Friday, February 10, 2006

Air Force Guidelines Revised

Influential evangelical groups, such as the National Association of Evangelicals, Focus on the Family, and New Life Church, have successfully pressured the Air Force into reversing newly-released guidelines that restrict military officials from promoting their religion while on duty.

The guidelines were originally enacted after it became public that military officials at the Air Force Academy were encouraging religious conformity on campus, discriminating against non-evangelical cadets, and integrating evangelical Christianity with military training.

The Air Force has never acknowledged the true scope of the problems, which are purely the result of an unusually close relationship between the Air Force Academy and the powerful para-religious groups that surround it. As I have previously written, this relationship has resulted in the following abuses of power:
  • When the evangelical Focus on the Family headquarters opened in 1993, the academy's parachute team, the Wings of Blue, participated in the opening ceremony by delivering "the keys of heaven" to James Dobson's new facility -- directly from the sky.

  • During official Air Force Academy reunions, graduates are invited to the Focus on the Family headquarters for a tour that promotes James Dobson's religious/political views and encompasses a video portraying Dobson as a hero receiving accolades from such figures as Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush.

  • In order to motivate the players of the football team, the coach hung a banner in the locker room stating: "I am a Christian first and last . . . I am a member of team Jesus Christ. I wear the colors of the cross . . . I am a Christian Competitor and as such, I face my challenger with the face of Christ . . . I rely solely on the power of God. I compete for the pleasure of my Heavenly Father, the honor of Christ and the reputation of the Holy Spirit."

  • According to a Yale Divinity School report, during one worship service led by Major Warren Watties: "Protestant Basic Cadets were encouraged to pray for the salvation of fellow BCT members who chose not to attend worship. . . . Cadets were encouraged to return to tents, proselytize fellow BCT members, and remind them of the consequences of apostasy." According to the report, Major Watties told the cadets the penalty for refusing to accept his encouraged proselytizing would be to "burn in the fires of hell."

  • Protestant cadets were commonly told that Jesus had "called" them to the academy as part of God's plan for their lives.

  • Cadets who chose not to attend after-dinner chapel services were made to suffer humiliation by being marched back to their dormitories in what was called the "Heathen Flight."

  • Commission ceremonies for graduating officers have been held at off-campus churches.

  • In December of 2003, in the academy's newspaper, hundreds of staff members -- including the then-dean of the faculty, the current dean of faculty, and 16 department heads or deputy department heads -- expressed their belief that "Jesus Christ is the only real hope for the world" and directed students to contact them so they could "discuss Jesus."

  • The academy commandant, Brigadier General Johnny Weida, a self-proclaimed born-again Christian who incorporates religion with military training on a regular basis, uses a call-and-response chant based on a Biblical metaphor to inspire religious nationalism and proselytizing amongst cadets.

  • General Weida also said in a statement to cadets in June 2003 that their first responsibility was to their God, and strongly endorsed National Prayer Day, an event sponsored by Focus on the Family and chaired by James Dobson's wife, Shirley.

  • The academy has provided passes for Christian cadets who wish to attend church services and activities off campus, such as at New Life Church. They, however, have denied Jewish, Seven-Day Adventist, and those with other beliefs, the right to leave the campus for non-evangelical religious services.

  • Several faculty members have introduced themselves to their classes as born-again Christians and encouraged non-evangelical students to convert to evangelical Christianity throughout the course of the term.

  • Staff and faculty members have led prayer sessions at several mandatory school activities, such as academic exams, meals at the dining hall, awards ceremonies, military-training-event dinners, and basic training cadet cadre meetings.
The evangelical groups and military officials responsible for these First Amendment violations are the same people responsible for getting the Air Force's new guidelines partially reversed. The probability of the guidelines correcting the long-term problems was already low, but now, it is virtually nonexistent.

Imperial Delusions

“The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war.” 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review

“Long wars are usually strategic disasters...” The Long War, William Sturgiss Lind

The Department of Defense’s recently updated Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) -- adapted from a neoconservative fairy tail -- illustrates the treacherously defective reasoning of an empire in denial. Using the threat of terrorism as a pretext for imperial mobilization, the 113-page 20-year defense strategy is designed to fail.

The preface of the document opens with the following:

The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war.

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, our Nation has fought a global war against violent extremists...who seek to destroy our free way of life.

Incredibly, the DoD is still asserting that terrorists hate our freedom – a blatantly false premise propagated in order to rationalize the true cause of terrorism: our foreign policy, which the QDR goes on to describe:

Currently, the struggle is centered in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we will need to be prepared and arranged to successfully defend our Nation and its interests around the globe for years to come.

In the language of publicly-released foreign policy, “defending our interests around the globe” -- a phrase repeated in several ways throughout the QDR -- usually translates to: securing America’s global dominance by force.

Similar language, although sometimes far more straightforward, has often been used by members of the Bush Administration as well as influential policy groups and think tanks, such as the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). The infamous PNAC document, Rebuilding America’s Defenses, for instance, states:

The Defense Policy Guidance (DPG) drafted in the early months of 1992 provided a blueprint for maintaining U.S. preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests. [1]

Written by Paul Wolfowitz and I. Lewis Libby for then Defense Secretary Richard Cheney, the Defense Policy Guidance (DPG) mentioned above clearly states:

Various types of U.S. interests may be involved in such instances: access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil...

In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region’s oil.

According to the Project for the New American Century, this provided them with a “blueprint” for Rebuilding America’s Defenses -- a venture they began in the spring of 1998 in order to “examine the country’s defense plans and resource requirements.” PNAC completed the document in 2000, just prior to transferring over a dozen of its members to the incoming Bush Administration. At the time, they wrote that “the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification” for establishing a “permanent” and “substantial American force presence in the Gulf,” which they even admitted, “transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” They went on say:

Over the long term, Iran may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf as Iraq has. And even should U.S.-Iranian relations improve, retaining forward-based forces in the region would still be an essential element in U.S. security strategy given the longstanding American interests in the region.

The QDR uses more discreet and familiar rhetoric:

The pursuit of weapons of mass destruction by Iran is a destabilizing factor in the region. Terrorist networks remain active in many states and could threaten regional energy supplies in an attempt to cripple the global economy.

As shown above, the “global war on terror” is really a global war for resources and territory -- and consequently -- a war to remain the world’s one and only superpower.

Washington Post
columnist William M. Arkin writes, “buried in the [QDR’s] hard-to-penetrate bureaucratize is a clear message: The United States will seek to ensure that "no foreign power" will develop "regional hegemony" or "disruptive" capabilities -- and China is the only nation with the capacity to do both.” [2]
As the principal author of Rebuilding America’s Defenses openly explains below:

In a nutshell, the practical application of the Bush Doctrine amounts to "rolling back" radical Islamism while "containing" the People's Republic of China, that is, hedging against its rise to great-power status. ...

The pre-9/11 international status quo is not a realistic option in Beijing any more than in Baghdad. The Chinese Communist Party prides itself on its patience and its long view of history, but a five-thousand-year past may prove to be just excessive baggage as the world realigns itself.

The DoD and Bush Administration publicly justify this strategy by perpetuating the myth that terrorism is inspired by an absence of democracy – a problem they insist can be solved using force, such as they “accomplished” in Iraq.

Most experts agree, however, that it is this very foreign policy that inspires terrorism, not some oxymoronic feeling of freedom-hating election-envy as the DoD would have us believe. Yet, despite a wide-ranging consensus on this issue, the myth is allowed to continue.

Last summer, for example, the following story was widely reported:

New investigations by the Saudi Arabian government and an Israeli think tank -- both of which painstakingly analyzed the backgrounds and motivations of hundreds of foreigners entering Iraq to fight the United States -- have found that the vast majority of these foreign fighters are not former terrorists and became radicalized by the war itself. ...

...interrogations of nearly 300 Saudis captured while trying to sneak into Iraq and case studies of more than three dozen others who blew themselves up in suicide attacks show that most were heeding the calls from clerics and activists to drive infidels out of Arab land...

A separate Israeli analysis of 154 foreign fighters compiled by a leading terrorism researcher found that despite the presence of some senior Al Qaeda operatives who are organizing the volunteers, ''the vast majority of [non-Iraqi] Arabs killed in Iraq have never taken part in any terrorist activity prior to their arrival in Iraq."

The CIA’s National Intelligence Council (NIC) has similarly stated that “Foreign jihadists—individuals ready to fight anywhere they believe Muslim lands are under attack by what they see as ‘infidel invaders’—enjoy a growing sense of support from Muslims who are not necessarily supporters of terrorism.” Last year they reported:

Iraq and other possible conflicts in the future could provide recruitment, training grounds, technical skills and language proficiency for a new class of terrorists who are “professionalized” and for whom political violence becomes an end in itself.

The NIC has concluded that al-Qaeda will “be replaced in part by the dispersion of the experienced survivors of the conflict in Iraq."

According to official US government statistics, in 2003 the number of "significant" international terrorist attacks hit a 20-year high of 175. That number more than tripled in 2004 to 655, with terrorist attacks doubling in Afghanistan, and rising to nine times the previous year's total in Iraq. The figures from 2005, which have yet to be released, are expected to be worse.

A “war on terror” that creates terrorism is by definition: an infinite war.

But none of this slows Rumsfeld and his boys down a bit. As mentioned earlier, the DoD has recently released a 20-year strategy filled with fantasies about sedating terrorist activity by spreading US forces around the world. [3]

It appears our leaders our willing to use any excuse to justify continued military expansion, regardless of the hazardous consequences.

Additional notes:

1. The principal author of Rebuilding America’s Defenses, Thomas Donnelly, has said “the fact of American empire is hardly debated these days,” but regrettably, it is still inflammatory to speak openly of empire -- hence the prevalence of euphemisms such as hegemony, preeminence, primacy, sole superpower, or, a la the French, hyperpuissance.”

2. The QDR states that although “China has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States,” the US “will work to ensure that all major and emerging powers are integrated as constructive actors and stakeholders into the international system.” This, of course, is the DoD’s candy-coated way of saying force won’t be necessary because:

It is...reasonable to believe that the United States and its allies can ‘contain’ China's ambitions, helping it make the transition from communism to democracy, from international outsider to a state satisfied by living within a liberal international order.

3. Ironically, the DoD has also established a new initiative that, according to The New York Times, will attempt to “determine whether more terrorists are being captured, killed or persuaded to give up their violent struggle than are being created,” – a question that, as previously illustrated, has already been answered in spades. The results of this program should still be interesting considering the DoD’s entire policy is at odds with their stated objectives.