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November 05, 2003

GOOD QUESTION, DAN....This morning I read an article about a German general who got fired for praising some anti-semitic remarks, and it immediately reminded me of our own Jerry Boykin, who is both a Lieutenant General and Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. He made some disparaging remarks about Islam a few weeks ago but so far is still happily ensconced in his Pentagon office.

Anyway, I was going to blog about it but it turns out Dan Drezner already has — and asks the relevant question at the end. So just go read his post instead.

Posted by Kevin Drum at November 5, 2003 10:43 AM | TrackBack


Comments

Can we stop Godomizing the military? Thank you.

Posted by: squiddy at November 5, 2003 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

I think we can see why in the comments to Daniel's post. They truely see no harm in what Boykin did.

Posted by: Rob at November 5, 2003 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks a lot, Kevin, for sending me to such a creepy site. The responses made me scurry back to Calpundit where there is just enough right-wing bile to get a sense of where they're coming from but not so much that I start humming America Uber Alles.

Boykin can get away with disparaging Islam because it's popular to badmouth Muslims. After all, they're all terrorists!

Posted by: chris at November 5, 2003 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

People would be a little more concerned about this if someone would tell everything that's going on. Last year General Boykin displayed to one of his church audiences a 1993 aerial photo of Mogadishu, stating that some unexplained black slashes over the city were "a demonic spirit." Bob "Daily Howler" Somerby has pointed out that apart from William Arkin's original L.A. Times feature (picked up by few smaller papers, principally the Atlanta Journal-Constitution), no news stories have mentioned this -- although some editorials (Washington Post) and op-eds (Tom Teepen, Cynthia Tucker) have.

Posted by: penalcolony at November 5, 2003 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Kind of OT but, I'm curious to know if there are any Islamic-Americans who plan on voting for Bush. IIRC, he did get a lot of their votes the first time around and, if so, will he get any this time around?

Better yet, it's probably good that no one answers. Or the next noise you hear will be Islamic-American names being purged from the voting roles.

Posted by: chris at November 5, 2003 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Boykin's remakarks were politically stupid and insensitive, but they pale in comparison to those of the German general.

Boykin was sayign that his faith is valid, while the Islamic faith is invalid. That's pretty much the whole basis of religious belief. It's why people choose one religion over another. Because they believe in one and not the other.

The German general's remarks weren't a basic religious truth. They were patently anti-Semetic.

Boykin should have kept his relgious beliefs to himself. Perhaps he should be fired for his stupidity. But to equate his statements with naked anti-Semitism is grossly unfair.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at November 5, 2003 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Joe:

The German general's remarks were anti-semitic. Boykin's remarks were anti-Islamic. I suspect Muslims don't see much of a difference. Especially when Christian soldiers have invaded their country.

Posted by: chris at November 5, 2003 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

We have Free Speech rights in this country.

And, I agree: It will never work to GODAMIZING our military. General Jello is a Clintonista, and that's gonna hurt the democrats more than anything else.

Anything else? Well, what happens to a party that begins sounding like the OJ jurors? Maginalization is the price you pay for the mistakes you make.

The democrats have no one to blame but themselves.

Posted by: Carol in California at November 5, 2003 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Schmoe: "Boykin's remakarks were politically stupid and insensitive, but they pale in comparison to those of the German general."

Bullshit. Look at Boykin's statement in context and note that it was a response to the Somali general's statement that he was supported by Allah. It is clear then that Boykin was saying that Allah is Satan. I can't imagine a statment that would be more offensive to Muslims.

Posted by: MikeR at November 5, 2003 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

I actually agree with Joe on this one. Boykin should probably be fired, and the way he expressed his beliefs was probably offensive, but the beliefs themselves are not (or at least not necessarily). It's not generally considered immoral for people to think that they're right and that people who disagree with them are wrong. (If it were, blog comment threads would be pretty dull places to hang out!) I don't see why this principle should be any different when the subject matter happens to be religion.

The German general, in contrast, wasn't disagreeing with the religious tenets of Judaism. He was attacking Jews on the basis of race, which is an entirely different ball of wax.

Posted by: JP at November 5, 2003 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Another way to look at this is that Muslims will have to start learning a little tolerance themselves. We have free speech in this country. Boykin can say whatever he damn well pleases about religious subjects. His views are offensive to Muslims? Tough. We don't punish people for speaking about religion. Any Muslim who is offended has just got to live with it.

Personally, I think that the Muslims will, in fact, have to learn a little tolerance one of these days. That's the price of living in the modern world. But I think that day has not yet come. Right now, it's better for us to be a little diplomatic. The gulf between us and the Muslim world is so great that a little diplomacy is required at the moment. It is counterproductive to throw gasoline on the fire, even if Boykin was within his rights.

Boykin probably should be re-assigned. But eventually, the Arab world will have to learn to extend the same tolerance to us that we extend to them. The days of hanging witches and stoning heritics are over.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at November 5, 2003 01:07 PM | PERMALINK

Muslims have to learn the tolerance that we extend to them??!!

Have you decided to join Carol's planet because you sure aren't from this one.

Posted by: chris at November 5, 2003 01:12 PM | PERMALINK

Keep insulting people, Chris. You're only insulting your own intelligence.

Posted by: Carol in California at November 5, 2003 01:20 PM | PERMALINK

ouch!

Posted by: chris at November 5, 2003 01:26 PM | PERMALINK

I think I few points need to be made about Gen. Boykin's job, here. He's a miliary officer in a high level post at the Pentagon. Any statements he makes in an official capacity reflect back upon the government. Boykin's strong religious convictions clearly color all his decisions.

Ask yourself: Do you really want this man put in charge of anything that involves Iraq, populated by people he thinks worship Satan? Do you really think his decisions will be based on fact and what needs to be done, rather than those religious convinctions?

At the very least he needs to be put somewhere to minimize any damage he could possibly do. I would prefer to see him fired.

If he is making these statements, I believe there are procedures where he is out of uniform, clearly not "official", and he can make all the statements he wants about whatever he wants. Unless those are followed, he will continue to reflect badly on the Bush Administration and the U.S. as a whole.

Posted by: Jon at November 5, 2003 01:35 PM | PERMALINK

One might try to argue that the US is not in a Holy War with Christian troops occupying Iraq. But, keeping Jerry Boykin on the job as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense is the best evidence that the President and his supporters consider the War on Terrorism as one and the same as a War on Islam. Therefore, the occupation of Iraq is a Holy War.

Posted by: Jim S at November 5, 2003 01:47 PM | PERMALINK

Another way to look at this is that Muslims will have to start learning a little tolerance themselves... His views are offensive to Muslims? Tough.

I won't go quite this far, however.

Posted by: JP at November 5, 2003 02:03 PM | PERMALINK

Carol is chris' intelligence? How postmodern!

Joe, I tend to agree with you on this one, but I don't think you're acknowledging the parallels here. If it's the Muslims' fault for being too sensitive, and they have to learn to grow up, does that also apply to the Jews? Should we make anti-Semitic comments and when the ADL complains just say, 'Hey, you have to learn to live in the modern world. We don't stone witches anymore. Get over it'? Do you think that would go over well?

I think you're implicitly applying one standard to Muslims and one to Jews and that doesn't get us anywhere.


Posted by: sidereal at November 5, 2003 02:25 PM | PERMALINK

concerning Günzel, the German general:
as far as we know he made no anti-semitic remarks himself, he merely praised an MP who had made remarks that AFAIK were no openly anti-semitic, but a little veiled. You know the trick, a little historic revisionism, some unfair comparisons etc., the stuff that potentially can sail under the radar or leaves enough wiggle room to escape with minor damages. Still, Günzel could conceivably claim he was praising other aspects or the general line of argument and wiggle out as well. There's no indication he was given a chance to do so, or even a chance to retract the letter an apologise in public.
Which IMO indicates that Günzel had some kind of record with this sort of thing, otherwise the measure is a bit extreme (though of course right and justified).
Plus, there's a partisan advantage for Struck (SPD) in there, as firing Günzel increases pressure on the conservative CDU to get rid of Hohmann.
You might want to read this DW article or my comment at DD though it is similar to this one.

Posted by: markus at November 5, 2003 02:25 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, come on. There isn't a military officer alive who doesn't understand the importance of keeping personal opinions and beliefs separate from official duties.

When you express deeply-held convictions while wearing your uniform, you speak for your country whether that is your intention or not. Depending on your rank, people may assume your opinions are "official" even if you express them out of uniform, even if you take pains to say you are not speaking officially.

General Boykin knew better than to speak out in uniform, yet he did so repeatedly. His actions indicate a serious breakdown in judgement. How can the leadership ever trust this guy again?

Paul Woodford, Lt Col, USAF (Ret)

Posted by: Paul Woodford at November 5, 2003 02:27 PM | PERMALINK

All of these folks attacking Gunzel obviously hate German culture and heritage.

Posted by: td at November 5, 2003 02:31 PM | PERMALINK

All of these folks attacking Gunzel obviously hate German culture and heritage.

Nice grenade throwing. Trying to get a rise out of anyone?

Posted by: rufus at November 5, 2003 02:48 PM | PERMALINK
How can the leadership ever trust this guy again?

Maybe its because they agree with him?

Posted by: cmdicely at November 5, 2003 03:01 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Schmoe writes: "Boykin was sayign that his faith is valid, while the Islamic faith is invalid. That's pretty much the whole basis of religious belief. It's why people choose one religion over another. Because they believe in one and not the other."

No, Boykin wasn't making some limited distinction between his religion and the other guy's. Boykin was saying that My God let me beat him and His God.

ie, he's saying that he is fighting with God, and God is on Boykin's side, that God approves of Boykin's actions.

There's also an implication of forced conversion, or a desire to do so.

You're trying to remove what Boykin said from the context, which is crucial. The context is that Boykin was talking about a military engagement.

Posted by: Jon H at November 5, 2003 03:10 PM | 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.

Interesting.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at November 5, 2003 03:27 PM | PERMALINK

"General Boykin knew better than to speak out in uniform, yet he did so repeatedly. His actions indicate a serious breakdown in judgement."

Right on the money. It is a serious offense and has given our enemies ammunition for their anti-U.S. propaganda. He should have faced consequences immediately. If you can't isolate your (bizarre) private religious views from your military duty and responsible conduct, you don't deserve your job.

And the right-wing just shows their true theocratic values here. God save us from the Texas Taliban.

Posted by: Tim B. at November 5, 2003 03:43 PM | PERMALINK

Theocratic views? That's absurd. Since when is Boykin sending missionaries to Iraq, or bulldozing mosques? Has he started forcibly converting Iraqis? The answer to all of these questions is no.

You know, some of us are not threatened by the fact that Boykin is a Christian. We actually think that a little religion is often a good thing. Religion teaches morality, compassion, service to the common good. Some religious people are rigid, hate-filled hypocrites, sure, but others are pretty nice people. A lot of people find meaning and peace in their religion.

Boykin shouldn't have made his comments in uniform. Personally, I think he probably wore it becuase it made the members of his church feel good. Congregations have their prominent members give speeches all the time. But he shouldn't have worn it. And even if he hadn't, his remarks were poorly chosen. He should be reasssigned.

But please, stop claiming that Boykin, and the Administration, are getting ready to launch the second Crusade.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at November 5, 2003 04:04 PM | PERMALINK

You know, some of us are not threatened by the fact that Boykin is a Christian.

You know, this is possibly the most bizarre non-sequitur I've seen from you, Joe. Are you taking lessons from Carol in California?

I have seen no one - no one at all - criticize Boykin for being a Christian.

What Boykin has been critized for is (1) his nutty anti-Islamic bigotry and (2) his belief that it was okay to make nutty anti-Islamic speeches in public, in uniform. Neither (1) nor (2) has the remotest connection with Christianity.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at November 5, 2003 04:15 PM | PERMALINK

Were then things which you call 'nutty anti-Islamic bigotry' relgious beliefs?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at November 5, 2003 04:33 PM | PERMALINK

Were then things which you call 'nutty anti-Islamic bigotry' relgious beliefs?

Sebastian, are you saying you think that Boykin's statements about Islam weren't "nutty anti-Islamic bigotry"?

General Boykin reportedly said, of an Islamic warlord: "My God was bigger than his ... I knew that my God was a real God and that his was an idol." This may be Boykin's religious belief, but it isn't Christianity.

General Boykin reportedly said that Bush was in the White House although "the majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? He's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this." This again may be Boykin's religious belief, that his God controls US politics, but it isn't Christianity.

General Boykin believes that black slashes appearing over an aerial photo of Mogadishu were "a demonic spirit." This may be Boykin's religious belief, but it isn't Christianity.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at November 5, 2003 04:57 PM | PERMALINK

I commend to your attention the discussion of the Boykin matter by Phil Carter. It can be found at this url:

http://www.philcarter.blogspot.com/2003_10_19_philcarter_archive.html

Look for the heading "Were LTG Boykin's comments on Islam unlawful?" (He doesn't have permalinks). He also references a discussion by Eugene Volokh. To summarize, military personnel do not have the right to make arbitrary personal statements in uniform. Their conduct is constrained by various regulations, and these regulations are almost certainly constitutional.

Posted by: cafl at November 5, 2003 05:26 PM | PERMALINK

This has been a very good day for republicans. When voters go to the polls they speak volumes against the DONKS policies. Here, having better manners wouldn't improve things. So just keep it up, folks.

Posted by: Carol in California at November 5, 2003 05:27 PM | PERMALINK

Jesurgislac is absolutely correct. Moreover, it's absolutely absurd for a manager in any enterprise to be publically associated with views that degrade his subordinates or stakeholders in his operation.

What's next? I'm threatened by Gen. Boykin's Christianity? I'm Christian myself! And I know that his allegations, that Allah is an idol--yes, that's what he said--are theologically invalid. Boykin's theological position is actually something called "henotheism." Gods are super-dupermen, and they duke it out on behalf of their adherents. Christianity is not henotheism. That doesn't prevent a lot of people in my congregation from standing up and expressing opinions like these, and it's very difficult to address tactfully.

And this point has to be made: Boykin is a manager. He has proven himself to be an incompetent manager. He ought to be sacked, and an apology made.

Posted by: James R MacLean at November 5, 2003 05:33 PM | PERMALINK

You lefties need to pay more attntion to what a man does and less to what he says. Does he accept oral sex from junior emplyees? Does he leave young women to die in overturned cars under water? Does he make remarkable and obviously corrupt cattle futures investments?

A little religious prattle pales into insignificance.

Posted by: F at November 5, 2003 05:58 PM | PERMALINK

Most the people over on that site had no idea what it was that Jerry Boykin publicly said and it seems to me that having not read his statements how could anyone comment on the subject manner objectively.

Is this how conservatives think - is it just like Bush where he said I never read the papers, I just get my news from administration members?

I guess Bush doesn't even know what Boykin said. It actually was pretty insulting for Muslins so Bush really should read what happened himself.
Maybe if more Republicans would read they would know exactly why it is that liberals hate Bush so much.

Posted by: Cheryl at November 5, 2003 06:46 PM | PERMALINK

Plus, General Boykin was invited to speak at in a Christian house. It seems so odd to me that no one recognizes that in places of worship people say things that belong in a separate universe than the secular world provides.

As in 'taking something out of context,' taping a man in a house of worship gives him the right to expound religious theories. Only bigots of the worst order wouldn't understand this.

Why not just make fun of the Pope for wearing long dresses?

A sanctuary is a house of worship. Boykin's remarks fall inside its protective umbrella.

Are you all getting religion, heading into what gets said in a religious setting? If not, what are you doing there?

Posted by: Carol in California at November 5, 2003 08:27 PM | PERMALINK

My God, Carol, you've really outdone yourself today. Pass the lithium, my dear!

Posted by: Sigmund Freud at November 5, 2003 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

A note on a particular item:
"Joe Schmoe writes: "Boykin was sayign that his faith is valid, while the Islamic faith is invalid. That's pretty much the whole basis of religious belief. It's why people choose one religion over another. Because they believe in one and not the other."

Oddly enough, this is not part of standard Islamic doctrine, this invalidity thing - although it historically was in Xian doctrine. Islam regards all "religions of the Book" - a historically stretchable definition that includes the sister religions Judiasm and Xianity as well as other reasonable approx. of monotheisms, e.g. Zoarastrianism - as valid. Not quite as good, didn't quite get it right, but valid expressions of faith.

Rather why historically, until roughly the 19th c., one found Xian minorities functioning freely -with some exceptions- in Islamic territories, but not the reverse.

So, the generalization above, by this Joe fellow, is, well, wrong.

Posted by: collounsbury at November 6, 2003 02:16 AM | PERMALINK

I'm pro-war but I think Boykin should be fired or publicly reprimanded. His views, which he is entitled to express, have made the reconstruction of Iraq more difficult and undermined the administration's expressed goals there.

To me, given the prominence of his position, whether his views were expressed publicly or privately are irrelevant. The level of his invective is enough to convince me to put him in the same category as Trent Lott. He's a liability to the Bush administration and they ought to have the guts to put him out to pasture.

Posted by: Daniel Calto at November 6, 2003 06:41 AM | PERMALINK

Joe writes: "But please, stop claiming that Boykin, and the Administration, are getting ready to launch the second Crusade. "

No, Joe, they are not getting ready--they have already launched it!

They mean to transform the Middle East in an image of their choosing.

I happen to believe that this includes a religious component--perhaps even an effort to bring on the Rapture--but even if they mean only to force Democracy down the throats of Arabs, Crusade is a descriptive word for Administration policy.

Boykin--and other professed Christians who go around using the Lord's name in vain by claiming support for their actions--is a whack job.

I can't speak for God, but from what I know about the teachings of Christ, I think Bush and his minions should say their prayers. When their time comes, the Prince of Peace will look unkindly upon the unnecessary murder of thousands of people.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at November 6, 2003 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Unless, of course, the Prince of Peace wanted Saddam toppled and the U.S. to do it : )

Posted by: Charlie at November 6, 2003 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

This Bush may go down in history as being the best man at the right time, doing the right thing.

And, the democrats, looking to make issues with him have increased Bush's stature as a patriot. While their party's own flaws are exacerbated.

Posted by: Carol in California at November 6, 2003 11:14 AM | PERMALINK
This Bush may go down in history as being the best man at the right time, doing the right thing.

Key word being "may", which doesn't even begin to imply "is likely to".

Posted by: cmdicely at November 6, 2003 11:16 AM | PERMALINK
But please, stop claiming that Boykin, and the Administration, are getting ready to launch the second Crusade.

I've yet to hear anyone claiming that anyone currently alive is or was involved in planning or executing the Second Crusade, considering, you know, that the occurred in the mid-12th Century.

Posted by: cmdicely at November 6, 2003 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Carol Herman, please tell us more!

Posted by: Democrat in Need of Guidance at November 6, 2003 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, collunsbury. The Catholic church shares this belief -- Islam, Judiasm, and Christianity are all "religions of the book", and all who adhere to these religions will go to heaven.

Fundamentalist Christians, like Boykin, don't share that understanding, though. To them, anyone who is not a Christian is going to hell. All other dieties are false gods, incarnations of Satan intended to decieve Christians and lead them away from the path of salvation.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at November 6, 2003 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

I would add that fundies don't just think only Christians go to heaven. Catholics and most definately Episcopalians and Unitarians are doomed as well. Lutherans... maybe some of them will make it. But for the most part, just the fundies will make the cut. And so then by that belief, oh, maybe about 95% of the world's population is condemned. Nice God those fundies have. Create people and then send most of 'em to hell. For eternity.

Posted by: Chibi at November 6, 2003 01:53 PM | PERMALINK

I went all those years to C.C.D. and no one ever taught that the Catholic church shares this belief -- Islam, Judiasm, and Christianity are all "religions of the book", and all who adhere to these religions will go to heaven. Are you sure about that?!

Posted by: Charlie at November 6, 2003 03:48 PM | PERMALINK
The Catholic church shares this belief -- Islam, Judiasm, and Christianity are all "religions of the book", and all who adhere to these religions will go to heaven.

The Catholic Church emphatically does not share this belief. The Catholic Church adheres to the concept of exclusive salvation; that salvation is only possible through Christ and and in union with His Church. Of course, unlike some protestant fundamentalists, the Catholic Church tends to hold that it is possible to come to Christ without having the same intellectual understanding of his nature that the Church holds, and that people who are, in the sense of formal membership, outside of Catholicism or even Christianity might indeed be saved, but there is no blanket clause for "people of the book".

Posted by: cmdicely at November 7, 2003 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks - that's what I thought (but it's been a while and I was not exactly paying close attention back then ; )

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