Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, an evangelical Christian and Army special operations expert who serves as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and warfighting support, has referred to Islamic adversaries as "Satan" and called the United States "a Christian nation" and "a Christian army" engaged in a "spiritual" war against terrorism.
Rumsfeld said the investigation would likely be conducted by the Army inspector general and then reviewed by the Defense Department inspector general. "I think it's appropriate," Rumsfeld said of the investigation.
Though it conceivably could lead to disciplinary action against Boykin, such an investigation could also find that the general violated no military rule or regulation. A major focus would be whether Boykin's statements constituted contradictions of official policy.
President Bush and Rumsfeld have repeatedly stated that they view the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as conflicts directed at specific regimes and not against an entire religion.
Speaking at a Pentagon news briefing, Rumsfeld again declined to criticize Boykin for his conduct, saying the only evidence he had of the general's comments was a network news videotape that had poor audio quality. It used subtitles of Boykin's remarks that had not been verified, he said. "I've been highly criticized for not rushing to judgment and criticizing words that I'd never seen," Rumsfeld said.
Boykin, a frequent speaker at prayer breakfasts and other religious events, issued an apology Friday, saying, "I am not anti-Islam or any other religion. "I support the free exercise of all religions," he said. "For those who have been offended by my statements, I offer a sincere apology." However, the general added that "my references to Judeo-Christian roots in America or our nation as a Christian nation are historically undeniable."
The Constitution makes no mention of Christianity, and the First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof."
Boykin's statement containing the apology and the "Christian nation" reference was officially released by the Pentagon's public affairs office. Rumsfeld declined to comment on it, saying, "That is the general's statement."
Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also told the briefing Tuesday that he thinks Boykin has been misunderstood. "He does not see this battle as a battle between religions," Pace said. "He sees it as a battle between good and evil. He sees it as the evil being the acts of individuals, not the acts of any religion or affiliation with religion. He is sad that this is the way it is, but he's anxious to have the investigator do the investigator's job."
Boykin has been strongly criticized for his remarks by the foreign minister of Egypt, the Interfaith Alliance and members of Congress. In a letter to Rumsfeld, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., called the statements "disgraceful" and urged that he be reassigned or reprimanded.
Considered a rising star at the Pentagon for his expertise in special operations and covert warfare, Boykin was an Army commander in Somalia at the time of the bloody 1993 "Black Hawk down" incident that led to an American withdrawal from that African nation. According to a transcript of videotapes provided by NBC News, Boykin told a church group in Daytona, Fla., earlier this year that a Somali warlord who had claimed the protection "of Allah" had been defeated by the Christian God. "Well, you know what I knew (was) that my God was bigger than his," the transcript quotes him as saying. "I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol. But I prayed, Lord let us get that man."
Boykin also claimed that divine intervention put Bush in the White House. He said that Bush was "a man that's in the White House today because of a miracle. You think about how he got in the White House. You think about why he's there today. As Mordecai said to Esther, `You have been put there for such a time and place.' And this man has been put in the White House to lead our nation in such a time as this."