or sometimes justified - more than six in 10
supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were
least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did."

This is
certainly not the first scandal where US military forces or officials
have been caught on tape promoting an evangelical Christian agenda.
Perhaps the most high-profile case involved Lieut. Gen. William Boykin,
who was a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence under Bush.
Boykin was part of Donald Rumsfeld's inner circle at the Pentagon where
he was placed in charge of hunting "high-value targets." Boykin was one
of the key U.S. officials in establishing what critics alleged was
death-squad-type activity in Iraq.

In October 2003, Boykin was revealed to have gone on several
anti-Muslim rants, in public speeches, many of which he delivered in
military uniform. Since January 2002, Boykin had spoken at twenty-three
religious-oriented events, wearing his uniform at all but two. Among
Boykin's statements, he said he knew the U.S. would prevail over a
Muslim adversary in Somalia because "I knew that my God was bigger than
his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." Boykin
also charged that Islamic radicals want to destroy America "because
we're a Christian nation" that "will never abandon Israel." Our
"spiritual enemy," Boykin declared, "will only be defeated if we come
against them in the name of Jesus."

As for President Bush,
Boykin said, "Why is this man in the White House? The majority of
Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this
morning that he's in the White House because God put him there for a
time such as this." In another speech, Boykin said other countries
"have lost their morals, lost their values. But America is still a
Christian nation." He told a church group in Oregon that special
operations forces were victorious in Iraq because of their faith in
God. "Ladies and gentlemen, I want to impress upon you that the battle
that we're in is a spiritual battle," he said. "Satan wants to destroy
this nation, he wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to
destroy us as a Christian army."

Watch Al Jazeera's report here.


© 2021 The Intercept
Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill is an investigative reporter, war correspondent, co-founder of The Intercept, and author of the international bestselling books "Dirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield"(2014) and "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army" (2008). He has reported from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere across the globe. Scahill has served as the national security correspondent for The Nation and Democracy Now!, and in 2014 co-founded The Intercept with fellow journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and investor Pierre Omidyar.

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