Onward Christian Soldiers

The United States Air Force Academy, which is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, defines its Core Values as “Integrity first; Service before self; and Excellence in all we do.” The US Air Force certainly excels at killing people from a safe and lofty distance, and the US Air Force also unquestioningly and apparently without any ethical qualms serves the interests of wealthy US corporations in their ongoing quest for global economic domination. But the US Air Force Academy’s self-attribution of “integrity” is false and ludicrous.

In June of 1954 the CIA and the US Air Force overthrew the democratically elected President of Guatemala, Jacopo Arbenz, because Arbenz supported land reform in his country, where 2% of the landowners owned 70% of the arable land and farm laborers were treated like slaves. Arbenz’ program of land reform went against the wishes of the United Fruit Company and other US corporations that benefited from the exploitation of Guatemala ’s land and its people. During the past fifty years the USA has supported a succession of murderous right-wing dictators in Guatemala, and during that time, in what is rightly termed ‘genocide,’ the Guatemalan government has killed more than 200,000 peasants. The Guatemalan death squads also target those who champion or protect the rights of the peasants, including Catholic nuns and priests.

The Guatemalan military and its death squads have received direct training from the CIA and the US military, particularly the US Air Force. General Efrain Rios Montt, a ‘born-again’ Christian and a graduate of the notorious School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, became the dictator of Guatemala in a 1982 coup. Montt was one of the most savage of Guatemalan dictators, and ‘born again’ US President Ronald Reagan was an avid supporter of Montt and the Christian fascist rulers of Guatemala. The Iran/Contra scandal of the 1980s briefly shed some light on the CIA and US military participation in drug and arms smuggling, torture training, and death squads in Central America, but those activities have continued to the present day.

The Israeli military has also provided leadership, training, weapons, and technical assistance to the Guatemalan death squads. The Israeli Uzi submachine gun is a favorite weapon of the Guatemalan military, and the Israelis provided computer systems to the Guatemalan government that have been used to identify and locate dissidents and other victims for the death squads. The Israelis, who constantly promote the image of themselves as perennially beleaguered victims, have crossed the Atlantic Ocean to participate in the torture, murder, and oppression of Guatemalan peasants who never did anything to harm or threaten Israel. There is only one reason for the Israelis to have assisted the Guatemalan death squads: the Israelis did it for money and for power.

In the fall of 2003 The New York Times published the results of a survey which revealed that 12% of the women cadets who graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 2003 reported that they had been the victims of rape or attempted rape by male classmates, and that about 20% of all women cadets at the Academy had been the victims of sexual assaults by male cadets. Seventy percent of the female cadets complained of sexual harassment at the Academy. Follow-up studies have shown that often the female cadet rape victims at the Air Force Academy were punished, while their male attackers were usually given minor reprimands and permitted to graduate.

Around the same time, between 2001 and 2005, fifty-five complaints of religious discrimination were filed at the Air Force Academy, where Christian cadets, teachers, and administrators had subjected the non-Christian cadets to preaching and proselytizing, to mandatory Christian prayer sessions, and to harassment for being non-Christians. Ninety percent of the cadets at the Air Force Academy claim to be Christians. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a religious liberty group based in Washington, DC, stated that: “We have concluded that both the specific violations and the promotion of a culture of official religious intolerance are pervasive, systematic and evident at the very highest levels of the Academy's command structure." Michael Weinstein, a 1977 graduate of the Air Force Academy, has brought a lawsuit against the Air Force on behalf of his son Curtis, who was called a “filthy Jew” on numerous occasions by Christian cadets at the Academy.

In a White House ceremony held on the morning of May 4th, 2001, President George W. Bush presented the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, a football award for the USA’s service academies, to the victorious team of the2000-2001 season, the Air Force Academy’sFalcons.On thatoccasion Bush was characteristically effusive with his Christian praise: “I love Coach DeBerry's motto: Faith, Family and Falcons,” said Bush, and in closing Bush said “God bless” to the assembled functionaries, Academy cadets, and their family members. In November 2004 Coach Deberry put up a banner in the sports locker room of the gymnasium at the Air Force Academy which said: “I am a Christian first and last ... I am a member of Team Jesus Christ.” The banner was removed three days later, due to the Academy administration’s concerns about the ongoing controversy over the religious harassment of non-Christian cadets.

In November 2005 The Washington Post reported that a Colorado-based Christian missionary group known as the Navigators was currently training Air Force Academy cadets to evangelize among their fellow students. Another Colorado-based Christian group, Focus on the Family, led a nationwide petition drive, a talk-a-thon on Christian radio stations, and an email campaign directed at the White House and the office of the Secretary of the Air Force which claimed that Christian chaplains, officers, and cadets are all protected by the US Constitution's guarantees of free speech and free exercise of religion to publicly pray and proselytize as they please. Responding to the demands of their Christian constituents, seventy-two members of Congress signed a letter to President Bush which urged him to sign an executive order that would allow military chaplains to publicly pray “in Jesus’ name” rather than offering nonsectarian prayers. On February 9th, 2006 the Air Force announced its new guidelines for chaplains, which places a strong emphasis on the right of chaplains, officers, and cadets to pray as they please at official functions and also to preach to their peers and subordinates, while discounting the Constitutional prohibition against any government establishment of religion.

Beginning with his first Inaugural address on January 20th, 2001, President Bush has continually laced his public speeches with numerous references to “my Faith,” “our Faith,” “my God,” and “our God,” as if the citizenry of the USA were uniformly and homogenously ‘born again’ Christians like Bush himself. The impression that Bush conveys with such usage is that the USA is fundamentally a Christian country, in which Christianity is, and should be, the dominant creed both in US society at large and in the US government. Listening to Bush speak, all non-Christian US citizens are reminded that they are actually second-class citizens. One of the most egregious, dangerous, costly, and immoral demands that Christians make on the body politic of the USA is the US support for the Jewish State of Israel, which is an essentially religious cause of value only to Jews and Christians. The US government support for Israel; the Faith-Based Initiative, which exclusively supports Christian organizations; and the USA’s “War on Terrorism,” which is really a Christian “Crusade against Islam,” are but a few examples of the many ways that non-Christian US citizens endure ‘taxation without representation.’

On Sunday, September 16th, 2001, just five days after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon - attacks which were perpetrated by the US government to create an excuse for the USA’s never-ending “War on Terror,” President Bush said in a globally televised speech: “This Crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take awhile.” Bush described the US government’s “War on Terrorism” as a “Crusade” in several other speeches that month before adverse reactions throughout the world caused Bush to stop publicly using the word “Crusade” in that particular context. Bush was speaking directly to his own Christian constituency when he described the USA’s “War on Terrorism,” which targets the oil-rich Islamic Middle East, as a “Crusade.” Bush’s most devoted support comes from the many millions of US Christians who want the USA to wage an Apocalyptic war against Islam, with the prize of Middle East oil going to God’s chosen victor in that war. Representatives of the Jewish State of Israel, whose political lobby is one of the most powerful in the USA, have actively encouraged the US belligerence toward Iraq and Iran, in a classic example of an old American saying - “Let’s you and him fight.”

On August 3rd, 2001 two American missionaries, Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer, who had ostensibly gone to Afghanistan to teach English, were arrested by the ruling Taliban authorities for preaching Christianity, which was at that time illegal in Afghanistan. Apparently the two young Americans, both graduates of Baylor University in Waco Texas, the largest Southern Baptist educational institution in the USA, had provided Christian and Biblical literature to Afghani citizens in violation of Afghan law. Curry and Mercer faced their first court hearing on September 8th, 2001, but they were not formally charged; preaching Christianity was potentially a capital offense in Afghanistan. On September 11th, 2001 US diplomats visited the two women, as did some of their family members, who brought them warm clothing for the approaching Afghan winter. The USA’s own partner in crime, the Jewish State of Israel, forbids by law the preaching or proselytizing, or the distribution of literature pertaining to, any religion but Judaism within the borders of Israel.

The Taliban freed Curry and Mercer on November 14th, 2001 , during the US-led Coalition invasion of Afghanistan. According to the Baptist Press, the two women said “… that their Taliban captors in the Kabul prison had looked after them generously, giving them “abundant amounts of food” and allowing them to pray and sing hymns whenever they wanted. “From what they had, they looked after us very well,” Mercer said.” Two weeks later, Curry and Mercer appeared with President Bush at a press conference in the Rose Garden at the White House, where Bush was lavish in his Christian praise for the two women, as well as for the US invasion of Afghanistan. During that same press conference, Bush reasserted his opposition to embryonic stem-cell research, which Bush said was “morally wrong.”

Following close on heels of the US coalition invasion of Iraq came the USA ’s own government-funded Faith Based charities, eager to offer the Moslem infidels the dubious rewards of an enforced US paternalism accompanied by US government-subsidized Christian conversion. Like a cultural invasion force that would continue the work that was started by the military invasion and occupation, Southern Baptist Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse organization was poised and waiting in neighboring Jordan to conquer Iraq for Jesus. Franklin Graham’s father Billy had been the unofficial ‘chaplain’ for a long series of US presidents, and Franklin gave the invocation at George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2001. Franklin Graham said that Islam is a “wicked, violent” religion, with a completely different God from that of Christianity. Franklin Graham has written that Christianity and Islam are locked in a “classic struggle that will end with the second coming of Christ,” that “The two [religions] are different as lightness and darkness,” and that “The war against terrorism is just another conflict between evil and the Name [Jesus Christ].”

The US-led Coalition’s invasion and occupation of both Afghanistan and Iraq have been reported in the USA’s corporate media with a heavy emphasis on the Christian faith of the US combatants. The corporate media provide the US population with frequent images of US troops huddled in Christian prayer, while politicians and military officers publicly extol the Christian righteousness of the US cause. During the Coalition invasion of Iraq, a US Army Chaplain named Josh Llano, from Houston, Texas, who describes himself as a “Southern Baptist evangelist,” controlled precious water supplies and food that he refused to share with fellow soldiers unless they submitted to his ninety-minute sermon and a Christian baptism.

In the early days of the US-led coalition invasion of Iraq, US Army Sergeant Hasan Akbar, who is a Moslem, says that he overheard his superior officers discussing their plans to murder and rape Iraqi civilians. In the Kuwaiti desert on the early morning of March 23, 2003 Akbar attacked the officers’ tent with grenades and his rifle, killing two officers and wounding fourteen other soldiers. Akbar was subsequently found guilty of murder by a US Army court at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and the court sentenced Akbar to death on April 28th, 2005. The numerous revelations of murder, torture, and rape committed by US troops at Abu Graibh, Falujah, Abu Sifa, Haditha, and other locations throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, and the ‘renditions’ by the CIA and the USAF of prisoners to undisclosed places of torture have given credence to Sergeant Akbar’s accusation of his officers’ hate speech and threats to murder Iraqi civilians.

Now the spokespeople of the US government describe their “War on Terrorism” as a “clash of civilizations,” and it is very apparent that what they are talking about is Christianity versus Islam. In the fairy-tale imaginations of the Christian fascists of the Western world, the USA is Saint George, Israel is a damsel in distress, Islam is the dragon, and Middle East oil is the dragon’s hoard of treasure. May God help us all.

Gregory F. Fegel

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov