I only recently learned about this incident when it came out apropos of Terry Jones's proposal to burn the Koran. My spin, however, is a little different from the usual. Here's the story:
About a year and a half ago, the U.S. military became aware that (horror of horrors) a church in the U.S. had raised money to send Bibles in Afghani languages to one of its military members stationed in Afghanistan. Al Jazeera got hold of video in which the military fellow told people at a chapel service about how these Bibles had been sent to him by his church.
This was obviously an emergency situation. You see, he might have distributed those Bibles to Afghani people, which would be contrary to a hard and fast U.S. military rule against any "proselytizing" by U.S. troops.
In response to this terrible danger to U.S. troops (all together now, my liberal commentators, rise up and chant: "It could have endangered our troops in Afghanistan if the locals learned that proselytizing might be going on"), the military officials, in the person of the chaplain (!), drew the misguided Christian soldier aside, explained to him how horrible it was for him to have these Bibles and that they must be regarded as his trash, confiscated the Bibles, and then carefully burned this newly designated "trash." Whew! All that danger to our troops is now hopefully dispersed, at least if we made the burning known widely enough to those who might otherwise have rioted or tried to kill them. Our troops can rest easy at night again knowing that we've made it clear to the Muslims that we burned the Bibles, okay? Please don't attack us, okay?
The self-hating, missions-hating story just gets worse, however, in a sentence that wasn't widely publicized in any other posts that I saw. The CNN story says,
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.
Think about what that means: The U.S. military considers it a legitimate motivation to prevent other, non-military organizations in Afghanistan from passing out Bibles in the languages of the Afghani people. This was their motive for not sending the Bibles back to the church and for burning them--to prevent their distribution in Afghanistan en toto. (So far, I haven't found out how many Bibles there were. I fear a lot.) Notice that they don't cite the expense of returning them as an argument. No, it was the possibility that Christian missions would take place at all in Afghanistan that the U.S. military wanted to prevent!
I wrote here about the way that so-called "proselytizing" is becoming a demonized thing in the world. Now, it appears, we can wage war on a country, but the one thing we cannot do is allow anybody to bring Christianity to that country. The very fact that we have troops in the country is taken in itself to be a reason to block and hinder Christian missions. Of course, if that is their attitude, it hardly seems a long step to the active prevention, by the U.S. military, of all non-Muslim "proselytizing" in Afghanistan. How ironic: We don't consider it part of our military mission to stop child rape by our Afghani allies, but we do apparently consider it part of our mission to hinder Christian missions. Evidently where we hold sway, Westerners just aren't allowed to be a good influence on Afghanis. (This, by the way, casts a whole new light on the news stories that I also mentioned in this post, news stories that strenuously emphasized that the slaughtered Christian medical missionaries in Afghanistan didn't engage in proselytizing. Had they been told by the American military that they were not allowed to do so?)
And think of this, too: Why are we in Afghanistan in the first place? Because of Islam. It was an act of Islamic terrorism on 9/11 that brought the U.S. to Afghanistan in military force. Yet our military believes that the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is a reason to protect an Islamic religious monopoly in Afghanistan, to keep other religions (and in particular Christianity) from being promulgated there. Heaven forbid that Afghanis should become Christians! (Actually, we should be so lucky.) Heaven forbid that it should appear that America has anything to do with spreading some religion other than Islam in the country of our enemies! Military force in a foreign country = good. Christian missions in a foreign country = bad. I get it.
So much for changing hearts and minds.