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Pentagon Defends Gen. Who Chided Muslims Thu Oct 16, 3:20 PM ET Add White House - AP Cabinet & State to My Yahoo!
By MATT KELLEY, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Pentagon (news - web sites) leaders on Thursday spoke up in support of a top general who has told church audiences that the war on terrorism is a battle with Satan and that Muslims worship idols.
Army Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin has made several speeches ? some in uniform ? at evangelical Christian churches in which he cast the war on terrorism in religious terms. Boykin said of a 1993 battle with a Muslim militia leader in Somalia: "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol."
Boykin did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday he had not seen Boykin's comments, but he praised the three-star general, who is the Pentagon's deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence.
"He is an officer that has an outstanding record in the United States armed forces," Rumsfeld said at a news conference.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had spoken in uniform at prayer breakfasts, adding he did not think Boykin broke any military rules by giving talks at churches.
"There is a very wide gray area on what the rules permit," Myers said. "At first blush, it doesn't look like any rules were broken."
A Republican senator visiting the Pentagon Thursday was more critical.
Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee of Rhode Island said he had not been aware of Boykin's statements as reported in the news media, then added, "If that's accurate, to me it's deplorable."
A Muslim civil rights group on Thursday called for Boykin to be reassigned.
"Putting a man with such extremist views in a critical policy-making position sends entirely the wrong message to a Muslim world that is already skeptical about America's motives and intentions," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Awad's statement noted that a verse in the Quran says Muslims believe in the same God as Jews and Christians.
Boykin's church speeches, first reported by NBC News and the Los Angeles Times, cast the war on terrorism as a religious battle between Christians and the forces of evil.
Appearing in dress uniform before a religious group in Oregon in June, Boykin said Islamic extremists hate 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."
Rumsfeld on Thursday repeated the Bush administration position that the war on terrorism is not a war against Islam but against people "who have tried to hijack a religion."
The defense secretary said he could not prevent military officials from making controversial statements.
"We're a free people. And that's the wonderful thing about our country," Rumsfeld said. "I think that for anyone to run around and think that that can be managed and controlled is probably wrong. Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) could do it pretty well, because he'd go around killing people if they said things he didn't like."