Flashback to May 2009: Media Ignored U.S. Military Burning Bibles to Appease Afghans

As violent, deadly demonstrations have broken out in Afghanistan following the recent accidental burning of Korans, it's interesting to look back nearly three years ago when the U.S. military burned a shipment of Holy Bibles written in the Pashto and Dari languages. The military destroyed the Bibles rather than ship them back stateside apparently out of fear the American church that sent them would just try shipping them back through other channels to Afghanistan.

The al-Jazeera network was involved in the breaking of the story, but a search of Nexis found no stories from the time by the Washington Post or New York Times nor the ABC, CBS, or NBC networks about the disposal of the Christian holy texts.

Here's an excerpt about the story from a May 20, 2009 article at CNN.com (emphasis mine):

Military personnel threw away, and ultimately burned, confiscated Bibles that were printed in the two most common Afghan languages amid concern they would be used to try to convert Afghans, a Defense Department spokesman said Tuesday.

The unsolicited Bibles sent by a church in the United States were confiscated about a year ago at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan because military rules forbid troops of any religion from proselytizing while deployed there, Lt. Col. Mark Wright said.

Such religious outreach can endanger American troops and civilians in the devoutly Muslim nation, Wright said.

"The decision was made that it was a 'force protection' measure to throw them away, because, if they did get out, it could be perceived by Afghans that the U.S. government or the U.S. military was trying to convert Muslims," Wright told CNN on Tuesday.

Troops at posts in war zones are required to burn their trash, Wright said.

The Bibles were written in the languages Pashto and Dari.

This decision came to light recently, after the Al Jazeera English network aired video of a group prayer service and chapel sermon that a reporter said suggested U.S. troops were being encouraged to spread Christianity.

The military denied that earlier this month, saying much in the video was taken out of context.

"This was irresponsible and dangerous journalism sensationalizing year-old footage of a religious service for U.S. soldiers on a U.S. base and inferring that troops are evangelizing to Afghans," Col. Gregory Julian said.

The military says a soldier at Bagram received the Bibles and didn't realize he wasn't allowed to hand them out. In the Al Jazeera video, which shows the Bibles at the prayer service, an unnamed soldier says members of his church raised money for them.

The chaplain later corrected the soldier and confiscated the Bibles, Wright said.

Military officers considered sending the Bibles back to the church, he said, but they worried the church would turn around and send them to another organization in Afghanistan -- giving the impression that they had been distributed by the U.S. government.

The Bibles could easily have been shipped back stateside but were burned to prevent a possible, but not likely, future delivery of those same Bibles back to Afghanistan. The military bent over backwards to avoid religious conflict with Islamists who can't abide the idea of a Muslim converting to Christianity and not paying for it with his or her blood.

Yet the mainstream media paid no attention to the story.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters