So what could really go wrong with an Air Force class that says nuclear war is moral and righteous — because the bible tells us so?
Well for 20 years no one had said a peep. But after a number of complaints by Air Force officers and a Truthout article last week by Jason Leopold revealed that the Air Force was using the bible and even the invocation of a former Nazi scientist to justify the use of nuclear warfare, the long-standing course was shut down:
The course [The Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare training ] was led by Air Force chaplains and took place during a missile officer’s first week in training at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Officers who train to be missileers were required to attend the ethics course, which included a PowerPoint presentation on St. Augustine’s “Christian Just War Theory” as well as numerous examples of characters from the New and Old Testament the training materials asserted engaged in warfighting in a “righteous way.”
St. Augustine’s “Qualifications for Just War,” according to the way the Air Force characterized it in slides used in the ethics training, are: “to avenge or to avert evil; to protect the innocent and restore moral social order (just cause)” and “to restore moral order; not expand power, not for pride or revenge (just intent).”
One of the PowerPoint slides also contained a passage from the Book of Revelation that claims Jesus Christ, as the “mighty warrior,” believed some wars to be just.
In his original story, Leopold talks about the most outrageous of the power point slides, the “moral” justification invoked by Wernher Von Braun, who was captured, recruited and brought to the U.S by American forces in 1945:
One of the most disturbing slides quotes Wernher Von Braun, a former member of the Nazi Party and SS officer. Von Braun, regarded as the father of the US space program, is not being cited as a scientific expert, rather he’s specifically being referenced as a moral authority, which is remarkable considering that the Nazi scientist used Jews imprisoned in concentration camps and captured French anti-Nazi partisans and civilians to help build the V-2 rocket, a weapon responsible for the death of thousands of British civilians.
“We knew that we had created a new means of warfare and the question as to what nation, to what victorious nation we were willing to entrust this brainchild of ours was a moral decision [emphasis in document] more than anything else,” Von Braun said upon surrendering to American forces in May 1945. “We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured.” [emphasis in document]
Von Braun was part of a top-secret military program known as “Operation Paperclip,” which recruited Nazi scientists after World War II who “were secretly brought to the United States, without State Department review and approval; their service for [Adolf] Hitler’s Third Reich, [Nazi Party] and SS memberships as well as the classification of many as war criminals or security threats also disqualified them from officially obtaining visas,” according to the Operation Paperclip web site.
In comments to the press, Air Force spokesman David Smith said the main purpose of the class was to help missile launch officers understand that “what they are embarking on is very difficult and you have to have a certain amount of ethics about what you are doing to do that job.” But the course was nonetheless suspended indefinitely this week.
“In an effort to serve all faiths, we try to introduce none in our briefings and our lectures,” Smith told Fox News Radio. “Once we heard there were concerns, we looked at the course and said we could do better.”
You bet, says ferocious Constitutional watchdog Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. In recent comments he said if the Air Force didn’t pull the plug on the Jesus 4 Nukes course, he would have sued them. And it wouldn’t have been the first time. “This isn’t about attacking someone’s faith,” he said. “What it’s about is remembering that in this country … we separate church and state. They don’t do that in other countries. We do that here.”