Like many a good oppressed American Christian, retired Lt. Gen. William "my God was bigger than his" Boykin has now written of his unbearable persecution and suffering in a book. As expected, Boykin, in Never Surrender: A Soldier's Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom, claims that the quotes from his evangelical pep rallies that caused him so much trouble were "ripped out of context" by the media. But, in explaining this alleged out of context quoting, Boykin himself resorts to ripping his own words out of context -- the only way he can make his backpedalling seem plausible.
I don't want to dwell on Boykin too much. In fact, I hadn't actually intended to write about Boykin at all. He is now retired, and, other than feeding the persecution complex enjoyed by so many other members of our country's oppressed majority religion, he can't do much further damage. What's of far greater concern is the number other military leaders and members of Congress -- in office now -- who have publicly made Boykin-like statements describing the current war as a religious one, a subject that I coincidentally happened to be writing about last week when I found out that Boykin's book was being released.
As many will remember, among the most controversial and widely reported of Boykin's remarks was the one regarding the capture of Somali warlord Osman Atto. Speaking at a Florida Baptist church in January 2003, Boykin said of Atto: "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol." And, just as he did at the height of the backlash over this statement, Boykin attempts to explain his words away in his book, claiming that by an "idol" he hadn't meant Allah, but money: "Yes, I thought the Somali warlord in question -- Mohamed Farah Aidid's right-hand man Osman Atto -- served an idol: money."
In the case of this quote, Boykin was actually aided by the media not reporting the entire quote (or, as he puts it, having his words "ripped out of context"). Most reports included only two sentences of Boykin's statement -- "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol." Without the less widely reported words that immediately preceded these two sentences, Boykin's explanation, although unlikely, sounded at least remotely possible.
But, reading Boykin's entire statement makes it perfectly clear what "idol" he meant. Boykin was referring to what Atto said after the failed attempt to capture him three days before the actual capture -- that Allah would protect him. This was the context of Boykin's "idol" remark: "And then [Atto] 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, I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol." In the explanation of this quote in his book, Boykin, of course, neglects to include that pesky part about Allah so he can once again use his "I meant money" defense.
Ironically, some of Boykin's supporters, who, just like the leftist media, had no question as to what "idol" he meant, defended his statement for what it was. Pat Buchanan, in an October 2003 article on WorldNetDaily quoted the entire statement, referred to it as "Boykin's remark that Allah is an 'idol,'" and wrote that Boykin had made this remark because Atto "mocked the general's country and proclaimed the superiority of his God." Buchanan then continued: "Admittedly, not an ecumenical moment. But what is clear from this Mogadishu confrontation is that Jerry Boykin believes Christianity is the true faith, that Jesus is God and that God is guiding America in this war against Satan." Boykin actually mentions Buchanan's article in his book, but omits all of the preceding quotes, using only the first sentence of the article. This is what appears in Boykin's book, "In WorldNetDaily, Pat Buchanan wrote, 'Lt. Gen. William G. 'Jerry' Boykin, the former Delta Force commander, seems to be exactly the kind of warrior America needs to lead us in battle against the kind of fanatics we face.'"
Another supporter of Boykin during his trials and tribulations as an evangelical general was Congressman Robin Hayes (R-NC): "I had congressmen calling me to offer private encouragement, including Robin Hayes of North Carolina. 'I'm standing with you, Jerry,' he told me. 'All you need to do is call me.'"
This brings us around to one of the current government officials I had intended to write about before getting sidetracked by Boykin's book.
Speaking at a Rotary Club meeting in his hometown of Concord, North Carolina in December 2006, Congressman Hayes pronounced that stability in Iraq ultimately depended on "spreading the message of Jesus Christ, the message of peace on earth, good will towards men. ...Everything depends on everyone learning about the birth of the Savior." Hayes's outrageous remarks, published in the Concord Standard and Mount Pleasant Times, were immediately reported on the blog BlueNC, and the story quickly spread through the blogosphere. A few days later, a spokeswoman for Hayes, although telling the Charlotte Observer she had no reason to doubt the accuracy of the quotes, added, "It's interesting how these bloggers can distort the news." Then, Dale Cline, the editor and publisher of the Concord Standard, who had been at the Rotary Club meeting, appeared on MSNBC, saying that Hayes had told him he was "talking more about spreading Christian principles than spreading Christianity itself," but that Hayes wasn't backpedalling and was probably comfortable with his initial words.
Appearing on MSNBC along with Cline was Lt. Col. Rick Francona, USAF (ret.), who was asked "What's your reaction when you hear those words coming from a congressman?" This was Lt. Col. Francona's response:
"Well, it's not helpful if this stuff gets back to the Iraqis, and of course in the days of the internet and the blogosphere out there it's likely that it could. And you know our troops have enough problems over there just doing their jobs. Having to defend what a U.S. congressman might say, because you know, when you bring up the idea of proselytizing Christianity, to a lot of Muslims, that's very offensive, and if we can keep religion out of what we're trying to do over there, which is very difficult, it would be a lot easier for our troops. ... When you've got a congressman saying that the country -- they're not going to solve their problems until they follow the ways of the savior, it becomes very difficult for the troops to defend those remarks. [...] If you're trying to be a unit trainer to, say, an Iraqi battalion and the battalion religious advisor, the imam, would come in and say look what a congressman said, it just takes away from what we're trying to do."
And we all just saw how very offensive the Iraqis find Christian proselytizing with the recent incident of the marine handing out Bible verse coins to residents of Fallujah -- an incident that required the intervention of a general to mollify the local religious leaders.
Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), often points out in his appearances and interviews that the overt promotion of fundamentalist Christianity in and by the U.S. military is not only a violation of the religious freedom of the members of our armed forces, but a national security issue. What does he mean by this? Well, obviously, as Lt. Col. Francona noted in reaction to the remarks of Robin Hayes, in the age of the internet, remarks like these do reach Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. So do images like the ones of soldiers posed with their rifles and Bibles that appeared on the Fort Jackson Campus Crusade for Christ "God's Basic Training" website, a site that was pulled down after MRFF exposed it late last winter. If you're an "evil-doer" looking for recruiting tools, the internet is full of photos, videos, and statements from U.S. military personnel, military ministries, and members of Congress that "prove" the United States military is on a religious crusade.
Earlier this year, after MRFF exposed the photos on the Fort Jackson Bible study website, as well as an abundance of other online material that could easily be used as propaganda by the "evil-doers," and called the messages being conveyed on these websites -- which included military members and military ministries attempting to evangelize the Iraqi people -- a "national security threat," Weinstein was contacted by two national security officials. These Bush administration officials, as Weinstein recounts, affirmed MRFF's assessment of this threat.
"Several months ago, I was unexpectedly contacted, out of the blue, by two extremely senior national security officials in the Bush Administration, shortly after that National Intelligence Estimate came out asserting the astonishing news that Iraq had effectively abandoned its nuclear weapons program a number of years ago. One was a civilian and the other was military. Their message was clear as could be; MRFF is completely right in fighting this unbridled Christian fundamentalism in the U.S. military and for referring to it as 'a national security threat internally to America every bit as formidable as the external threat challenging America from a revitalized Taliban and an al Qaida that is now at least as strong as it was on 9-11.' They told me that they had acquired a ton of irrefutable proof of how our Islamic fundamentalist enemies were using, to their full advantage, the multiplicity of disgraceful instances of wholly unconstitutional proselytizing within the U.S. armed forces. Such usage included labeling (for comprehensive terrorist recruiting, emboldenment and morale purposes) all U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan as yet another deliberate 'crusade by U.S. fundamentalist Christian imperialists' against Islamic countries and interests. These two Bush administration senior national security officials thanked me profusely for the job MRFF was doing and implored me not to stop our efforts, as the complicity of our U.S. military in massively forcing fundamentalist Christianity upon its own members as well as the Iraqi and Afghani populations was directly responsible for the killing and maiming of American military personnel."
I've already written quite a bit about some of the specific activities and organizations that contribute this national security threat -- particularly the evangelizing of Iraqis with Arabic language Bibles and other Christian literature by both U.S. military personnel and American missionary organizations, and the military ministries that, with the blessing of many of our military commanders, have publicly made it clear that they are transforming our armed forces into "government-paid missionaries for Christ." For a more detailed explanation of these issues and some particular examples, see my previous post, The "Great Commission" and Iraq.
In addition to inadvertently providing propaganda material to our enemies, public endorsements of Christianity by U.S. military leaders can also cause concern among our Muslim allies. When Air Force Maj. Gen. Pete Sutton appeared in uniform at the Pentagon in the Campus Crusade for Christ Christian Embassy promotional video, did he give any thought at all to the potential ramifications of publicly endorsing this fundamentalist religious organization? Probably not. But, just months after the filming, Sutton was assigned to the U.S. European Command, Ankara, Turkey, as Chief of the Office of Defense Cooperation. Here's what happened, according to the Department of Defense Inspector General's report on the Christian Embassy video investigation.
"Maj Gen Sutton testified that while in Turkey in his current duty position, his Turkish driver approached him with an article in the Turkish newspaper 'Sabah.' That article featured a photograph of Maj Gen Sutton in uniform and described him as a member of a radical fundamentalist sect. The article in the online edition of Sabah also included still photographs taken from the Christian Embassy video. Maj Gen Sutton's duties in Ankara included establishing good relations with his counterparts on the Turkish General Staff. Maj Gen Sutton testified that Turkey is a predominantly Muslim nation, with religious matters being kept strictly separate from matters of state. He said that when the article was published in Sabah, it caused his Turkish counterparts concern and a number of Turkish general officers asked him to explain his participation in the video."
While most of our military leaders and politicians aren't quite as overt in their comments as William Boykin and Robin Hayes, these are far from the only representatives of our government to have made it clear that they view the United States as a Christian nation and the so-called war on terror as a spiritual battle, some even seeing it as a fight for the survival of Christianity itself. Others imply that victory in Iraq and Afghanistan is somehow necessary to preserve our own religious freedom here on American soil. Pete Geren, another participant in the infamous Christian Embassy video, and now Secretary of the Army, made this specious connection in his commencement address at this year's West Point graduation, invoking, as many who attempt to make such a correlation do, the words of Thomas Jefferson.
Geren began this part of his speech with the words "Thomas Jefferson would understand the threat we face today -- tyranny in the name of religion," quoted a few words from Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and then continued, "Two hundred years after Thomas Jefferson penned these words, your sons and daughters are fighting to protect our citizens and people around the world from zealots who would restrain, molest, burden, and cause to suffer those who do not share their religious beliefs, deny us, whom they call infidels, our unalienable rights -- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ), in his remarks last December on the passage of H. Res. 847, a resolution "recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith,'' made the following comment: "As we enjoy our religious freedom in this season of peace, may we not forget that at this very moment American men and women in uniform are fighting a battle across the world so that all Americans might continue to freely exercise their faith..."
Neither Geren or Franks, nor anyone else whose rhetoric has suggested the war in Iraq is essential to the protection of the religious freedom of "our citizens," has offered any explanation of how the outcome of this war could possibly in any way affect the free exercise of religion by Americans.
Invoking Thomas Jefferson in speeches and articles about the war on terror is becoming increasingly popular, not just because of his role in the fight for religious liberty in America (which itself has nothing to do with the current war), but because, according to a distortion of history promoted by noted intellectuals such as Chuck Norris, it was Jefferson who fought what has been rewritten into America's "first war on terror" by pseudo-historians like David Barton. According to Trent Franks during troop surge debate: "Thomas Jefferson was the first American President to send U.S. military force to war against Islamist jihad. The Marine hymn begins, 'From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli,' the latter being a reference to Jefferson's war against the Islamist Barbary pirates based in Tripoli, in present day Libya."
In reality, the military mission referenced in the Marine Hymn was not authorized by Jefferson, and the military force assembled for this mission contained only nine U.S. Marines, the remainder consisting primarily of Arab mercenaries. Jefferson had only authorized naval support of the land operations of an army led by the legitimate heir to the throne of Tripoli, who had been ousted from power and exiled by his brother. In the end, Jefferson resolved the Tripoli problem diplomatically with the illegitimate dictator, as he had wanted to from the start, and the military operation was called off. According to Jefferson and his Secretary of State, James Madison, it just wasn't the job of the United States to affect a regime change and save the people of Tripoli from this illegitimate and oppressive dictator. Once we had a treaty, and United States merchant ships were safe from piracy, we were done. (For a full explanation of the historical distortions about the Barbary Wars, the entire chapter on this subject from my book is available in a three part series -- Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 -- that I posted on Talk2Action.org last September to rebut the "first war on terror" nonsense being spewed by Chuck Norris on WorldNetDaily.)
Since I've already brought up both Robin Hayes and Trent Franks, there's an interesting fact about our Congress that I think deserves notice here -- the disproportionate overlap between members of the House Armed Services Committee and members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus. Both Hayes and Franks are in this overlap, as are eleven other members of House. The Congressional Prayer Caucus, founded in 2005 by Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA), also on the Armed Services Committee, is the group whose members were at the forefront of the battle over chaplains praying in Jesus' name, holding up the 2007 Defense Authorization bill for weeks over the issue. In fact, military chaplains' prayers is the only specific issue listed on the "Legislative Issues" page of the Congressional Prayer Caucus section of Forbes's website. With forty-four members (according to Forbes's website), the Congressional Prayer Caucus represents about 10% of the whole House. But, with thirteen Prayer Caucus members also sitting on sixty-two member Armed Services Committee, the overlap with this committee is 21%, more than double that of the overlap with the House as a whole. Of the republican members of the Armed Services Committee, twelve out of twenty-eight, or 43%, are also members of the Prayer Caucus, more than double the 20% that republican members of the Prayer Caucus represent among all House republicans.
More disturbingly, another House organization, the Republican Policy Committee, recently had a briefing on the war on terror from Brigitte Gabriel, as noted by Congressman Zach Wamp (R-TN) his September 2007 remarks in the House on Iraq and the Middle East: "We come, as members of the Republican Policy Committee tonight, we just left a briefing downstairs from a Lebanese Christian named Brigitte Gabriel, who wrote a book called "Why They Hate Us.'' Some would ignore her, but, frankly, coming from that world and able to go on Internet chat rooms and read Arabic and know what's going on out there, we should listen."
Brigitte Gabriel is one of the most popular speakers on the anti-Islam lecture circuit, which also includes the "3 ex-terrorists," who, although the veracity of their claims has been questioned by academics, journalists, and terrorism experts, continue to promote themselves as former Muslim terrorists who saw the light, converted to Christianity, and now support Israel. In addition to appearing at venues such as churches and John Hagee CUFI events, these dubious "ex-terrorists" were invited to speak at the U.S. Air Force Academy this past February.
In June 2007, Brigitte Gabriel spoke at our military's Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC), as part of the school's Islam elective. During this lecture, in answer to an audience member's question, "should we resist Muslims who want to seek political office in this nation?," Gabriel replied:
"Absolutely. If a Muslim who has -- who is -- a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day -- this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America."
Gabriel then proceeded to give the following reason for a Muslim's oath of office being meaningless:
"A Muslim is allowed to lie under any situation to make Islam, or for the benefit of Islam in the long run. A Muslm sworn to office can lay his hand on the Koran and say 'I swear that I'm telling the truth and nothing but the truth,' fully knowing that he is lying because the same Koran that he is swearing on justifies his lying in order to advance the cause of Islam. What is worrisome about that is when we are faced with war and a Muslim political official in office has to make a decision either in the interest of the United States, which is considered infidel according to the teachings of Islam, and our Constitution is uncompatible [sic] with Islam -- not compatible -- that Muslim in office will always have his loyalty to Islam."
She then said, regarding the issue of racial profiling, that the Islamic community in the United States is "good at nothing but complaining about every single thing instead of standing up and working with us in fighting the enemy in our country."
Gabriel's JFSC lecture was broadcast on C-SPAN, and available on the internet, letting the whole world see that this is what's being taught to our military officers about Muslims.
We might as well have just let George Bush call his war a "crusade," as he ignorantly wanted to, and dressed our troops in white robes with big red crosses on them while we were at it. The message we're sending to the Islamic world wouldn't be much different.