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Fox guest Stephen Mansfield endorses religious warriors

Reported by Chrish - May 31, 2005

There was a taped edited interview by Molly Hennenberg on Special Report Memorial Day, 5/30/05. This was in keeping with the military theme of the supposed news program.

Stephen Mansfield, author of "The Faith of the American Soldier", holds some extremist religious views and the editing allowed them to come through loud and clear. There was also a monumental factual error which should have been addressed, or the statement should have landed on the editing room floor. See if you can spot it.

Brit introduced the segment "The battlefield can and often has been a place of great religious transformation. What happens to the faith of America's men and women at war? Do they turn back to the institutions of their childhood? Do they develop new spiritual understandings? Molly Hennenberg (intro)..."

Molly, to Mansfield: "...you talk a lot about the soldiers, many of them part of the 'millennial generation', and you say they, quote, 'began to reveal their more noble self after 9/11'. Can you talk about that...?"

Mansfield "Absolutely. This generation is doing an astonishing job overseas. I was just recently lecturing at West Point and the commanders are saying this is among the most patriotic, capable, effective, informed generation that we've ever put into the field. You know, remember this was the Columbine generation, the latchkey generation, the mall rats, but after 9/11 they rose to their nation's call."

Hennenberg: "And you talk about them...in their military camps, sort of setting up more individualized religious services, listening to sermons on their I-Pods, reading religious-themed books...you say that they, quote, 'hunger for god's nearness.' Why do you think that is?"

Mansfield: "Well, war has a tendency to raise religious questions in everybody's life, who's involved in them, in other words you have to have a rationale for killing the other side, facing your own death all the time. So all throughout history wars have pressed religious questions into the lives of those who fight them. This generation is uniquely mystical and spiritual. They're not traditional in their religious orientation. They don't attend church and follow formal creeds. But they're very passionate for god and the nearness of god, so many of the rituals that they've evolved while they're in combat are fascinating. They're pulling together whatever works for them...they're really kind of fashioning their own brand of religion."

Hennenberg : Can you talk about some of the rituals that you found that worked for them?

Mansfield: "Absolutely. And sometimes it take on a kind of humorous cast. A Baptist HumVee driver refused to start up his HumVee until a Catholic Hispanic sergeant made the sign of the cross over his HumVee because no-one who had had the sign of the cross made by this woman over their vehicle failed to come home. They pray together, they join together; I attended a ritual amongst a bunch of Marines, where they sang a little bit of 'Be thou my vision', recited The lord's prayer, and confessed (Joshua 1, verse 9?), and then they prayed formally and held their weapons aloft and offered them to god. In the absence of a faith-based warrior code offered officially by our government, they're fashioning one of their own."

Hennenberg: "Newsweek magazine a couple of weeks ago retracted a story about guards at Guantanamo Bay desecrating the Qu'aran...you just say that whole idea, of our soldiers in that vein, that couldn't be further from the truth."

Mansfield: "That's absolutely the case. I was grieved when I heard of that
story a few weeks ago, because the reality is that most of the soldiers overseas see themselves as liberators. They want to do good. (Note: at this time Fox begins showing "Happy Iraq" videos of soldiers tossing packages to crowds of kids, holding up a soccer ball, handing desks down from a truck, etc). They daily see the difference between Iraq and Afghanistan now and the way those countries were before we went in and removed tyranny. They see themselves as a force for good. There have been very, very low casualties among civilians and what they call collateral damage, and I don't want to see this generation of warriors maligned like the Viet Nam generation was. (Comment: like, John Kerry?) My father fought in Viet Nam, and when those soldiers came back they were not well-treated by this country.

Hennenberg: "Let's get to...the warrior code and maybe more of a need for it now. You say, quote, 'What soldiers need is an ennobling of their profession through the integration of faith and moral vision that faith provides. Why, briefly, why is a warrior code important?"

Mansfield: "A warrior code takes the profession of arms and merges it with the invisible, the mystical, the religious. And that's what really has to be behind ethics and a sense of the honor of the profession for us to have a people who are being soldiers in the highest sense. It is the lack of a code that leads to Abu Ghraib or My Lai massacres. It's the presence of a code that causes soldiers to be, as I say in the book, knights, who see themselves in service of a higher cause even than their government. And so that's what creates not just the well-behaved but the noble soldiers who liberate countries rather than tyrannize them."

Hennenberg: "Now let's talk about the role of chaplains in Iraq and Afghanistan. You say they're in a difficult position because they serve a secular state, and at the same time they're supposed to be religious and giving inspirational advice. What's the difficulty there?"

Mansfield: "The difficulty is of course the same tension we have in our nation
as a whole. We're a nation in tension with ourselves. Founded largely as a Christian country, with a Judeo-Christian heritage, and yet recent Supreme Court rulings and decisions about the First Amendment leave us as a nation that's supposed to have a radical separation of church and state, many people urging secularism...well, our chaplains are over there as employees of the state, paid, essentially to enforce the cause of religion. The problem is they're not able to do their jobs well. I think we don't serve them well. They're among the finest in the field, but chaplains are not allowed to cross the wire, as they say, to put themselves in harm's way and so this new generation at war doesn't really relate to someone who is not able to endure what they endure. More than that, the chaplains are not able to frame the war in religious and spiritual terms, so when young soldiers ask questions, 'is this a righteous war?' 'am I serving god?' 'is god on our side?' "am I a warrior for Jesus?', that kind of thing, the chaplains really can't reply in a way that's meaningful to those soldiers often."

Hennenberg: "And you delve into that in your book. Thank you..."

Comment: This segment was obviously pre-recorded and edited - that they chose to put this man and his extremist religious right-wing views on, unopposed and unchallenged, says it all about Fox being the megaphone for the far right Bush administration. His suggestion that our soldiers need a righteous cause beyond following orders exposes the fact that a lot of young men and women don't understand what they're doing there, because they went there for one reason (WMD lies) and are being kept there for quite another(freedom lies).

(Note: It has been rumored that the intitial cute title for the post-war activities was to be Operation Iraqi Liberation, but that had to be changed due to the unfortunate and all-too-obvious acronym.)

And, AND, the audacity of claiming that there have been "very very low civilian casualties"...Iraqbodycount.net places the number somewhere between 21,000 and 25,000. His claim was allowed to stand, deliberately misinforming Fox viewers and understating the horrific consequences of this misguided invasion..

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