The Same General Boykin?

The Pentagon official, an evangelical, was nearly fired for insulting Islam. So far, conservative Christians stand by him.

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while his actions were reviewed by the Inspector General's office. That investigation is expected to be completed next month.

There is still much to be learned about Boykin's role in the current scandal, including the pivotal question of whether his anti-Muslim views may have made him more prone to dehumanizing Muslim prisoners. What is already clear, however, is that Boykin's evangelical supporters now find themselves in an awkward position. They have supported Boykin steadfastly but are wary about defending prisoner torture.

Here is what is known so far about Boykin's role in the prison abuse scandal: He is a main strategist for Cambone, who oversees a secret program with the goal of capturing and interrogating terrorism targets. According to an article by Seymour Hersh in the current

New Yorker

, the unit brought "unconventional methods" to Abu Ghraib as a way of getting better information about Iraqi insurgents.

The program, according to Hersh's reporting, soon evolved from targeting not only Al Qaeda but also a wide range of Iraqi prisoners. Hersh writes:



By fall, according to the former intelligence official, the senior leadership of the CIA had had enough. "They said, `No way. We signed up for the core program in Afghanistan-pre-approved operations against high-value terrorist targets-and now you want to use it for cabdrivers, brothers-in-law, and people pulled of the streets,' the sort of prisoners who populate the Iraqi jails."

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Cambone told a Congressional committee last week that neither he nor Boykin thought they were giving the go-ahead for military police to abuse prisoners. Boykin himself has not testified and declined to be interviewed for this article.

In addition to adding another wrinkle to the diplomatic catastrophe of this scandal--many Muslims overseas already believe Americans are engaging in an anti-Islam crusade--it raises difficult political and moral questions for conservative Christians. Last fall, they stoutly defended Boykin, and by extension President Bush, yet they also condemn abuse and torture.

So far, Christian leaders are standing by Boykin.

"A lot of our people are just so tired of hearing about that whole situation, especially now that we've seen [the beheading of Nicholas Berg]," Michele Ammons, spokeswoman for the Christian Coalition, said last week. "I think it's time to get over it. And that's what I'm hearing."

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Deborah Caldwell
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