Al Jazeera Strikes Back at Pentagon, Releases Unedited Footage of US Soldiers' 'Bible Study' in Afghanistan

Hours after Al Jazeera first broadcast a video
showing US soldiers in Afghanistan being instructed by the military's
top chaplain in the country to "hunt people for Jesus" as they spread
Christianity to the overwhelmingly Muslim population, the Pentagon shot
back. It charged that Al Jazeera had "grossly misrepresent[ed] the truth." Col. Greg Julian, told Al Jazeera: "Most of this is taken out of context ... this is irresponsible and inappropriate journalism."

Now, Al Jazeera and the man who filmed the controversial material are striking back. The network has just released unedited and unaltered footage
(see below) of US soldiers in 'bible study' in Afghanistan. Jazeera
describes it as "Extended footage shot by Brian Hughes, a US
documentary maker and former member of the US military who spent
several days in Bagram near Kabul."

In Al Jazeera's original report, Hughes addressed the fact that
soldiers had imported bibles translated into Pashto and Dari. "[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

Regarding allegations that the sermon of the military's top chaplain
in Afghanistan, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, where he instructs
soldiers to "hunt people for Jesus" was taken out of context, Hughes said in a statment,
"Any contention by the military that his words are purposefully taken
out of context to alter the tone or meaning of his sermon is absolutely

Hughes is completely standing by the accuracy of Al Jazeera's report. Here is Hughes's statement:

On Sunday, May 3, the Al Jazeera English network and I made an agreement to produce a broadcast segment
from a rough cut of my documentary film. This opportunity came after a
May 2009 Harper's magazine cover story called "Jesus Killed Mohammed."
While he researched and prepared that article, I allowed the author Jeff Sharlet to view the work-in-progress documentary. Sharlet's article brought the film to Al Jazeera English's attention.

documentary, titled The Word and the Warriors, is inspired by a
personal experience I had while serving as a combat flight crew member
during the first Gulf War. During a very difficult and emotional time
at war, an Army chaplain provided me comfort and counsel. I will never
forget the important advice or the man who - without questioning my own
faith - helped me at a time of need.

For two-and-a-half years, I
have been researching and producing this film. I have traveled the
world, interviewing both military servicemembers and civilians about
the important role of these religious leaders/military officers.

April/May 2008, I went to Afghanistan. With the assistance and full
cooperation of the U.S. Army, I was allowed to film at Bagram Air
Field. During that time, I was always wearing press credentials, and I
was always accompanied by a media liaison while filming. The media
liaison staff knew everything I filmed and - as I was told by them -
they filed reports every evening about what I had filmed. It was my
primary media liaison, an Army NCO, who - on my first day - invited me
to meet LTC Gary Hensley. Hensley, the ranking chaplain in Afghanistan
talked to me off camera expressing a concern he had about allowing me
to film his chaplains. At the conclusion of the discussion, he agreed
that I would be allowed to embed with his chaplains and invited me to
film several hours of religious services.

Those hours at the
Enduring Faith Chapel included his own sermon at a service called
Chapel Next. With the exception of a few minutes I could not film
because I was reloading my camera or moving to position for another
shot, I videotaped Hensley's entire sermon.

Any contention by
the military that his words are purposefully taken out of context to
alter the tone or meaning of his sermon is absolutely false...

In recent press statements,
the military also contends that - in the footage depicting the
Afghan-language (Dari and Pashto) bibles - a cut was made before "it
would have shown that the chaplain instructed that the Bibles not be
distributed." This is a false statement. The chaplain - as seen in the
footage before the cut - instructs the group to be careful and
reiterates the definition of General Order #1. After this cut he begins
to organize the group for the evening's bible study lessons.

and in my opinion most important, is the fact that EVERY FRAME of the
rough cut from Bagram was provided to the U.S. Army Public Affairs
Office in advance of this release. On Thursday, April 30 at
approximately 1 pm EST, the Army took possession of a DVD with this
footage by accepting a FedEx from me. Since Al Jazeera English first
aired the piece Sunday, May 3 at 10pm EST, the Army had every frame of
this rough cut for more than 80 hours.

Here is Hughes's unedited footage released by Al Jazeera:

See related:

US Soldiers in Afghanistan Told to "hunt people for Jesus... so we get them into the kingdom"

Military Calls Al Jazeera 'Irresponsible and Inappropriate' After
Network Broadcast US Soldiers Being Told to "hunt people for Jesus" in

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