Sunday, June 19, 2005

E-mail from a Methodist army chaplain explaining what's REALLY going on at Gitmo

Major Kent L. Svensden is a Methodist minister from Ashton, IL, a small north-central Illinois town. He's also an army chaplain, and has taken issue with United Methodist Women--a sanctioned group within the United Methodist Church--and their initiation of a human rights campaign regarding War on Terror prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, aka "Gitmo."

Svensden sent the below e-mail to the United Methodist Women. Former Illinois State Representative and current Illinois Leader reporter Cal Skinner obtained this e-mail, which comes to us with a big hat tip (again) from Obiter Dictum.

But there is more: The United Methodist Church is not stopping at Gitmo. Already, they're dipping their toe into the divestment campaign against Israel, as this LA Times writer explains:

In addition, the Presbyterians and United Methodist Church have supported shareholder actions against Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc. to end the use of its bulldozers in razing thousands of Palestinian homes. And both the Methodists and the Episcopal Church have launched studies of the divestment issue (against Israel) for possible action.

Caterpillar has been cast as a villain by the Far Left and anti-Israeli crowd because one of its bulldozers accidentally killed pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie. The Corrie incident has figured prominently into the Thomas Klocek free speech battle against DePaul University.

If you know any Methodists, please forward the below e-mail to them. And click here if you'd like to contact the United Methodist Church about their Gitmo and divestment stands.

FROM: Reverend Kent L. Svendsen, Ordained Elder, United Methodist Church / Northern Illinois Conference

Dear Women's Division General Board of Global Ministries United Methodist Church

I understand that you about to start a campaign relating to among other things human rights protections and the detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

I can speak with some authority on the subject since I served as the chaplain to the Joint Detention Operation Group in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from May 2004 until March 2005.
As a United Methodist I have a keen sense of world justice and while serving in Cuba sought to be faithful to our social principles and their concern for social holiness.

So I am not speaking to you as a military chaplain but as an Ordained United Methodist.

I have a great concern for our news media sources today. There was a day when the truth and protecting our nation from harm took precedence over being the first to break a story. Now it seems that accusations, no matter how harmful, no matter the source, no matter the possible consequences, are enough to use them as weapons upon the innocent as well as the guilty.

I am also grieved that there seems to be not only an automatic assumption of guilt when the accusations are aimed at our military and our government, but that any explanation aimed at proving them innocent is also automatically viewed as a "cover up". And that when those who are guilty of violations are uncovered, prosecuted, and punished there is a tendency by some to want to use that as evidence that the violations were policy instead a violation of the standing orders and policy. What the new media and groups like the Woman's Division needs to understand is that accusations cause harm and create damage that a retraction and an admission of error later cannot repair. (I don't think we will ever really know exactly how many died after Newsweek made the false accusation of a Koran being flushed down a toilet.)

There are those who would use accusations such as those recently made against our military as weapons to gain political power. They count on the fact that people will believe something if its said enough times and said by people and organizations they respect. It was the case in the past that our nation's opponents tried to prevent our culture and news sources from reaching their people. After all, the ideas of freedom, democracy, and equality for all doesn't play well in some parts of the world. So since modern technology cannot be stopped and "world news" is now also news to the world there is now a new strategy. They use it to their advantage as a weapon against our nation.

The accusations are flying fast and furious. If your organization would be interested in knowing about my experience. (I cannot talk about the day to day activities in the camp but I can either verify or deny many of the accusations that are being made.)

Here's a list that might help you if your willing to listen to an Ordained Elder who knows the facts rather than accusations made based on speculation. I'll respond here specifically to some of the one's I've heard.

1. The detainees have direct access to the International Red Cross representatives contrary to the accusations that they have no outside contact. Also, all the detainees are allowed to write and receive mail from family.

2. The detainees have their food prepared according to Islamic guidelines. The call to prayer is broadcast for them to go to prayer. Each detainee has the direction to Meccah painted in their cell. They are allowed to practice their religion without interference and are given the religious items they need to do so. They are allowed to observe Ramadan.

3. There are strict guidelines and training concerning human rights protections. If a service member sees a violation they are to report it and if asked to violate someone's human rights they are to consider it as an unlawful order. Those who violate are subject to prosecution.
If you are interested in more information please contact me.

There is also an article about my work in Cuba which was published in the July issue of Esquire magazine.

Kent Svendsen, Chaplain (Major) USAR

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