Franklin Graham is a spiritual Carpetbagger and war profiteer who trades in souls. Those are near-fightin1 words for a Southern boy from Boone, North Carolina who delivered the invocation at President Bush’s 2001 Inauguration.
Like the Yankee Carpetbaggers who flocked to the South for political or financial advantage after the Civil War, Graham plans to go to Iraq in the wake of the current war to win Muslim souls.
Like the despised Carpetbaggers of yore, Graham plans to exploit the humanitarian crisis for his own calculating gain, by subjecting vulnerable Iraqis to his Faustian Christ-for-food program.
Graham, who has called Islam “a wicked religion”, views the US military and its wars in the Muslim world as the perfect vehicles for missionary work in the difficult “10/40 Window”. The 10/40 Window is evangelical Christian-speak for the rectangle with boundaries of latitudes 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator; encompassing most of the Muslim World.
Graham and his Samaritan’s Purse organization have a record of exploiting wars and preying on victims for their own missionary ends. They rode with IDF convoys into Lebanon during Israel’s 1982 invasion to reach Palestinian refugees, preached pretentiously to Kurds fleeing Saddam’s forces in 1991 and sheltered and proselytized young Bosnian Muslim girls who had been raped by Orthodox Christian Serbs.
A thought that struck Graham in the Spring of 1991 shortly before the Kurds were betrayed by America and slaughtered in droves by Saddam’s military is telling:
“What a time to preach the gospel to these people! America is number one with them right now. They’re eager to listen to anything we have to say!”
Graham and his group have repeatedly used the heightened vulnerability that war brings to target those in uniform, POWs, refugees, and civilians with physical assistance and “spiritual ammunition”.
“I think we need to do all we can to use [the US military] presence,” Graham urged his followers during the 1990 Operation Desert Shield , ” to share with the people of that region the faith that our nation was built on.”
During the Persian Gulf military build-up in 1990 and ensuing war in 1991, Graham made creative use of “embedded” fundamentalist Christian sympathizers in the chaplain corps, officer corps, and rank and file.
Under the Cover of Operation Dear Abby, in which the advice columnist urged Americans to write letters of encouragement to anonymous soldiers, Graham’s followers mailed over 200,000 Arabic-language Christian tracts to US troops based in Saudi Arabia.
“Let them know you are praying that God will protect them,” Graham instructed participants in his grassroots letter-writing campaign to send Christian tracts to Saudi Arabia. “Subtly drop the hint that while they are in Saudi Arabia, they may have an opportunity to share it with someone.”
In December 1990, Graham followed with a bolder campaign. His Samaritan’s Purse organization helped send over 30,000 holiday gift packages to men and women in uniform that included a New Testament in Arabic.
Graham was later “touched most deeply” by a letter from an A-10 Thunderbolt “Tank-killer” pilot. “Just two weeks earlier I had been trying to kill those guys,” the pilot told Graham. “Then I found myself in an army hospital talking with an Iraqi POW. I gave him the Arabic New Testament.”
Graham’s activities had attracted the attention of the Saudis and US General Norman Schwartzkopf, who ordered a military chaplain to confiscate all of Graham’s Bibles and tracts and return them. Disturbingly, the chaplain later confided in Graham that he and others largely ignored 3Stormin1 Norman2 Schwartzkopf’s orders. Instead, the Saudi-based chaplain brazenly requested Graham send more Arabic-language Bibles because he had befriended a “believer who has organized a distribution system for the tracts and the New Testaments.”
In the current war in Iraq, an evangelical Christian chaplain has been using coercive Graham-style tactics at Camp Bushmaster near Najaf. Army 5th Corps chaplain Josh Llano, apparently exploiting a water shortage which has forced soldiers to go without bathing, has used a 500-gallon pool of pristine, cool water under his control to gain converts.
“It’s simple,” Llano told a Knight-Ridder reporter. “They want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized.”
For his part, Franklin Graham has been trying to be low-key as he eyes Iraq from his base in Jordan. This week, most likely responding to a storm of criticism, Samaritan’s Purse softened language on its Web site about planned operations in Iraq.
“As American and allied troops roll into Iraq, Samaritans Purse has a well-equipped team already on the ground in the Middle East ready to help thousands of suffering families in the name of Jesus Christ,” a statement on the group’s Web site read last week.
This week: “As war continues in Iraq, Samaritan’s Purse has a well-equipped team already on the ground in the Middle East ready to help thousands of suffering families.”
Poised and ready to exploit war-weary Iraqis, Franklin Graham continues his Carpetbagging, war-profiteering ways.
MAS’OOD CAJEE lives in Cambridge, Mass. He serves on the National Council of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org