Thursday, August 26, 2004

Holding the Pentagon Accountable For Religious Bigotry

NY Times
August 26, 2004
Holding the Pentagon Accountable For Religious Bigotry

The first reports sounded like an over-the-top satire of the Bush Pentagon: the deputy secretary of defense for intelligence - the ranking general charged with the hunt for Osama bin Laden - was parading in uniform to Christian pulpits, preaching that God had put George Bush in the White House and that Islamic terrorists will only be defeated "if we come at them in the name of Jesus." But now a Pentagon inquiry has concluded that Lt. Gen. William Boykin did indeed preach his grossly offensive gospel at 23 churches, pronouncing Satan the mastermind of the terrorists because "he wants to destroy us as a Christian army."

It was stunning last fall, after the general's lapse into brimstone bigotry became public, when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, far from disturbed, praised General Boykin for an "outstanding record" and kept him at the highly sensitive intelligence post during the inquiry. Now it is simply mind-boggling that Pentagon reports suggest the general may survive with only a reprimand for having failed to clear his remarks in advance.

General Boykin has to be removed from his current job. He has become a national embarrassment, not to mention a walking contradiction of President Bush's own policy statement that the fight against terror is bias-free and not a crusade against Islam. (General Boykin preached of a 1993 fight against a Muslim warlord in Somalia: "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol.")

The sense of offense among Islamic Americans is already deep. Removal of the preacher-general should be a no-brainer, however much the president's campaign generals might fear offending the Christian right voting bloc.