Let’s stipulate, as we lawyer types like to say, that the General has the right to his opinions, to his religious beliefs, and for that matter, to his evident adolescence. But as a soldier, he has a duty to respect the military chain of command. I didn?t hear Congressman Pence or others protective of Boykin rising to defend the soldiers in Iraq who were chastised for complaining that the Pentagon had lied to them about the length of their tours of duty.
Indiana’s very own Mike Pence has sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, supporting Lieutenant General William G. Boykin “in the wake of the controversy that has developed around his expressions of his personal Christian faith.” Pence urged the Defense Department to ignore those who have called for an investigation of Boykin, saying criticism of his remarks was evidence of religious intolerance, and comparing him “to George Washington, among others.”
What were these “expressions of personal faith” that Congressman Pence supports? According to numerous news reports, Boykin told one group that terrorists are “after us because we are a Christian nation.” He told another a story about a Somali Muslim who claimed that Allah would protect him from the Americans, saying “Well, you know what I knew, that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol.”
Apparently, Boykin also routinely tells audiences that God, not the voters, chose President Bush. “Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he’s in the White House because God put him there.”
Now, I don’t care if Boykin’s “personal faith” includes the possible divinity of George W. Bush or that we are a “Christian nation” (although in the interests of disclosure I will admit to a contrary view). What worries me is the sandbox quality of his discourse. “My God’s bigger than your God…nah, nah, nah.” Maybe your mother wears army boots, too. With all due respect to Congressman Pence, the criticisms leveled at Boykin, as I understand them, concern the man’s judgment and obvious bigotry, not his religious beliefs. When a high-ranking military officer charged with conduct of important wartime duties expresses contempt for the religious beliefs of 1.2 billion inhabitants of the planet, there is cause for concern. When the remarks are made at a time when the United States is trying desperately to convince our allies in the Middle East that this is not a war against Islam, they undermine American foreign policy.
Boykin may think George Bush is God’s choice, but by using his military position to express such sentiments, he has effectively called his Commander-in-Chief—who has repeatedly disclaimed Anti-Muslim motives—a liar. He has undermined a stated policy position of his superiors, and has made an already dicey diplomatic situation more difficult.
Let’s stipulate, as we lawyer types like to say, that the General has the right to his opinions, to his religious beliefs, and for that matter, to his evident adolescence. But as a soldier, he has a duty to respect the military chain of command. I didn’t hear Congressman Pence or others protective of Boykin rising to defend the soldiers in Iraq who were chastised for complaining that the Pentagon had lied to them about the length of their tours of duty.
It isn’t the size of Boykin’s God that concerns me. It’s the size of his mouth.