William M. Arkin | The Pentagon Unleashes a Holy Warrior
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The Pentagon Unleashes a Holy Warrior
By 0aWilliam M. Arkin
The Los Angeles Times
Thursday 16 October 2003
William M. Arkin is a military affairs analyst who writes regularly for 0aThe Times.
A Christian extremist in a high Defense post can only set back 0athe U.S. approach to the Muslim world.
In June of 2002, Jerry Boykin stepped to the pulpit at the First 0aBaptist Church of Broken Arrow, Okla., and described a set of photographs he had 0ataken of Mogadishu, Somalia, from an Army helicopter in 1993.
The photographs were taken shortly after the disastrous "Blackhawk Down" mission had resulted in the death of 18 Americans. When Boykin 0acame home and had them developed, he said, he noticed a strange dark mark over 0athe city. He had an imagery interpreter trained by the military look at the 0amark. "This is not a blemish on your photograph," the interpreter told him, "This is real."
"Ladies and gentleman, this is your enemy," Boykin said to the 0acongregation as he flashed his pictures on a screen. "It is the principalities 0aof darkness It is a demonic presence in that city that God revealed to me as the 0aenemy."
That's an unusual message for a high-ranking U.S. military 0aofficial to deliver. But Boykin does it frequently.
This June, for instance, at the pulpit of the Good Shepherd 0aCommunity Church in Sandy, Ore., he displayed slides of Osama bin Laden, Saddam 0aHussein and North Korea's Kim Jung Il. "Why do they hate us?" Boykin asked. "The 0aanswer to that is because we're a Christian nation We are hated because we are a 0anation of believers."
Our "spiritual enemy," Boykin continued, "will only be defeated 0aif we come against them in the name of Jesus."
Who is Jerry Boykin? He is Army Lt. General William G. "Jerry" 0aBoykin. The day before Boykin appeared at the pulpit in Oregon, the Pentagon 0aannounced that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had nominated the general 0afor a third star and named him to a new position as deputy undersecretary of 0aDefense for intelligence.
In this newly created position, Boykin is not just another 0aPentagon apparatchik or bureaucratic warrior. He has been charged with 0areinvigorating Rumsfeld's "High Value Target Plan" to track down Bin Laden, 0aHussein, Mullah Omar and other leaders in the terrorism world.
But Gen. Boykin's appointment to a high position in the 0aadministration is a frightening blunder at a time when there is widespread 0aacknowledgment that the position of the United States in the Islamic world has 0anever been worse.
A monthlong journalistic investigation of Boykin reveals a 0a30-year veteran whose classified resum reads like a history of special 0aoperations and counter-terrorism. From the failed Iranian hostage rescue attempt 0ain 1980 to invasions in Grenada and Panama, to the hunt for drug lord Pablo 0aEscobar in Colombia, to Somalia and various locales in the Middle East, Boykin 0ahas been there. He also was an advisor to Atty. Gen. Janet Reno during Waco.
He has risen in the ranks, starting out as one of the first Delta 0aForce commandos and going on to head the top-secret Joint Special Operations 0aCommand. He has served in the Central Intelligence Agency and, most recently, he 0acommanded Army Special Forces before being brought into the Rumsfeld leadership 0ateam.
But Boykin is also an intolerant extremist who has spoken openly 0aabout how his belief in Christianity has trumped Muslims and other 0anon-Christians in battle.
He has described himself as a warrior in the kingdom of God and 0ainvited others to join with him in fighting for the United States through 0arepentance, prayer and the exercise of faith in God.
He has praised the leadership of President Bush, whom he extolled 0aas "a man who prays in the Oval Office." "George Bush was not elected by a 0amajority of the voters in the United States," Boykin told an Oregon 0acongregation. "He was appointed by God."
All Americans, including those in uniform, are entitled to their 0aviews. But when Boykin publicly spews this intolerant message while wearing the 0auniform of the U.S. Army, he strongly suggests that this is an official and 0asanctioned view and that the U.S. Army is indeed a Christian army.
But that's only part of the problem. Boykin is also in a senior 0aPentagon policymaking position, and it's a serious mistake to allow a man who 0abelieves in a Christian "jihad" to hold such a job.
For one thing, Boykin has made it clear that he takes his orders 0anot from his Army superiors but from God which is a worrisome line of command. 0aFor another, it is both imprudent and dangerous to have a senior officer guiding 0athe war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan who believes that Islam is an 0aidolatrous, sacrilegious religion against which we are waging a holy war.
And judging by his words, that is what he believes.
In a speech at a church in Daytona, Fla., in January, Boykin told 0athe following story:
"There was a man in Mogadishu named Osman Atto," whom Boykin 0adescribed as a top lieutenant of Mohammed Farah Aidid.
When Boykin's Delta Force commandos went after Atto, they missed 0ahim by seconds, he said. "He went on CNN and he laughed at us, and he said, 'They'll never get me because Allah will protect me. Allah will protect me.'
"Well, you know what?" Boykin continued. "I knew that my God was 0abigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." Atto 0alater was captured.
Other countries, Boykin said last year, "have lost their morals, 0alost their values. But America is still a Christian nation."
The general has said he has no doubt that our side is the side of 0athe true God. He says he attends prayer services five times a week.
In Iraq, he told the Oregon congregation, special operations 0aforces were victorious precisely because of their faith in God. "Ladies and 0agentlemen I want to impress upon you that the battle that we're in is a 0aspiritual battle," he said . "Satan wants to destroy this nation, he wants to 0adestroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army."
Since 9/11, the war against terrorism has become almost 0aexclusively a special operations war, melding military and CIA paramilitary and 0acovert activities with finer and finer grained integrated intelligence 0ainformation. Hence, the creation of Boykin's new job as deputy undersecretary of 0aDefense for intelligence.
The task facing Boykin, Rumsfeld insiders say, is to break down 0athe wall between different intelligence collectors and agencies and quickly get 0athe best information and analysis for American forces in the field.
But even as he begins his new duties, Boykin is still publicly 0apreaching.
As late as Sept. 27, he was in Vero Beach, Fla., speaking on 0abehalf of Visitation House Ministries.
In describing the war against terrorism, President Bush 0afrequently says it "is not a war against Islam." In his National Security 0aStrategy, Bush declared that "the war on terrorism is not a clash of 0acivilizations." Yet many in the Islamic world see the U.S. as waging a cultural 0aand religious war against them. In fact, the White House's own Advisory Group on 0aPublic Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World reported this month that since 0a9/11, "hostility toward America has reached shocking levels."
"Arabs and Muslims respond in anger to what they perceive as U.S. 0adenigration of their societies and cultures," the report stated.
The task for the U.S., the report said, is to wage "a major 0astruggle to expand the zone of tolerance and marginalize extremists."
Appointing Jerry Boykin, with his visions of holy war in the 0aIslamic world, to a top position in the United States military is no way to 0amarginalize extremism.
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General Casts War in Religious Terms
By 0aRichard T. Cooper
The Los Angeles Times
Thursday 16 October 2003
The top soldier assigned to track down Bin Laden and Hussein is an 0aevangelical Christian who speaks publicly of 'the army of 0aGod.'
WASHINGTON The Pentagon has assigned the task of tracking down 0aand eliminating Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and other high-profile targets 0ato an Army general who sees the war on terrorism as a clash between 0aJudeo-Christian values and Satan.
Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, the new deputy undersecretary 0aof Defense for intelligence, is a much-decorated and twice-wounded veteran of 0acovert military operations. From the bloody 1993 clash with Muslim warlords in 0aSomalia chronicled in "Black Hawk Down" and the hunt for Colombian drug czar 0aPablo Escobar to the ill-fated attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran in 0a1980, Boykin was in the thick of things.
Yet the former commander and 13-year veteran of the Army's 0atop-secret Delta Force is also an outspoken evangelical Christian who appeared 0ain dress uniform and polished jump boots before a religious group in Oregon in 0aJune to declare that radical Islamists hated the United States "because we're a 0aChristian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian ... 0aand the enemy is a guy named Satan."
Discussing the battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia, Boykin 0atold another audience, "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God 0awas a real God and his was an idol."
"We in the army of God, in the house of God, kingdom of God have 0abeen raised for such a time as this," Boykin said last year.
On at least one occasion, in Sandy, Ore., in June, Boykin said of 0aPresident Bush: "He's in the White House because God put him there."
Boykin's penchant for casting the war on terrorism in religious 0aterms appears to be at odds with Bush and an administration that have labored to 0ainsist that the war on terrorism is not a religious conflict.
Although the Army has seldom if ever taken official action 0aagainst officers for outspoken expressions of religious opinion, outside experts 0asee remarks such as Boykin's as sending exactly the wrong message to the Arab 0aand Islamic world.
In his public remarks, Boykin has also said that radical Muslims 0awho resort to terrorism are not representative of the Islamic faith.
He has compared Islamic extremists to "hooded Christians" who 0aterrorized blacks, Catholics, Jews and others from beneath the robes of the Ku 0aKlux Klan.
Boykin was not available for comment and did not respond to 0awritten questions from the Los Angeles Times submitted to him Wednesday.
"The first lesson is to recognize that whatever we say here is 0aheard there, particularly anything perceived to be hostile to their basic 0areligion, and they don't forget it," said Stephen P. Cohen, a member of the 0aspecial panel named to study policy in the Arab and Muslim world for the U.S. 0aAdvisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.
"The phrase 'Judeo-Christian' is a big mistake. It's basically 0athe language of Bin Laden and his supporters," said Cohen, president of the 0aInstitute for Middle East Peace and Development in New York.
"They are constantly trying to create the impression that the 0aJews and Christians are getting together to beat up on Islam.... We have to be 0avery careful that this doesn't become a clash between religions, a clash of 0acivilizations."
Boykin's religious activities were first documented in detail by 0aWilliam N. Arkin, a former military intelligence analyst who writes on defense 0aissues for The Times Opinion section.
Audio and videotapes of Boykin's appearances before religious 0agroups over the last two years were obtained exclusively by NBC News, which 0areported on them Wednesday night on the "Nightly News with Tom Brokaw."
Arkin writes in an article on the op-ed page of today's Times 0athat Boykin's appointment "is a frightening blunder at a time that there is 0awidespread acknowledgment that America's position in the Islamic world has never 0abeen worse."
Boykin's promotion to lieutenant general and his appointment as 0adeputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence were confirmed by the Senate 0aby voice vote in June.
An aide to the Senate Armed Services Committee said the 0aappointment was not examined in detail.
Yet Boykin's explicitly Christian-evangelical language in public 0aforums may become an issue now that he holds a high-level policy position in the 0aPentagon.
Officials at his level are often called upon to testify before 0aCongress and appear in public forums.
Boykin's new job makes his role especially sensitive: He is 0acharged with speeding up the flow of intelligence on terrorist leaders to combat 0ateams in the field so that they can attack top-ranking terrorist leaders.
Since virtually all these leaders are Muslim, Boykin's words and 0aactions are likely to draw special scrutiny in the Arab and Islamic world.
Bush, a born-again Christian, often uses religious language in 0ahis speeches, but he keeps references to God nonsectarian.
At one point, immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist 0aattacks, the president said he wanted to lead a "crusade" against terrorism.
But he quickly retracted the word when told that, to Muslim ears, 0ait recalled the medieval Christian crusaders' brutal invasions of Islamic 0anations.
In that context, Boykin's reference to the God of Islam as "an 0aidol" may be perceived as particularly inflammatory.
The president has made a point of praising Islam as "a religion 0aof peace." He has invited Muslim clerics to the White House for Ramadan dinners 0aand has criticized evangelicals who called Islam a dangerous faith.
The issue is still a sore spot in the Muslim world.
Pollster John Zogby says that public opinion surveys throughout 0athe Arab and Islamic world show strong negative reactions to any statement by a 0aU.S. official that suggests a conflict between religions or cultures.
"To frame things in terms of good and evil, with the United 0aStates as good, is a nonstarter," Zogby said.
"It is exactly the wrong thing to do."
For the Army, the issue of officers expressing religious opinions 0apublicly has been a sensitive problem for many years, according to a former head 0aof the Army Judge Advocate General's office who is now retired but continues to 0aserve in government as a civilian.
"The Army has struggled with this issue over the years. It gets 0areally, really touchy because what you're talking about is freedom of 0aexpression," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"What usually happens is that somebody has a quiet chat with the 0aperson," the retired general said.
Times staff writer Doyle McManus contributed to this report.
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