Revolution #98, August 19, 2007
The Generals and the Christian Embassy
High-ranking officials in the Bush administration and the U.S. military appeared in a fundraising/promotional video produced by a fundamentalist evangelical group called the Christian Embassy. The video, which was shot in 2004 and was posted on the group’s website and shown in 2005 and 2006, showed fully uniformed generals in their Pentagon offices under official Department of Defense plaques speaking passionately about their support for the group. It showed Bible study groups in the Pentagon complete with camouflage-colored Bibles. The fundamentalist group was given access and allowed to film in the Pentagon over a period of months. A statement by Mikey Weinstein, President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which filed a complaint against the officers appearing in the video, said that the incident shows the “intentional dismantling of the Constitutionally-mandated wall separating church and state by some of the highest ranking officials in the Bush Administration and the U.S. military.”
On July 20, 2007, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense released a report on its investigation of the video. The report found that many of the officers involved violated regulations by being interviewed in uniform and making comments that “conferred approval of and support” for the Christian Embassy. The report also said that “the remarks of some officers implied that they spoke for a group of senior military leaders rather than just for themselves.”
Appearing in the video are Acting Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, Major General Peter Sutton, Major General John Catton Jr., Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, Brigadier General Robert Caslen, and Pentagon Chaplain Ralph Benson. Also appearing in the video are six congressmen, two ambassadors to the U.S., as well as the Under Secretary of Benefits for Veterans Affairs and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Christian Embassy aggressively proselytizes in Washington, DC among officials in the Pentagon, Congress, Presidential appointees, and foreign diplomats. The justifications given by some of the generals for participating in the video reveal the extent of the role that Christian Embassy plays inside the Pentagon. Brigadier General Brooks said that because the group was always around the Pentagon he thought that it was “a sanctioned or endorsed activity.”
Major General Catton said that he thought that Christian Embassy was a “quasi-federal entity.” That one of the top military leaders in the U.S. thinks that a fundamentalist evangelical Christian group is a “quasi-federal entity” says something about the degree to which foundational principles of U.S. government, such as the separation of church and state, are being undermined—and the degree to which these Christian fascists have penetrated the military.
The Inspector General’s Report
The Inspector General’s investigation of the participation of military officers in the video was only launched after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which opposes theocratic influence in the military, filed a complaint. During the investigation it was revealed that Christian Embassy had made at least one previous fundraising video in the Pentagon, also with officers in uniform, but no officers were questioned about it.
The Inspector General’s report clears some of the highest ranking officers appearing in the video. In particular, Pete Geren, the Secretary of the Army, was completely exonerated even though he was filmed giving a statement of support to Christian Embassy inside the Pentagon.
It is doubtful that there will be any disciplinary action against the officers involved. Two incidents in recent years involving the U.S. military and religion show the pattern.
General Jerry Boykin was promoted to Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence after it was revealed that he went around the country speaking in churches in uniform and saying things like, "The battle that we’re in is a spiritual battle. Satan wants to destroy this nation, he wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian Army," and “[Bush] is in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this."
When complaints surfaced of blatant intolerance toward non-Christian students at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the investigation was overseen by Pete Geren (yes, the same guy who appeared in the Christian Embassy video). The official investigation concluded that there was no overt discrimination, despite a Jewish cadet being told the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus and that another Jewish cadet being called a “Christ killer.” A chaplain at the Air Force Academy who opposed the atmosphere of intolerance was placed on administrative leave. .
In an interview with Tikkun magazine Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation describes the outlook of the Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. military: “They often quote Luke 19:27 when I speak to them. That’s the Parable of the Pounds in which Jesus says: ‘go out among the people, and bring back to me those who refuse to accept me as King over them, and slaughter them.’”
As the U.S. imperialists wage an “unending war” for an unchallenged and unchallengeable empire, powerful forces in the ruling class have seized on the Christian fundamentalist worldview of holy war against “unbelievers” and U.S. as god’s “chosen” country. And Christian fascists see in the military a force to counteract what they see as the tide of godlessness and moral relativism that began in the 1960s. This is leading in a very dangerous direction, and the Christian Embassy video reveals the extent to which Christian fascist forces are already in very powerful position in the military.
The 10-minute Christian Embassy video can be viewed at http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/080307A.shtml
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