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We're Not at War with Islam, But Let's Do Everything We Can to Make it Look Like We Are

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In his Sunday night statement announcing that Osama bin Laden had been killed, President Obama made a point of saying that we are not at war with Islam. Great. The decision was made to immediately bury bin Laden at sea, in accordance with Muslim burial custom, despite the fact that this was an evil man who in no way represented the religion of Islam. Smart. It appeared that the White House was doing all the right things to make it clear to Muslims everywhere that the killing of bin Laden was not a religious attack and show America's respect for Muslim religious traditions.

But any good that these actions might have done in averting retaliation by bin Laden's supporters was probably just obliterated this morning when it was reported on NBC's Today Show that the commander of the SEAL unit, who was supposed to signal that the mission was successfully accomplished with the code word "Geronimo," decided to embellish his communication by prefacing the code word with "For God and Country." Did whoever released this message to the media give any thought at all to what they were doing?

And now, on top of this "For God and Country" message, we have a whole bunch of media outlets making a big deal about Joe Biden holding his rosary beads while the operation was taking place, something that isn't even visible in the Situation Room photos released by the White House -- and something that would, and should, have gone completely unnoticed, but is now being widely reported all over the world.

Here at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), we regularly get a constant stream of frantic calls and emails from our troops in Afghanistan whose commanders and senior NCOs are doing equally boneheaded things. We're the people who get the calls from the soldier who just had a rifle stuck up his nose because his rifle still had the Bible verse reference on its sight, the soldier whose superior was teaching Afghan troops about America by having the Christian nationalist Battle Hymn of the Republic translated and taught to them, the soldier suddenly finding himself in the midst of a mob of previously friendly Afghans chanting "Death to America" because of the words of some idiot over here in America. The list goes on and on.

MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein spoke this morning to a senior Obama administration intelligence official who told Weinstein that he had "cringed uncontrollably" when he saw the "For God and Country Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo" headline on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) website this morning, before he even knew that these were the words of the SEAL commander being reported on NBC. As a long time MRFF supporter going back to the Bush administration, this intelligence official knows very well the potential danger that this almost incomprehensible lapse in judgement on the part of both the SEAL commander and whoever released the words of this commander to the media will put our troops in.

Should the White House be worried that releasing photos of the dead bin Laden might be too offensive? Well, not any more. The top of the offensiveness scale has probably already been hit.

Chris Rodda is the Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), and the author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History.

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