Joe Conason's Journal

Why hasn't the president criticized Gen. Boykin for his gross insults to Islam?

Published October 21, 2003 10:32PM (EDT)

Mysterious ways
Thanks to Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, certain Washington opinion elites that treat the Bush administration all too indulgently may be slowly awakening to its perilous incompetence. They appear to have realized that the general's recent remarks not only humiliated America in the eyes of the world, but are likely to harm the nation's diplomatic and intelligence efforts against Islamist terror.

Today, the Washington Post carried not one but two loud alarms about the Boykin matter.

The Post editorial board asks why the president and other top officials haven't criticized Boykin for his gross insults to Islam -- and slyly suggests that his sermons indicate his mental unfitness for the crucial intelligence post to which he was appointed by Donald Rumsfeld. Bush correctly rebuked Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed for his Jew-baiting speech, so why didn't he rebuke Boykin, too? the Post wonders. The likely answer -- that the president largely agrees with Boykin's worldview -- was perhaps too disturbing to be mentioned.

Fareed Zakaria's Op-Ed essay is more forthright, demanding that Boykin be fired immediately. Zakaria supports the Iraq war and often expresses sympathy for neoconservative goals and views, but here he capably dissects the feeble defense of Boykin by the Pentagon chief:

"When asked about these remarks, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld refused to condemn them, explaining, 'We're a free people.' The issue, though, is not whether the general is free to express his views but whether Rumsfeld wants someone who holds such views in high office... No one is urging that Rumsfeld muzzle Boykin, merely that he allow him to enter the private sector, where he may express his views even more freely. He could even sit in for Rush Limbaugh."

Boykin's fervent idiocies don't trouble everyone in Republican Washington, of course. Certain members of Congress rushed to support the general. Notable among them was Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), who circulated a letter on the Hill asking Rumsfeld not to discipline Boykin or do anything that might "intimidate the free religious exercise of his faith."

The ultra-right congressman might be less enchanted with Boykin if he had read a certain deleted portion of the general's disingenuous "apology" that concerns the prior administration.

Of his now-infamous comment about President Bush having been selected by the Almighty, Boykin explained:

"I believe that God intervenes in the affairs of men, to include nations, as Benjamin Franklin so eloquently stated. Yes I believe that George Bush was placed in the White House by God as well as Bill Clinton and other presidents."
[3:30 p.m. PDT, October 21, 2003]

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By Salon Staff

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