An army general who led the Pentagon’s effort to hunt down Osama bin Laden and once likened the war on terror to a Christian struggle against Satan is retiring, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday. Lieutenant General William Boykin’s departure ends a legendary 36 year career, most of it as a special operations warrior and member of the army’s elite Delta Force counter-terrorism unit…. A devout evangelical Christian, he gained notoriety for a series of videotaped appearances at churches across the United States in 2003 in which he vividly portrayed the war on terrorism as a fight with Satan. In a speech to a group in Oregon in June 2003, Boykin said radical Islamists hated the United States “because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian … and the enemy is a guy named Satan.”…. In another speech describing a battle with a Somali warlord, he said, “I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”
I would never begrudge an American the right to hold such religious beliefs as they see fit. The right to advocate for a particular religious viewpoint can, should, and does come to a screeching halt when you put on the uniform of an American soldier. This country’s military is charged with protecting the American homeland and the freedoms we cherish. Among those freedoms is the right to worship as one sees fit- or not, as the case may be. When a uniformed American soldier- especially a senior field grade officer- openly advocates for his particular religious beliefs, he does a grave disservice to those Americans who happen not to think or believe as he does.
As a career solder, Boykin knows better than to spread his religious beliefs in uniform. If he chooses to do so in mufti, that’s his right as an American. After all, he’s spent his career fighting to protect that right. In uniform, though, Boykin is beholden to all Americans of all faiths and creeds. To advocate for a particular set of religious beliefs while wearing the uniform of the American armed forces constitutes conduct unbecoming an officer.
William Boykin is an AMERICAN solder, NOT a CHRISTIAN soldier. It’s too bad his ignorance of this reality has overshadowed an otherwise brilliant career.
His comments ran counter to administration assertions that it was not at war with Islam and set off a storm of criticism.
The Pentagon’s inspector general faulted him for not getting his speeches cleared ahead of time, and for not clearly stating that his views did not necessarily represent those of the Defense Department.
Details of Boykin’s career are shrouded in secrecy but he has been reported to have played a role in some of most dramatic US military engagements of the past three decades.
He is said to have been part of the Delta Force team that made an aborted attempt to rescue US hostages in Tehran in 1980.
He was seriously wounded in Grenada in 1983, was part of the invasion force sent to capture Panamanian strongman General Manuel Noriega in 1989, and led the Delta Force during the “Black Hawk Down” battle in Somalia in 1993.
There can be little doubt that Boykin has served his country long, ably, and well. As a soldier, his devotion to duty and country have been unparalleled. As a soldier, though, he should be able to recognize that his job is to protect all Americans, not to use his position to advocate for his brand of Christianity. As a civilian, he is free to proselytize all he wants. When he puts on his uniform, however, he’s required to neutrally represent Americans of ALL races and creeds. He’s also required to refrain from engaging in any sort of overt relgious and/or political activity. This is one of the things that separates America from your average banana republic where the army runs the government.
The problem here is that Boykin is merely the visible tip of the iceberg. The evangelization of the American military has been a long, inexorable, and wholly inappropriate road, one that non-Christians and Christians alike should be terrified of. After all, if our military can be gradually turned into an Army for Christ, how long until it becomes an Army for Bush and other GOP warmongers. If you’ve been paying attention for the past six-plus years, you’ll understand what I’m talking about when I say that we’re closer to that day than you might think. After all, for DUMB@$$E$ like William Boykin, God really IS a Republican.