By Mikey Weinstein, AlterNet | Op-Ed
What in the hell is going through the mind of the most senior commanding officer at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base (AFB) anyway? Well, my friends let me tell you. U.S. Air Force Colonel Mark H. Slocum, the Commander of Seymour Johnson AFB's 4th Fighter Wing, has gone rogue in the name of "the Lord" in a clear violation of USAF regulations and that most beloved and sacred of documents to Americans – the Constitution of the United States of America, and its foundational Bill of Rights. Slocum is marshaling his officers, enlisted troops and AF civilians stationed at the North Carolina F-15 fighter base to fight the good fight – a veritable new Crusade, in fact – against ISIS, under the banner of his "Lord's" heaven.
Forget the love of country and freedom that is denied to the people of Iraq and Syria by this cancer spawned by decades of tyranny and instability, ISIS. The counteroffensive being waged against the forces of radicalized, sectarian jihadism is being frightfully framed at Seymour Johnson AFB as a clash of competing deities. That's right! Our brave warfighters are being fed an extremist narrative whereby a ghastly, caricatured version of Allah (as envisioned by the twisted extremist fringes of Wahhabi Islam) is pitted against Slocum's ultra-sectarian Judeo-Christian god (aka "The Lord") in a mano a mano clash of the titans akin to an epic torn straight from the annals of Greek mythology. The theocratic Col. Slocum peppers his command briefings with a rallying cry that mirrors – in brimstone-tinged, southern fried, fundamentalist form – the rabid religiosity that has poisoned the minds of the bloodthirsty ISIS. What is the goal of both contending forces? To unleash their respective "holy warriors" upon the Middle East, enveloping the Cradle of Civilization in a ferocious conflagration for the purpose of bringing its people under their heinous yoke? For ISIS; clearly yes. For the USAF to adopt the same goal; outrageous, treacherous, and treasonous beyond description.
The neo-crusader Colonel at Seymour Johnson AFB (which trains and readies USAF F-15 fighter squadrons assisting the fight to annihilate ISIS, among other tasks) is telling his officers and their subordinates that the base's fighter wing is "over there doing the Lord's work." Sound familiar? The power-crazed leaders of ISIS like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are drilling fanatical memes into their followers as a means towards placing a misguided faith (or rather, a chauvinistic and militantly sectarian zeal) into the hearts of their minions. Disingenuously cloaked behind the Takbeer – "Allahu Akbar", a wholly mainstream phrase meaning "God is great" or even "Good God" – these Salafi jihadist extremists have twisted Islam beyond recognition, spawning horrors on a scale we've never witnessed until today. Ill-advisedly taking a cue from the ISIS playbook, Col. Slocum is using a modified vernacular – think of it as the Dominionist Christian edition of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's teachings, a "Weaponized Gospel of Jesus Christ" – to win the hearts, minds, and souls of the multiple thousands of those airmen under his direct command at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina.
How does he do it? By peppering his command briefings with the odious idea that the U.S. Air Force and support staff from Seymour Johnson AFB are bombing the bejeezus out of ISIS strongholds in the name of, and clearly pursuant to, "doing the Lord's work over there."
Think this is no big deal? Think again. Our Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is representing 24 active duty USAF officers, NCOs and civilians (16 of whom are practicing Christians) in this pathetic matter of command-directed proselytizing by Wing Commander Col. Slocum. They rightfully fear reprisal if they come forward on the record to protest Slocum's actions of sectarian shame.
Oh, but it gets better – and by "better" I mean worse, of course. Seymour Johnson AFB is the base where the Royal Air Force of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a Wahhabist regional powerhouse, is trained! Now come on, in polite society religion is considered one of the most divisive of topics for discussion. Often, in the name of civility and keeping the peace, even the most outspoken of us will shy away from a discussion of religion (or politics) at our dinner parties and family gatherings. Yet here comes Colonel Slocum, treating his Air Force command briefings as some sort of venue for sermons. Imagine the potential for tension, alienation, and possibly a divorce from our ultraconservative and highly austere geopolitical bedfellows in the House of Saud. You should know better, sir! What IS your major malfunction? After all, you have personally and repeatedly beseeched all those under your command in the 4th Fighter Wing to be especially careful about what they say and do in order not to create rancor with our Saudi Air Force trainee allies. Hypocrisy, thy name be Slocum!
Military regulations be damned, the Colonel is proselytizing and inveighing against the spiritual enemy as if his USAF podium is a Sunday school lectern. He is preaching that the F-15s under his command, equipped to carry conventional, laser-guided and even nuclear weapons, are engaged in a holy mission from the Lord in the bloody fight against ISIS. Most importantly, in the process of all this, he's trampling on the precious civil rights of the USAF officers, NCOs, and civilians under his command. His subordinates fear a command-directed witch-hunt to uncover who "ratted" Slocum out to MRFF.
However, for the time being, the Colonel can rest secure knowing that he's being shielded by the Pentagon's own Omerta, as the mafia called it – "The Code of Silence." In correspondence between MRFF and the Public Affairs Chief of Seymour Johnson AFB, the base considers "this matter closed." The Base has actually informed several inquiring media outlets that "appropriate action has been taken" as a result of MRFF's complaint on behalf of its 24 USAF clients. When repeatedly asked by media sources to elaborate on that term "appropriate action" the Air Force has refused. Hmmm? "Appropriate action has been taken"? For all we know – based on how the "spirit-filled" U.S. Air Force works – Slocum, in all of his theology-infused glory, could well be on his way to early ascension from the rank of Colonel to the flag rank of Brigadier General!
Lawlessness shouldn't be rewarded; it should be publicly and aggressively punished – yet Slocum seems to have a "guardian angel(s)" in the top brass. This travesty is a blatant violation of Air Force Instruction (AFI) 1-1, Section 2.12, which clearly states: "They (Air Force leaders at all levels) must ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief." Tragically, in today's Air Force, that absolutely critical directive (AFI 1-1, Section 2.12) is honored FAR more by its breach than in its compliance.
Slocum's own officers, NCOs and USAF civilians know well the standards, and they rightfully deserve a commander who's capable of focusing his leadership talks and directives on the mission at hand – the mission of warfighting, a mission requiring martial sobriety and a profoundly secular (i.e. temporal, earthly) grasp on questions of tactics and logistics, doctrine and strategy. The Air Force slogan has been "Aim High ... Fly-Fight-Win", NOT "Deus Lo Vult" (God Wills It). In hardcore truth, Slocum's messianic "vision" of his F-15 fighter wing performing "the Lord's work" for halting the radicalized forces of jihadist extremism overseas, poses an ominous threat not only to the long-term national security interests of the United States of America, but also to the security of the entire world community.
When will Americans take notice and put a stop to this mounting peril?
We clearly cannot depend on senior USAF leadership to do so.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein is president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy. He previously served as White House Counsel in the Reagan administration and general counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corp. He is the author of the recently released book, "No Snowflake in an Avalanche: The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Its Battle to Defend the Constitution and One Family's Courageous War Against Religious Extremism in High Places" (2012, Vireo).
Air Force Academy's Orwellian "Religious Respect Conference" Indicates Clear Bias Against the Non-Religious By Mikey Weinstein, AlterNet | Op-Ed
ISIS Born From Occupation of Iraq, Not Syrian Civil War
By Anton Woronczuk, The Real News Network | Video Interview
ISIS War Needs to Be Debated in Congress and the UN Security Council
By Mark Weisbrot, The Hill | News Analysis
Sharia, or Islamic law, influences the legal code in most Muslim countries. A movement to allow sharia to govern personal status law, a set of regulations that pertain to marriage, divorce, inheritance, and custody, is even expanding into the West. "There are so many varying interpretations of what sharia actually means that in some places, it can be incorporated into political systems relatively easily," said CFR's Steven A. Cook. Sharia's influence on both personal status law and criminal law is highly controversial. Some interpretations are used to justify cruel punishments such as amputation and stoning, as well as unequal treatment of women in inheritance, dress, and independence. The debate is growing as to whether sharia can coexist with secularism, democracy, or even modernity, an idea that is being tested by several countries in the Middle East in the wake of popular uprisings and civil wars.
George Bush: 'God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq'
President told Palestinians God also talked to him about Middle East peace
by Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian
George Bush has claimed he was on a mission from God when he launched the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a senior Palestinian politician in an interview to be broadcast by the BBC later this month.Mr Bush revealed the extent of his religious fervour when he met a Palestinian delegation during the Israeli-Palestinian summit at the Egpytian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, four months after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign minister at the time, said: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I am driven with a mission from God'. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did."
Mr Bush went on: "And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East'. And, by God, I'm gonna do it."
Religious Belief and Violence in the Middle East
by Jim Walker
The world press continually ignores or does not see the elephant in the room. In every war and every violent conflict in the Middle East, resides a prime reason as to why these brutal conflicts occur. The media mainly reports about issues of politics, land, honor, and terrorism, and although these constitute surface reasons, the reporters rarely mention the deeper systemic roots, not the cause of violence but the justification for violence. I suspect that part of the reason why everyone fails to mention the elephant, involves an association by guilt. If they reveal the problem, the problem reveals itself back to their own political party and their own religion, so by ignoring or denying the root problems, they avoid direct conflict with their citizenry and their own beliefs.
If you pose the question, "Does any solution exist for solving the problems of the Middle East?" it produces baffling responses. Amazingly the answers usually involve religion as a solution. How many times have we heard that "Islam is a religion of peace," or "Judaism stands for peace, equality, and tolerance," or "Christianity is a religion of peace and love"? The idea that these religions offer the greatest opportunity for peace, and happiness has proven tragically and demonstrably wrong. In every century of the history of these religions, you will find a marked inclination for intolerance, violence, and war. Yes you will find short periods where Christians get along with Muslims, Jews get along with Christians, and Muslims live peacefully among Jews, but for how long? It matters little that each religion has peaceful factions, when each religion also has violence oriented extremists.
And what does the elephant in the room represent? Belief, and in particular, a very dangerous form of belief that stems from superstitious myths. These superstitions evolved into the dominator religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (in that order). Not surprisingly, all three of these orthodox religions began out of conquests from war. The "holy" scriptures from all three religions condone war. All three allow the killing of civilians in order to get at their enemies (God's wrath or collateral damage). All three contain religious scripture that describe apocalyptic end-time prophesies. As long as people believe in these lethal holy-scripts, there will always exist the potential for violence. The religious justification for war from these religions provide distinct examples of the power of self-fulling prophecy.
The "holy" scripts from three major religions of the world program human beings to believe in war, destruction, and the end of the world.
The practice of people believing (or not believing) whatever they want constitutes an inalienable freedom. However, respecting one's personal expression of belief doesn't necessarily mean that we should respect the beliefs themselves or the violent actions that result from them. Who says we shouldn't confront and question beliefs that trigger or cause violence action? It describes one thing to say that people have a right to exist, but since when do beliefs in-themselves have that right? Instead of respecting the beliefs over the lives of people, how about respecting people over beliefs? Respect people, not their beliefs. Many freethinkers have submitted the idea that if we inoculate against dangerous beliefs, then the violence resulting from those beliefs will diminish.
Battle Over Air Force Academy's Removal of 'So Help Me God' From Oath Heats Up;
Religious Liberty Group Demands Explanation
BY ALEX MURASHKO, CHRISTIAN POST REPORTER
Lawmaker: Force Air Force Academy cadets to take “God” oath
By Joel Connelly
A Republican congressman from Texas has introduced a bill that would compel cadets at the Air Force Academy to recite the words “so help me God” in the Academy’s Honor Oath taken at the start of every academic year.
The Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act of 2015 is sponsored by Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, a retired Air Force pilot and former Vietnam POW.
The deity reference was made optional in 2013, after the Academy was threatened with a lawsuit. But Johnson feels the option is an affront to American freedom.
we kill people so that we can practice
but condemn people who want to practice