Wednesday, November 5, 2003
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Compare and contrast
I had not blogged about Deputy Undersectrtary of Defense for Intelligence [and Lieutenant General] Jerry Boykin's controversial remarks about Islam and the tepid administration response, mostly because I was distracted by Mahathir Mohammed's controversial remarks. [Ahem, some conservatives are arguing that the administration is turning on Boykin--ed. He's still got his position, and on the whole the response has been lacksadaisical despite the attention his remarks received in the Middle East].
In contrast, consider this example from Germany, as reported in the Chicago Tribune:
Now, both Boykin and Guenzel are perfectly entitled to hold the views they hold. However, I agree with Eugene Volokh and Phil Carter that someone holding a position of their rank could and should have been -- at a minimum -- reassigned for what he said, because it substantially interfered with the government's mission.
They seem to recognize that fact in Germany. I'm starting to wonder what one has to say in the Bush administration before disciplinary action is taken.
UPDATE: The comments below take up some religious questions about the theological origins of the God of monotheistic religions. Of course, now I discover that Yahweh and Allah have their own blogs. Go check them out. WARNING -- SENSE OF HUMOR REQUIRED.posted by Dan on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM
First, while I don't have the whole public record of the controversial statements for both generals, it seems to me that there's a faulty parallel here. A public support of clearly anti-Semitic remarks that appear to revolve around world-revolution conspiracy theories, or something like that -- especially in Germany, in a Europe where anti-Semitism is not just a theoretical problem -- is not the same thing as remarks basically saying "I'm a committed Christian" delivered in a less-public environment (church meetings). To me, an Episcopalian, General Boykin's main failing was an error in judgment (and maybe a little too much egoism) in making his presentation or presentations in full dress uniform.
The German general's apparent clear endorsement of anti-Semitism was something apparently over the top even for Europeans. General Boykin did no such thing. He did, however, in a somewhat inept fashion, raise real issues regarding Islam, which -- insofar as Christians continue to be persecuted under Islam -- is an issue that the apostolic Christian church needs to address. By Christian (and Jewish) standards, by and large, Islam is not a good religion, either theoretically or practically. Fairly large segments of the Christian and Jewish communities have no problem with secular Western society defending itself against radical Islamic aggression. However, there's been much less thought given to the spiritual and intellectual challenge of Islam. In the past -- see, for example, St. Patrick's completely successful and apparently completely non-vilent conversion of the pagans in Ireland -- Christianity has been able to address these issues.
Assuming Boykin was successful in his day job, which he apparently is, there is no reason simply to remove him for saying, in a spiritual sense, it's a good thing to come in out of the rain, even if some people are made uncomfortable by such remarks. This is not the same thing is inflammatory anti-Semitism, and in a different context, expressed differently, the point is completely correct and needs further pursuit.posted by: John Bruce on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
I don't see (a) that his remarks are objectionable, or (b) that they hurt the U.S. mission.
I think we can all agree that the terrorists and the tyrants who back them are evildoers, while in defending freedom and justice we are doing good. General Boykin's religious beliefs apparently include the following axioms: that God is the source of all goodness, and thus that our good actions come from God and are of God; and that where evil is done, Satan likely has a hand in it, so that Satan is probably behind the terrorists. Given these axioms, every controversial thing he said follows.
Now, Bush has made clear that those axioms and the conclusions that follow from them are not the position of the U.S. government, and has required the general to cease making public statements, an action which confirms that the U.S. government does not stand behind his religious beliefs. This seems to me an appropriate response.
On question (a), are his views objectionable, I think this boils down to, "Are his religious beliefs objectionable?", since all others view follow from those premises. And as a society I think we've decided we won't object to someone's religious views, we'll only object to faulty actions. On question (b), the Muslim states employ people at similar junior levels who make anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish statements all the time. If they believe that Americans making statements they disagree with should be dismissed, then they'd better start responding to our objections by dismissing their officials (e.g. Saudi government clerics).
As a matter of diplomacy, I think it's important that we assert our liberty in meaningful ways -- not just defending freedom in principle while refusing to exercise it whenever it might offend someone, but actually exercising it. Only then can we be sure that others have accepted the principle that we are, indeed, free. Statements like the general's therefore, I think, serve a positive diplomatic purpose and promote the cause of American liberty.
In political science, power is enhanced by being exercised, and diminishes when it is not exercised. If we do not exercise our freedom of speech or freedom of religion, then they become weaker. Thus, I think you're in the wrong on this one, Dan.posted by: pj on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
"it [Boykins' speech] substantially interfered with the government's mission"
I have yet to see an adequate explanation of why this is so. I don't find Eugene's or Phil's limited discussion of this aspect persuasive in the least.
Do you believe that it hurt the government's mission merely because some persons overseas might point to it and say "here's proof that the US government is attacking Islam"? In that respect, the fact that Boykin is a General in charge of Special Ops would be irrelevant, since the same logic would apply to ANY high ranking person in the adminstration... say the Secretary of HUD or the EPA Administrator. Do you think that such speech would be a firing offense for those officials too?
Or do you think that the speech impaired Boykins' duties as a General in change of Special Operations? I don't know enough about what he does on a day-to-day basis to make that charge (does he regularly deal with, say, counterparts in Muslim countries who might view him differently now? I dunno)... do you? Would your answer be different if Boykins was in charge of tank maintenance instead of Special Operations?posted by: Al on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
I would think that Boykin's assertion that Allah is an idol, besides showing massive ignorance of Islam, is going to complicate our work in the Middle East. It isn't a statement about problems in Islamic fundamentalist terror, nor does it strike me as a restatement of "I am a committed Christian." It's an inaccurate slur. (Although, when you think about it, aren't we recruting Hindu India as an ally? Thanks a lot there, too, General!)
As to Dan's original question:
I'm starting to wonder what one has to say in the Bush administration before disciplinary action is taken.Well, one way is to say that we would need 250,000 ground troops in Iraq. Another way is to let slip that the Iraq campaign would cost as much as $200 billion. posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
To follow up with Andrew's comments and to add some snark: in order to be asked to resign/be fired from the Bush administration, you have to be right while the rest of the administration is wrong AND be competent at your job.posted by: fester on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
For Andrew Lazarus, India is, of course, a multi-ethnic, multi-relgious society, in which expressions of diverse religious viewpoints are not out of bounds. There are substantial numbers of Christians in India, for instance, so I'm simply not sure what point you're trying to make. An "idol", by the way, in a Christian context, is not a piece of jewelry-studded wood, but a false god of any sort. In that sense, "Allah", as described in the Koran, would indeed be a false god, and the commandments of this "idol", both as written and as interpreted by the mainstream of adherents, are variously absurd and repellent to educated, humane people.
We are speaking, in General Boykin's case, of what amounts to tactlessness and little more (and like most tactless remarks, there's a grain of uncomfortable truth to them). You haven't answered the question of whether Boykin's remarks, tactless at worst, are remotely parallel to remarks by a German general endorsing paranoid anti-Semitism.posted by: John Bruce on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
Does anybody else besides the God Squad have legitimate objections to this parallel?
Still waiting.posted by: rufus on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
Grain of truth my eye. Boykin basically stated that his superstition was superior to the other guys superstition, and his god could beat up their god.
It's both fallacious and harmful to our need have this NOT to appear to be a religious war for him to say that.
It's also ironic, because anyone who knows their religious history would know that Allah and God are really the same being with the split into two different sect's happening back in the days of Abraham.
So of course, Boykins god can't beat up Allah because Allah is another name for Boykins god!posted by: bones on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
The ignorance about Islam in this
As for Allah's commandments being
Boykin's remarks are absolutely
"Boykin is different"
John Bruce, are you saying that Boykin's comments were right on ? Then you go on with some stupid racist anti-Islam comment.
You clearly know little to no theology and absolutely nothing about the Koran.
Boykin's comments were wrong, not just undiplomatic, unhelpful or ill-thought, but factually WRONG. Allah is the arabic word for God, as Yahve is the jewish word for God, they are all the same. Only the densest of the dense would say that "because you don't use my language, your God is an idol".
We don't need morons as generals. Out.
John Bruce: "There are substantial numbers of Christians in India, for instance, so I'm simply not sure what point you're trying to make."
The ruling party in India is hard-line Hindu. Violently so, as evidenced by the scores of Muslim Indians who have been killed by BJP affiliated mobs.
12% of the Indian population is Muslim (121 million), compared to a mere 2.3% Christian (about 23 million).
So, yes, I do think Boykin's boner could cause some difficulties with India.posted by: Jon H on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
My wife has talked to young American Christians who have been recruited for mission work in Islamic countries, and their materials emphasize that the Christian and Muslim deities are identical. Not only so the missionaries don't make ignorant fools of theemselves, but because this helps them get in the door, so to speak, with the people they wish to convert. [Disclaimer: we are in absolutely NO WAY affiliated with this program!] Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious authorities all agree that they worship the same God in different ways.
Boykin's remark is an ignorant insult to the Muslims who work for him, and an insult to the foreign Muslims his intelligence office needs to cultivate, and a great recruiting tool for the #1 enemy of the United States. It's probably much worse than an anti-Semitic remark by a German politician, because, alas, his attitude towards the few Jews in Germany is unlikely to have similar significance.posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
First - are you saying that all those "nutty" (to you) religions are fundamentally equal?
To equate specific statements which sure do appear to be anti-semitic by A GERMAN GENERAL - with Boykins statements? Wow! So ignore the CONTEXT?!?
finally - those "sane" believers you mention who know what not to take literally. Would that definition include those dedicated idealists who decided that the qu'ran's prohibition on killing women and children was not to be taken , well, you know, "literally"?posted by: Californio on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
Californio writes: "Would that definition include those dedicated idealists who decided that the qu'ran's prohibition on killing women and children was not to be taken , well, you know, "literally"?"
What about Christian idealists who decided that the Bible's prohibition on murder was not to be taken, well, you know, "literally"?
I mean, come on. A Christian General? What does the work of a general have to do with the teachings of Christ? A general's work is directly in opposition to the teachings of Christ.posted by: Jon H on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
Ted wrote: "The three
This is correct. The first historical Christian response to Islam was to label it a perveted form of Christianity, and not a separate religion. It was Muslims who objected to this, claiming that theirs was a separate faith altogether, NOT derived from Christianity or Judaism.posted by: Registered Independent Joel on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
Boykin's remarks were not just about "Allah the false idol" quite successfully fisked here already. he also has pointed out, on numerous occasions, that a glitch in a photo of Mogadishu showing a black streak over the city is in fact "proof of Satan's influence" and that he managed to beat back Satan while there. In other words, he is a fucking insane person. Now, to me, and I am going to go way out on a limb here, THAT MIGHT JUST DISQUALIFY YOU FOR AN IMPORTANT JOB IN COUNTER-TERRORISM. But then again, given that this administration is "objectively pro-proliferation" (unless someone can explain outing Victoria Plame differently to me) none of this ocmes as a surprise. Boykin is a sad and pathetic human being who deserves nothing but derision and contempt--his superstition is getting in the way of my children's safety, and I say off with his head.posted by: robert green on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
"Boykin's assertion that Allah is an idol ... "
Boykin said what he said not in a public arena but in services at Christian churches to which he was invited. The last time I looked, meddling with the affairs of a Christian church was out of bounds for the government.
I'm just wondering why it appears to be so hard for anti-christian bigots to admit that their bigotry is the bottom-line of their agenda.
There is a difference, too often ignored, between a belief and a statement. I don't care what rubbish Gen. Boykin or Mr. Bruce believes. I do care what Gen. Boykin SAYS, as Gen. Boykin, wearing his US Army uniform (not a Salvation Army uniform), and holding his present post, because he thereby speaks for the United States, and that's me as much as it is him. He spoke in a public place to an audience he was invited to address at least in part because of his rank and his posting. His statement was a polemic in favor of one religion and against another. That he did so in uniform appeared, and was surely intended, to lend some kind of official weight to his speech. He should be discharged, not just reassigned. But I'm sure he won't be, not by this administration.
John Bruce wrote:
But if we look at the article Dan refered to, it said:
Defense Minister Peter Struck dismissed Brig. Gen. Reinhard Guenzel over a letter the general allegedly sent last month to Christian Democrat lawmaker Martin Hohmann
So in other words, the German general was dismissed for remarks that was not public. A letter is hardly public.
Boykin on the other hand, said his stuff in a public meeting (I assume a church meeting is public). His remarks shows he is unfit for his position, since it shows a gross lack of common sense.posted by: Kristjan Wager on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
It’s getting nasty, no?
In its original article, The LA Times reported:
If LTG Boykin does indeed give fiery speeches to rowdy Christians, one would expect him to lapse into Old Testamentisms when he gets going, and idolatry would be thrown in for good measure. And I’m pretty sure that Boykin knew the correct usage of “God” and “Allah.”
posted by: The Kid on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
A few observations:
1) Ted: Many religious Christians *do* argue that Mormons are not Christians. (Google on "Mormons are not Christians" and you'll find plenty of discussions of the issues involved.) I recall, for instance, a controversy where the Fellowship of Christian Athletes yanked an honor away from an athlete when they found out he was Mormon.
2) Moreover, I can tell you that a significant number of religious Jews do not agree that Jews and Christians worship the same god; indeed, some do not accept the Christian profession of monotheism, given the whole trinity thing.
3) Although Ted claims that the "vast majority" of Muslims find Sharia repellent, I'm not sure why he's so convinced. There are Christians who want to impose full Biblical law on the US -- but there's an insigificant number of them. There are enough Muslims who want to impose Sharia that many places have done so.
4) Boykin believes that his religion is better than Islam. Don't _all_ Christians believe that? Isn't that part of the essential nature of Christianity? Indeed, don't most (though not all) religions teach that their religions are better than other ones? Or, more specifically, that their religions are right and others are wrong? In polite society, we don't _say_ that, but don't most believers believe that?
Boykin's sin (word chosen ironically) was implying -- or at least leaving an opening for others to infer -- that he felt that Christians were better than Muslims, which is different than Christianity being better than Islam.posted by: David Nieporent on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
I'm just wondering why it appears to be so hard for anti-christian bigots to admit that their bigotry is the bottom-line of their agenda.
Have you considered the option that many of us also would call for his dismissal if the remark had been anti-Jewish or anti-Christian instead? His belief is not what we are debating, it's his statements that counts, as John G. Fough explained abvoe.posted by: Kristjan Wager on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
Paul A'Barge: "Boykin said what he said not in a public arena but in services at Christian churches to which he was invited. The last time I looked, meddling with the affairs of a Christian church was out of bounds for the government."
He said it while wearing his uniform. Which in itself (speaking at events in uniform without authorization) violates military conduct rules.
The church can have anyone they want talk. Any range of nutters is available, I'm sure. The problem is that this speaker went in uniform, representing the US military.
I think with Boykin we are talking about a crazy person who was given a military promotion and job as a political sop. Anyone who confates god with dick size -- and this includes most of this administration -- should be locked up.posted by: cs on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
I'm just wondering why it appears to be so hard for anti-christian bigots to admit that their bigotry is the bottom-line of their agenda.
Funny... I was thinking the same thing about pro-christian bigots, of which there are plenty...posted by: dave on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
Ted & Andrew - An "idol" to Boykin is any false God; if the Allah of the terrorists and the Christian God are not the same God -- surely something most Christians and Muslims believe -- then Boykin's Christianity necessarily implies that he believes Allah to be an idol. He believes it, the Muslims know by virtue of his Christianity that he believes it (and that George Bush and 200 million other Americans believe it too), and there's little evidence whatsoever that Muslims hold these beliefs against us.
Indeed, one could plausibly argue that most Muslims are more offended by secular Westerners than by religious Christians. If so, should we fire all secular officials, or everyone who voices support for gay rights, because Muslims find gays offensive?
I would be outraged if Bush fired an official for expressing support for gay rights because of a Muslim backlash, and I would be outraged if he fired General Boykin for expressing Christian beliefs, even if they are minority beliefs and not representative of official policy. If we are a free country, then we need to respect people's ability to be different.posted by: pj on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
leaving aside Boykin for the moment, I'd like to add some stuff on Günzel:
Besides, it might be worth noting that Struck gains a tremendous partisan advantage by dismissing Günzel, making Hohmann's dismissal by the CSU almost inevitable. This is important in so far, as German conservatives regularly pander to xenophobic and anti-immigration sentiments (e.g. would-be chancellor Stoiber "We need more foreigners that are of use to us and less foreigners that abuse us. Roland Koch: "Children instead of Indians"/ "Kinder statt Inder" (rhymes in German)) and semi-officially acknowledge, that they see it as their job to prevent the rise of parties on the hard/neo-nazi right by including their potential members.
So, for the time being, I wouldn't praise Struck too loudly as his motives are probably less pure than they appear on first sight. Nonetheless, he did the right thing, and IMO Boykin should be fired as well.posted by: markus on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
Arrgh. The key point on Boykin is that he made a number of political statements (and not just the ones about Islam and Satan), ie: Bush was chosen by God, in uniform and in public. This is something military officers with any understanding of the proper place of the military in a democracy know: You don't wrap your personal political and religious views in the uniform. However, else you feel about Boykin he violated a primary tradition of our military services. For that, if nothing else, he ought to get the can. Military officers take an oath to defend the Constitution, not worship the President of the day.posted by: msj on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
Robert Green nails it here. Religious bigotry isn't the real issue - the man thinks smudges on a photograph are demons. He has every right to believe that. He similarly has every right to believe that a giant tinfoil helmet will shield his cerebellum from the rays the mothership beams down to activate the chip in his head. But you don't want somebody with that tenuous a grip on reality to be babysitting your children, much less serving as Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.posted by: apostropher on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
>>Military officers take an oath to defend the Constitution
And what part of the Constitution says that this is "a Christian nation"? - or is pointing that out another example of "anti-Christian bigotry"? do the Boykins' of the world have room in America for the rest of us? To me that was the most offensive and aggregious statement that he made.posted by: Andy on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
Why that's a cinch Dan. All you gotta do to get fired is to openly say the following.
"In order to show fiscal responsibility, I think as a conservative deficit hawk we should repeal the Bush Tax Cuts. Also we should give other nations a more significant role in Iraq. We need a new strategy there beside rushed Iraqification. Additionally, this partial birth abortion ban is clearly poorly written legislation - we should include the necessary exemption for the mother's health which the courts have stipulated. Finally, that Plame affair stunk to high heaven. Whoever released that information should be sacked for incompetence if they didn't know it was a NOC and for crossing a line if they did know."
I imagine anyone who said those things in however a conservative way or for conservative reasons would get sacked right quick Dan.posted by: Oldman on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
The strangest thing about reading Daniel's blog and Kevin's blog side by side, as it were, is that both Daniel and Kevin comprehend that General Boykin's anti-Islamic comments, made in public while he was in uniform, deserve some negative response from the administration.
But in the threads responding, unalterably, right-wing readers seem to see this as an issue of Boykin's religious freedom (and many of them confuse Christianity with anti-Islamic bigotry) and fail even to understand why Muslims would find this creepy stuff grossly offensive.
I have to seriously question the role of such a superstitious man analyzing intelligence. He's on record as attributing streaks in a photograph of Mogadishu to evidence of Satan and demons. This being the same general who presided over the debacle in Mogadishu. He said he "knew" he would win because his god was bigger than the other guys. He said God put GWB in the White House and that we're a "Christian" nation at war with Satan. (Funny, I thought we were a secular nation of free elections at war with theocrats.) Lord knows (pun intended) what he's reading into the Iraqi intelligence. How can a devoted premillenialist dispensationalist fundamentalist Christian not bring an Apocalyptic worldview to his reading of events? I suppose that's fine if you believe the endtimes are upon us, but most Christians (me included) don't. Let alone all those of other faiths. Separation of church and state and for officers of the government the separation of their execution of public policy from their private religion isn't just the admonition of modern day secularists. Jesus himself said to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's. Boykin should be let go for not understanding that his oath requires that he's the general of a secular army of a secular nation composed of not just Christians and Jews, but Muslims, Catholics, Mormons, Unitarians, Pagans, Wicchans, Jains, Sikhs, freethinkers, atheists, and infidels of all kinds.
PS: If you object to my excluding Catholics and Mormons from the Christians, your beef's not with me, it's with fundamentalist Christianity. If you object to my leaving the Unitarians out, well you'll just have to take that up with them.posted by: fastback on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
PJ, you are just not reading what I am writing.
Ted & Andrew - An "idol" to Boykin is any false God; if the Allah of the terrorists and the Christian God are not the same God -- surely something most Christians and Muslims believe -- then Boykin's Christianity necessarily implies that he believes Allah to be an idol. [emphasis added]Islam explicitly teaches that Allah is the same deity worshiped by Christians and Jews. Jews hold that Allah is the same deity as the Jewish God, and have since medieval times. I can't answer for the ignorance of "most Christians", but I can say that the overwhelming majority of Christian theologians believe Allah is the same deity as their God, and as I wrote, they even tell their missionaries to the Muslims to emphasize that.
Besides being dreadful politics, Gen. Boykin's statements are ignorant.posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
Andrew - The philosopher Peter Geach had a long discussion of precisely this issue. He noted that the answer to the question "Are they the same God?" is very similar to the question "Are they the same person?" If two people met and both said "I know Andrew Lazarus," then the might well proceed to asking if they know the same Andrew Lazarus. And they would do this by describing the characteristics of the Andrew Lazarus they know. And if one says, my Andrew Lazarus is 60 years old, 7 feet tall, blond haired, and the other says, my Andrew Lazarus is 30 years old, 5 foot 4, and dark haired, they would reasonably conclude that it's not the same Andrew Lazarus.
Similarly, if Osama bin Laden's God favors the murder of innocent Americans and Boykin's God prohibits all murder, then they cannot be the same God, no matter what the Koran says.
And General Boykin is hardly "ignorant" to recognize that these are not the same God.posted by: pj on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
I have to seriously question the role of such a superstitious man analyzing intelligence. He's on record as attributing streaks in a photograph of Mogadishu to evidence of Satan and demons.
To me, this is automatic disqualification for his post. He is manifestly unfit to interpret intelligence. The rest is arguable, but this goes directly to his ability to do the job.
"Similarly, if Osama bin Laden's God favors the murder of innocent Americans and Boykin's God prohibits all murder, then they cannot be the same God, no matter what the Koran says."
What on earth does that mean? Jerry Falwell's God believes that loose morals of Americans are the reason for 9/11. Oral Roberts' God feels you should give Oral Roberts money. Does that mean the Christian God is vengeful, narrow-minded, and avaricious? Then stop using fringe loonies like bin Laden to draw conclusions about the beliefs of 1.5 billion Muslims. He cloaks himself in religion for the same reason Falwell does: it's a way to get useful followers.
We hear about the fringe loonies on the news because they make headlines. They tend to blow things up or make inflammatory comments, which is good for selling papers.
"Indeed, one could plausibly argue that most Muslims are more offended by secular Westerners than by religious Christians."
Go for it. I doubt you can make that argument for "most" Muslims. There are many more mainstream Christians in this world than fundamentalists, and they live and exist quite comfortably in secular society even though they go to church. The same is true for most Muslims; they care for their children, hope for the future, and want to be mostly left alone by the loonies on both sides of the ocean. If they hate and fear those of us in the "secular" West, how much of that is because we are secular and how much of it is because they hear about our op-ed idiots who want to "kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity" or our president who wants to go on "a crusade"?
What do you have to get fired in this administration? Its simple - get in the way of the war profiteering machine. Just ask general Shinseki.posted by: noam chimpsky on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
Paul A'Barge wrote:
Boykin did not say that Allah is an idol. He said that the deity of his enemy in Somalia, who invoked that deity's name, was an idol. The difference is important. It is not the identity in truth of a deity which makes an idol, it is the identity in the mind of Boykin's enemy which makes _that deity_ an idol.
That appears to be true (and isn’t it funny that William Arkin who broke the story has refused to release the transcript of the event after he promised he would?). Furthermore General Boykin made these remarks at a later event:
Boykin compared the radical Islamic fundamentalists to the radical “hooded Christians” of the United States. “There are Muslims who worship here and support the United States,” he said, pointing out that those who act violently in the name of their religion do not reflect the principles of Islam.
It seems pretty clear that General Boykin makes an obvious distinction between true practioners of the Muslim faith and the terrorist thugs who falsely invoke their religion to commit actions contrary to the principles of the faith they blaspheme.
BTW: when Boykin made the remarks about the Somali Warlord (by all accounts I’ve read, Boykin is highly knowledgably about Islam and the Wahhabist sect so he doubtlessly knew what he was saying and the importance of labeling this renegade as a idolater to delegitimatize him), he was the commander of Delta Force during the 1993 Mogadishu raid. I don’t know your familiarity with Delta Force but you have to be highly intelligent to make it in that unit much less lead as an officer which Boykin. The attacks on Boykin seem more and more like a smear job (remember how the original story claimed he used the term “jihad” and it turned out to be untrue?) on a highly capable officer who has served with distinction for over thirty years. It is doubtful that his comments would be “offensive” or even known (save for those who look for things to be offended about as some of the posters on this forum would appear to be) in their correct context but since William Arkin has reneged on his earlier promise to release the transcript, it is doubtful that we will ever know.
posted by: Thorley Winston on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
Jon H wrote:
He said it while wearing his uniform. Which in itself (speaking at events in uniform without authorization) violates military conduct rules.
Are you sure about that? Please cite for us the provision in the UCMJ which you believe was violated by General Boykin’s remarks and why. If it is true then I agree that disciplinary action would be appropriate based on the guidelines of military law. If no one can produce such a citation and evidence the general violated it, we'll have to assume then that he was well within his rights to make his remarks to a private group as he has done in the past apparently without incident. posted by: Thorley Winston on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
The relevant UCMJ cite is
"Wearing Army uniforms is prohibited in the following situations: (2) When participating in public speeches, interviews, picket lines, marches, rallies, or public demonstrations, except as authorized by competent authority."
There is also:
Thorley, here is the UMC he violated.
Here is the the link to the old Department of Defense directive on wearing uniform.
Sections 3.1.3 and 3.1.4
The more recently updated (2003) Army Regulation 670-1 is here as well.
Section 1-10 j (2)
Boykin either spoke in official or authorized capacity or he violated the code.
Take your pick...posted by: ch2 on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
Mr. Winston's (excellent) defense aside, you might be interested to know that Admirals and Generals have immense staffs, much of which exist expressly for these types of circumstances - as General Officer's are in high demand as public speakers.
posted by: Arthur Wellesley on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
If he has to be authorized to speak in uniform, then he is not free to speak whenever and whatever to whomever he wants. There is less free speech in uniform and he went overboard. He made comments that were either authorized (by the US chain of command) and brought forth the image that we are Christian soldiers on a crusade, OR he was not authorized and went against the UMC.
As I said, take your pick and fire the idiot.
There is a very interesting form of intolerance going on here that I think most Westerners unconciously internalize without realizing it.
You're allowed to have any religious beliefs you want as long as you accept the legitimacy of other religious beliefs. But if you think all other religions are a crock then you're outside the boundaries and we don't have to be tolerant of you any more.
Personally, I think this is hypocritical idiocy.
I'm an atheist. I consider Boykin to be an idiot, at least in his approach to religion. Of course I feel the same way about the pope, anyone wearing a yarmulke, and Osama Bin Laden. TFL guys.
On the other hand, if you do believe in a religion how can you not believe that others are a crock? For example, despite all the high minded ecumenicism out there, either Muhammed was a prophet or a loony psycopath. And Jesus was either the son of god or the greatest Jewish con man in history (Rah rah rah!). If you're a Jew then all the other "people of the book" are hilarious morons who are still enthralled by a Jewish side show charlatan who died 2,000 years ago. On the other hand, if you really believe in Christianity then how can you see Jews as anything but stubborn wilfully blind people who have had 2,000 years to recognize that Jesus died for their sins but who still refuse to bring him into their hearts?
So why can't we have some real tolerance here? I couldn't care less if you and Boykin et al think I'm wrong for being an atheist. And as far as his religious beliefs go, he's no more delusional than any believer in any religion.
I don't think an atheist should be fired for his beliefs and I feel the same way about Boykin.
Moreover, if you want to apply the standard that Boykin's statements are unacceptable because they might offend moslem nations are you willing to apply the same standards to any government official who, for example, expresses tolerance of homosexuality?
Show consistency or admit you are just anti-religious bigots.posted by: Mike Friedman on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
Mike,your logic sucks or you can't read for shit.
So I will write this slowly, so you can follow.
Boykin was either:
Now, if he wanted to talk about his beliefs in civilian clothing, he's free to! He was not.
It doesn't get more consistent than this.
And if you continue with the anti-religious bigot line, I'll be forced to call you an anti-logic (or illogical) interlocutor, since you have zero basis for calling me that.posted by: ch2 on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
So would you also advocate firing him if he spoke about religious tolerance, also an anathema to many of our Muslim allies?
In actual fact, Boykin most likely informed his superiors that he was going to speak to a church group about the power of the lord, redemption, etc. and was probably approved by his superiors. I doubt they asked for a transcript in advance and it is very possible he didn't have a written speech in advance.posted by: Mike Friedman on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
"So would you also advocate firing him if he spoke about religious tolerance, also an anathema to many of our Muslim allies?"
No. First of all, relig. tolerance is not anathema to all Muslims, as it is not anathema to the moderate members of religions world-wide. And much more importantly, it's not whether he went against someone's particular tenet, but that he UNDERMINED Bush's assertion that this war was not about religion. A general making comments denigrating Islam sure makes it sound otherwise. He just made it that much harder to convince the average Mohammed that we are not at war with him. He directly sabotaged our war objective. With the widespread coverage his statements received on Al-Jazeera and with the absence of any rebuke from our government, you can bet that some Irakis will now cooperate less with our troops, maybe even attacking them.
We're talking a SERIOUS lack of political thought here, since Bush said this war is as much of war of ideas as a war in the conventional sense.
"In actual fact, Boykin most likely informed his superiors that he was going to speak to a church group about the power of the lord, redemption, etc. and was probably approved by his superiors."
What ? I seriously doubt that. It's much more likely to be a case of a senior officer thinking regulations don't apply to him. Remember the stories of soldiers being seriously reprimanded for having affairs, while a general gets promoted. Boykin neatly fits in the category of people who think they are too big for the law to apply to them.
All the more a reason to make an example of him, it'll boost soldier morale, and reinforce Bush's claim that this war is not about religion. Boykin is an albatross that is dragging our credibility down.
Finally, in the unlikely case that you are right and that he did warn his superiors about his activities, there is not a chance in hell he told them he was going to talk about Islam or Allah in disparaging terms. Which just brings us back to the first paragraph: he undermined the war on terror.
Firing Boykin would do him a favor: he can now follow his true calling and become a fiery preacher.posted by: ch2 on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
I could give a shit about Boykin's "beliefs."
[I must note that they appear to bear absolutely NO resemblance to the Christianity I (a post-Vatican II Catholic) was raised on. Like many fundies--the Jack Van Impe's & Tim LaHaye's and Jerry Falwell's etc--they seem disturbingly eager, for folks who call themselves Christians, to chuck the Sermon on the Mount in favor of their favorite bits of Leviticus & Ezekiel & Revelations to arrive at their preferred God As Rambo the Avenger.]
That said, Boykin's personal "beliefs," or his "religious freedom" are entirely beside the point. The point is: he works for me. He represents my country: first as a General--in US Army Uniform--and now as a political appointee in the Pentagon (how he appears to hold both jobs simultaneously, contrary to usual practice, hasn't been explained to me). And in those capacities, his public airing of those beliefs--his virulently anti-democratic assertion that Bush fils is Divinely Chosen to lead our Christian Nation (he proudly points to Bush's loss of the popular vote as proof of this!); his assertion that the War On Terror is a War on Satan (thus a Holy War); his über-stupid "My God was bigger than His" remark (remember, the enemy in question had invoked Allah by name, so all the parsing is pointless)--in all of this, General/Secretary Boykin, charged in both his official capacities with ensuring my safety, has made me less safe!!!. And by refusing to take even the most symbolic action to discipline him, Bush continues to make us all less safe!
This kind of rhetoric, from a high official (both political and military) in the US Defense apparatus, is an Al Qaeda recruiter's wet dream.
The attempt to make Boykin's continued government employment a Free Exercise of Religion issue is exactly analagous to attempts to make Rush Limbaugh's employment at ESPN a Free Speech issue. ESPN is under no obligation to pay Limbaugh for his idiocy; and I am under no obligation to continue to pay Boykin to incite terrorists.
mposted by: michael (in DC) on 11.05.03 at 10:26 AM [permalink]
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