As more information becomes available about the infiltration of the military by fundamentalist Christian groups via Pentagon approved proselytizing, worrisome issues regarding the long term aims of evangelizing the troops present themselves.
First there’s this exploration of the power of “Operation Straight Up,” an apocalyptic “entertainment group” that boasts Baldwin brother Stephen as a prominent member from The Nation:
Baldwin became a right-wing, born-again Christian after the 9/11 attacks, and now is the star of Operation Straight Up (OSU), an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes among active-duty members of the US military. As an official arm of the Defense Department’s America Supports You program, OSU plans to mail copies of the controversial apocalyptic video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces to soldiers serving in Iraq. OSU is also scheduled to embark on a “Military Crusade in Iraq” in the near future.
Note the perversity of OSU’s inversion of the initials of that most beloved of American military entertainment and support organizations, the USO. Doubtless this is to make OSU look innocuous to weary, frightened, confused, often troubled troops. But the messages of OSU are far from those of the good old USO:
…behind OSU’s anodyne promises of wholesome fun for military families, the organization promotes an apocalyptic brand of evangelical Christianity to active duty US soldiers serving in Muslim-dominated regions of the Middle East. Displayed prominently on the “What We Believe” section of OSU’s website is a passage from the Book of Revelations (Revelation 19:20; 20:10-15) that has become the bedrock of the Christian right’s End Times theology: “The devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, and whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, shall be consigned to everlasting punishment in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
With the endorsement of the Defense Department, OSU is mailing “Freedom Packages” to soldiers serving in Iraq. These are not your grandfather’s care packages, however. Besides pairs of white socks and boxes of baby wipes (included at the apparent suggestion of Iran-Contra felon Oliver North, according to OSU) OSU’s care packages contain the controversial Left Behind: Eternal Forces video game. The game is inspired by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ bestselling pulp fiction series about a blood-soaked Battle of Armageddon pitting born-again Christians against anybody who does not adhere to their particular theology. In LaHaye’s and Jenkins’ books, the non-believers are ultimately condemned to “everlasting punishment” while the evangelicals are “raptured” up to heaven.
So troops who spend their days doing house to house searches looking for insurgents who might be waiting behind any door to kill them – or setting up an IED to blow them away as they make their way back to base after completing their mission – are given a game that rewards them for killing members of the “army of the Antichrist” in a landscape that resembles all too clearly NYC after 9/11. If they get tired of wiping out opposition to “true believers” (a term that should make any reasonable person shiver), there’s also some light reading in the “care packages” OSU provides:
What’s more, OSU’s “Freedom Packages” include a copy of evangelical pastor Jonathan McDowell’s More Than A Carpenter — a book advertised as “one of the most powerful evangelism tools worldwide” — that is double-published in Arabic. Considering that only a handful of American troops speak Arabic, the book is ostensibly intended for proselytizing efforts among Iraqi civilians.
In this way, as Digby (via David Neiwert of Orcinus) notes, our troops are being prepped for what groups like OSU see as a coming war between the Dominionists and that “army of the Antichrist” which, it seems, might be all those Democrats, progressives, and other “godless liberals” who seem to be on their way to political power in 2008:
I predict that we are going to see a remarkable resurgence of right wing violence if the Democrats take full control of the government. These people are always surprisingly cooperative when the government is run by Republicans and then rediscover their “anti-government” beliefs when Democrats share or dominate the government. I can’t imagine why that would be.
We will also, sadly, see veterans involved in this. Aside from the PTSD [post traumatic stress syndrome] they will come home to a world that isn’t very understanding. How could we be? They’ve been in hell. I suspect that some of them will be attracted to the right wing militia (or worse) unless the government makes some very aggressive moves to help these people out and provide every kind of counseling and support they can think of. The last thing we need are hardened Iraq veterans finding solace with the right wing terrorists.
This isn’t a problem affecting just the Neo-Nazis, gang-bangers, and other violent personalities worming their way into the military. It also affects the many more formerly normal, non-racist recruits who have been dragged into multiple tours of duty in Iraq, regardless of the profound psychological effects of such treatment. This includes many people whose evaluations have recommended they not be returned for duty. There’s a reason to call Iraq the Timothy McVeigh Finishing School.
This will, I fear, become a significant component of the predictable surge in far-right activity that is almost certain to manifest itself in the USA over the next couple of years, especially as Democrats and liberals expand and entrench their hold on power. We’re essentially re-creating the conditions that arose in Germany and Italy after World War I: scores of angry, disaffected and psychologically damaged war veterans, poised to organize into a political force aimed at “re-birthing” the nation and its heritage.
What’s even more disturbing, though, is that the top brass at the military seem all too willing to create those conditions.
If we, as Orcinus suggests, allow our military to be converted into apocalyptic evangelicals with the mentality of Crusaders, we face the prospect of creating a “Christian warrior” class who may not only buy into the extremist ideas of groups like the militias, but who will act on those ideas “in the name of God….”