Naked City

Gen. Looney Tunes

The Bush administration was scrambling this week to fend off a public relations nightmare courtesy of a U.S. general anointed by God. That would be Army Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, a fundamentalist Christian recently appointed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to be the deputy undersecretary for intelligence. Boykin has made a number of speeches to evangelical groups denigrating Islam and describing the war against terrorism as a crusade against Satan, and several Arab American groups have called for his resignation or reassignment. Last Friday the Pentagon issued a statement in which Boykin said, "I am not anti-Islam or any other religion. I support the free exercise of all religions. For those who have been offended by my statements, I offer a sincere apology."

As initially reported by William M. Arkin in the Los Angeles Times, Boykin has told various church groups that the Christian God is a real God and Allah is only an idol. (In his apology, Boykin said he was only referring to a Somali warlord's worship of "money and power," but the reported quotations from his various speeches make no such distinction.) He also told an Oregon congregation that Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and Kim Jong-il hate the U.S. "because we're a Christian nation ... a nation of believers," and continued, our "spiritual enemy will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus." That would definitely make combat a bit difficult for the thousands of U.S. soldiers who are Muslims, not to mention many more who practice other religions or are nonbelievers.

Thus far Rumsfeld and the Pentagon have resisted the call for Boykin's resignation. One can only imagine the response if he had referred to the Christian God as an "idol" or called for a holy war in the name of Allah.

Somewhat lost in the controversy over Boykin's fanatical sectarianism has been the general's genuinely deeper looniness. Arkin reported that last year Boykin screened his 1993 combat photos of Mogadishu, Somalia, for some Oklahoma Baptists and solemnly informed them that a "strange mark" the photographs showed above the city was "demonic." "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your enemy," Boykin said. "It is the principalities of darkness. ... It is a demonic presence in that city that God revealed to me as the enemy." Like the old saw: Defense intelligence is to intelligence as military music is to music.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

War in Iraq, Jerry Boykin, Donald Rumsfeld, William M. Arkin, Los Angeles Times

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