- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2003

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman, recently heckled during a speech before a largely Arab-American audience, implied that the Bush administration should punish a top Army general who said a Muslim terrorist worships a false “idol.”

Mr. Lieberman told the Associated Press that Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin contributed to a “global theological conflict” that will only further inflame terrorists’ hatred for the United States.

Gen. Boykin, deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, is in charge of tracking down top al Qaeda leaders. He made his comments in speeches delivered in Christian churches last year, and a Los Angeles Times reporter taped some of them and published the comments last week.

Speaking of his pursuit and fight against a Somali warlord, Gen. Boykin said, “My God was bigger than his, and I knew that my God was a real God and that his was an idol.”

In another speech, he said some Muslims hate the United States “because we’re a Christian nation, because of our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian, and the enemy is a guy called Satan.”

Mr. Lieberman called the comments “wrong theologically,” “very bigoted” and said they played into the enemy’s hands by escalating the conflict.

“That’s exactly what [Osama] bin Laden and al Qaeda want to do, and these remarks unfortunately give material, give fuel to the fire that bin Laden wants to start all around the world against the rest of us,” the Connecticut Democrat said Wednesday.

Asked by AP whether Gen. Boykin should be fired, Mr. Lieberman suggested he supported the idea with a quip: “Based on his comments, or on a failure to capture bin Laden? Or both?”

Gen. Boykin issued an apology last Friday, and maintained that his words were misunderstood.

Speaking at a candidate forum last week in Dearborn, Mich., sponsored by the Arab American Institute, Mr. Lieberman, who is Jewish, was heckled by some in the audience.

While speaking about the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, several people interrupted him by shouting “What about the wall?” — a reference to a security fence the Israeli government is constructing to stem the flow of suicide bombers into Israeli territory.

James Zogby, president of AAI, downplayed the incident yesterday, saying it was “a small group of people who got loud.”

Mr. Zogby said he wrote a letter to Mr. Lieberman thanking him for taking part in the forum, noting that “most of our conferees recognized the importance of your attendance and appreciated your decision to come.”

Mr. Lieberman received hearty applause when he criticized Gen. Boykin in front of the group.

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