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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

January 21, 2010

BIBLES IN THE BUNKERS CAUSES AFGHAN ROW

Al Jazeera - The US's highest ranking military officer has said it is not the US military's position to promote any specific religion, after Al Jazeera revealed footage of troops apparently preparing to convert Afghans to their Christian faith.

"From the United States' military's perspective, it is not our position to ever push any specific kind of religion, period," said Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Monday.

The US military has also confiscated Bibles that Christian US soldiers in Afghanistan had apparently intended to give to local Muslims, a military spokesman told Al Jazeera.

In addition, some of the soldiers who appeared in the video have also been reprimanded, US government and military officials told Al Jazeera's James Bays.

The video, shot about a year ago, appeared to show military chaplains stationed in the US air base at Bagram discussing how to distribute copies of the Bible printed in the country's main Pashto and Dari languages.

Unedited footage appears to show soldiers discussing Afghan conversions In one recorded sermon, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, tells 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."

Questioned about the footage, Greg Julian, a US colonel in Afghanistan, told Al Jazeera: "Most of this is taken out of context . . . this is irresponsible and inappropriate journalism. . .

"There is no effort to go out and proselytise to Afghans."

Ahmed Shah Ahmedzai, a former Afghan prime minister, told Al Jazeera from Kabul on Monday: "This is a complete deviation from what they [the US military] are supposed to be doing.

"I don't think even the US constitution would allow what they are doing . . . it is completely against all regulations.

In another piece of footage, the chaplains appear to understand their actions were in breach of a regulation known as General Order Number One.

"Do we know what it means to proselytize?" 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 proselytize, but you can give gifts".

The footage also suggests US soldiers gave out Bibles in Iraq.


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