- WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld refused Thursday to criticize a high-ranking Pentagon general
and evangelical Christian who has made public speeches denigrating the
God of the Islamic faith and asserting that the U.S. was attacked by terrorists
because "we are a Christian nation."
- The officer, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, Rumsfeld's deputy
undersecretary of defense for intelligence and warfighting support and
a former commando, has likened the fight against Islamic radicals who hate
the U.S. to a war between Judeo-Christian values and "Satan."
He also has said, "God, not the voters, chose President Bush."
- Boykin, who has frequently spoken before church groups
and prayer meetings, said in one appearance that his Christian faith played
a role in his battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia. "I knew
that my God was bigger than his," Boykin said. "I knew that my
God was a real God, and his was an idol."
- `Outstanding record'
- In a long and sometimes heated exchange with reporters
Thursday during a Pentagon news briefing, Rumsfeld said Boykin had "an
outstanding record" and that many in the government and military freely
express their views.
- "That's the way we live," the defense secretary
said. "We're a free people. And that's the wonderful thing about our
country. And I think that for anyone to run around and think that that
can be managed and controlled is probably wrong. . . . Saddam Hussein could
do it pretty well, because he'd go around killing people if they said things
he didn't like."
- Rumsfeld said he would not speak further on the subject
because he had not read Boykin's remarks in their entirety and considered
their context. The secretary repeatedly refused to say whether he would
review the general's statements and decide whether Boykin's conduct was
- Rumsfeld emphatically pointed out, however, that Bush's
position is that the U.S. is fighting a war against terrorism, not Islam,
and that terrorist acts violate the tenets of Islam.
- Terrorism, not religion
- "We believe in this administration that . . . the
war on terrorism is not a war against a religion," Rumsfeld said.
"It is not a war against a people or a country. It is a war against
a group of people who have taken the subject of terrorism and tried to
hijack a religion and make it look like that's part of their religion,
which it is not."
- The controversy adds to an ongoing debate over what members
of the armed services should be permitted to say publicly. Traditionally,
subordinates in a chain of command are not allowed to question or criticize
the decisions of superiors.
- Gen. Douglas MacArthur was relieved of command for questioning
the leadership of President Harry Truman during the Korean War. Former
Gen. Wesley Clark, now a Democratic presidential candidate, was forced
to depart early from his post as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe for
openly chafing at the refusal of President Bill Clinton and Defense Secretary
William Cohen to use ground troops against the Yugoslav army in Kosovo.
- More recently, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki
was publicly chastised by Rumsfeld for saying that 200,000 or more U.S.
troops would be needed in Iraq, instead of the much smaller number Rumsfeld
insisted was adequate.
- Enlisted soldiers, however, have published letters to
the editor criticizing political candidates without suffering any discipline,
and servicewomen have spoken out against sexual harassment in the military.
- Joining Rumsfeld at Thursday's briefing, Air Force Gen.
Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Boykin's remarks
fall into a "gray area" and that it did not initially appear
that rules had been broken.
- "There is a very wide gray area of what the rules
permit," Myers said. "Generally, when you speak to groups, if
you're in a private capacity, it's probably appropriate not to wear a uniform,
but there are always exceptions to that."
- Speaking in uniform
- Television news outlets have broadcast videotape of Boykin
speaking before groups in uniform. Myers said that he also had spoken in
churches at prayer breakfasts.
- "On other occasions where they might be honoring
the military, [it's] very appropriate to get up and speak in uniform,"
- One of the earliest members of the military's secret
Delta Force, Boykin was a commander of Army troops in Somalia 10 years
ago at the time of the bloody "Black Hawk down" incident and
was wounded by a mortar shell in Mogadishu.
- A rising star under Rumsfeld, Boykin was promoted quickly
from two-star to three-star general and is said to be in line for even
greater responsibility because of his background in special operations.
- Boykin has been outspoken in his religious beliefs. According
to a Ft. Dix newspaper called Outlook, Boykin told a prayer breakfast there
that America's enemy was religious in nature. "The enemy is not the
terrorists," he was quoted as saying at the New Jersey base. "The
enemy has come against us in a spiritual realm."
- He said the U.S. was founded on Judeo-Christian principles
and vowed "we will never walk away from Israel."
- "Don't let the media, the liberals, sway you in
your faith," Boykin was quoted as saying. "Pray for America,
and we will be victorious."
- In a speech last month in Vero Beach, Fla., Boykin stressed
"the importance of praying for soldiers, sailors and Marines."
- At a separate briefing, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.)
was critical of Boykin. "I'll have to learn more about it," Chafee
said. "But from what you are reporting, if that's accurate, to me