Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Upward Christian Soldier

[[W A R]] * Will these people never learn? Ever since George W. Bush launched his attack on Saddam Hussein in 2003, there’s been talk about the fundamentalist religious underpinnings of the Iraq war, of how it’s seen by some Americans as a Christian holy war, not a battle to bring peace to the Middle East or to spread democracy. This worrisome speculation has only been amplified by desecrations of the holy Qur’ān--real and rumored--and statements made by military leaders, such as Marine Lieutenant Colonel Gary Brandl who, in 2004, told The New York Times that “The enemy has got a face. He’s called Satan. He’s in Fallujah, and we’re going to destroy him.” Worse, the prez has thrown fuel on this fire, claiming that he was instructed by God to invade Iraq and take down Osama bin Laden (something Bush has signally failed to do, even four and half years after the September 11 attacks).

It doesn’t seem the Republican White House understands that by turning the Iraq conflict into a fundamentalist crusade pitting Christians against Muslims, it will inevitably ratchet up the violence and extend the life of this already bloody engagement. And now, the administration is even considering installing one of the U.S. military’s foremost “holy warriors,” Lieutenant General William G. Boykin, as head of the U.S. Special Operations Command. You may remember that it was Boykin, who’s currently the Defense Department’s deputy undersecretary for intelligence, who in the summer of 2003 said that Islamists hate Americans “because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian ... and the enemy is a guy called Satan.” It was Boykin too who was quoted in the Los Angeles Times, talking about his command of military efforts in the early 1990s to capture Somali warlord Osman Atto in Mogadishu: “He 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.”As proof that his cause was just, Boykin cited some black streaks in the sky above the Somali capital at the time, claiming they were photographic evidence of “demonic spirit over the city of Mogadishu.”

“To some,” writes Michelle Goldberg in Salon’s War Room blog, “this kind of delusion might suggest that Boykin is not well and should be relieved of his duties.” However, Senator George Allen (R-Virginia)--who’s apparently so bored with his current job that he aspires to follow Bush’s footsteps into the Oval Office--is encouraging Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to sign the evangelical Boykin up to replace retiring Army General Bryan “Doug” Brown as special operations chief. “I am told, and I believe it to be true, that no special operations officer currently on active duty is more highly respected or admired by his superiors, peers or subordinates alike, than Jerry Boykin,” Allen wrote in a letter to Rumsfeld in March.

No doubt, religious rightists, both in and out of the GOP, will endorse Boykin’s promotion--because of, not despite, his sometimes wacky beliefs and his influence on torture practices at Cuba’s Guantánamo Bay and Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. But they and the administration should be more mindful of what message this holy warrior’s rise would send to the already nervous Muslim world. How in the hell can Bush and Company hope to calm fears of imperialist takeovers and religious crusading if somebody like Boykin wins advancement, rather than official scorn?

They can’t.

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