Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Nothing is more predictable than hysteria when Democrats say boo to a certain species of Republican. Sen. John Warner of Virginia, like a horse-country gent arriving late to the fox hunt, yesterday joined the hue and cry to take out Lt. Gen. William Boykin for his remarks, already widely distorted, decrying radical Islam’s violent expression of a hijacked faith.

Mr. Warner, we are sad to say, joined Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, a Democrat, to urge Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to “temporarily reassign” the general until the Pentagon’s inspector general “reviews” the episode. This sounds like Washingtonspeak for “get rid of him.” Mr. Levin, no doubt, feels the heat from his Muslim constituents, who make up a significant minority of the Michigan electorate. We’re not sure what’s driving Mr. Warner.

From faraway Australia, even President Bush felt it necessary to say again that he regards Islam as a religion of peace and that he doesn’t agree with Gen. Boykin. In their rush to politically correct judgment, the distinguished Republican gentlemen may be overlooking what it was, exactly, that the general, an evangelical Christian, said in his remarks to evangelical Christian congregations.

Referring to the boast of an evil Somali warlord that he would never be captured by the general’s commandos because Allah protected him, Gen. Boykin said: “I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”

This is of a piece with Mr. Bush’s stated view that the radical Islamists — the thugs of the Taliban and al Qaeda — have “hijacked” a peaceful religion. The general’s remark, as reported, was respectful of Islam as a peaceful religion. He was contemptuous only of the Somali warlord’s view of his “faith” as a writ for murder and mayhem. How could a peaceful Muslim disagree with that?

The Pentagon has so far offered, at least in public, a level-headed view of the controversy, a controversy stirred up by the Los Angeles Times (fresh from its smash tour of the California recall campaign) and endorsed by The Washington Post, whose contempt for evangelical Christians (“poorly educated and easy to command”) is well known. A spokesman for Mr. Rumsfeld noted yesterday that Gen. Boykin had apologized, promised not to make any more speeches, requested an official review and has a distinguished military record besides: “When you weigh the preponderance of all these things, nobody is thinking about asking him to step aside.”

We hope so. We hope our suspicion is wrong that the review is but a prelude to sacking the general as a sacrifice to the secular gods of political correctness. Such gods are never appeased, as some Republicans never learn. Gen. Boykin’s remarks were not made to his troops or in an official capacity, but to like-minded congregations of evangelical Christians. The general has a right to his faith, and he has a right to testify to that faith in a way dictated by his own conscience. The Pentagon’s inspector general is not the theologian general, and he must keep that in mind in conducting his review. The distinguished members of the world’s greatest deliberative body who are so eager to critique Gen. Boykin’s remarks to his Christian brothers should sit down, shut up and deliberate quietly.

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