Column: Zealous rhetoric has no place in the military

(U-WIRE) AMES, Iowa – We now have a glimpse into the kind of attitude that may be just under the surface of some of the people who run the current administration. Last week it was revealed Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin made frighteningly xenophobic and extremist comments over the past year and a half to evangelical Christian groups. His remarks have sparked outrage in the United States and abroad.

Sometimes in uniform, the deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence gave a number of speeches in which he described the United States as battling a “spiritual enemy” named Satan, according to The Washington Post. Boykin also said President Bush “is in the White House because God put him there.”

Moreover, while discussing a 1993 battle in Somalia with Muslim militia leader Osman Atto, Boykin said, “I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol.”

After capturing Mr. Atto, Boykin told him, “Mr. Atto, you underestimated our God,” he recalled on a tape played on NBC.

This “guy named Satan,” Boykin claims, “wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army.” Under intense pressure, Boykin issued an apology through the Pentagon for his comments and claimed they were misrepresented and taken out of context.

However, a glaring hypocrisy emerged as the general’s comments were made public at nearly the same time Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad of Malaysia was rightly criticized by President Bush for making anti-Semitic remarks.

The Prime Minister was rebuked because “he declared last week that Jews run the world by proxy,” according to the New York Times.

President Bush said Prime Minister Mohamad’s comments were “wrong and divisive” and also said, “It stands squarely against what I believe in.”

So why is it that when a series of similarly nauseating comments are uncovered in the same week – made by one of his own generals – we don’t hear a peep from President Bush until a week later?

Instead of immediate condemnation, as in the case of Malaysia’s Prime Minister, a commission must be assembled to investigate the general’s comments, some of which are on videotape.

It has unfortunately taken a worldwide firestorm of criticism to drag comments out of President Bush.

“He doesn’t reflect my point of view or the point of view of this administration,” President Bush at last said this week, according to The Los Angeles Times.

“I’m going to wait for the inspector general to complete their review and come back to us,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told The Washington Post.

No action has been taken. Boykin has not been reassigned, dismissed or asked to step down.

As a Christian, I am repulsed by this distortion of the Christian faith, especially coming from a man in a position of such power and prominence referring to a Christian holy war against Islam.

I am equally concerned about extreme Christian organizations that have jumped to the general’s defense, claiming he is under attack because he is an open Christian.

In an open letter, Jim Wallis, of the Christian social justice publication Sojourner’s Magazine, said, “The kingdom of God does not endorse the principalities and powers of nation-states, armies, and the ideologies of empire; but rather calls them all into question.”

Wallis urges his readers to pressure the Senate Armed Services Committee to ask General Boykin to resign.

This kind of outreach from progressive Christian groups is necessary to provide balance to the support coming from the faith community.

If Boykin is not asked to leave, the American people will truly know the depth of hypocrisy of this administration when dealing with fanaticism.

Gen. Boykin’s comments are an expression of extremist religious nationalism that has no place in the military or our government. Boykin’s conduct is inexcusable and he must be asked to resign.

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