Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appointed members of the independent panel to investigate the infamous prisoner abuse scandals and advise what the Defense Department can do to help prevent future such incidents. Mr. Rumsfeld can start by firing Lt. Gen. William Boykin.
Gen. Boykin was the subject of another recently released report that faulted the evangelical general for failing to preface his church speeches with a disclaimer stating his views, spoken in uniform and after being introduced by rank and position, were not necessarily those of the Defense Department. The Boykin report also faulted the crusading commander for failing to clear with his superiors the content of the church speeches at the center of his scandal.
However, the authors of the Boykin report absolved themselves of responsibility for judging the appropriateness of the general’s bigoted tirades before thousands of impressionable churchgoers, leaving that judgment to his superiors. Asked about the content of Gen. Boykin’s sermonizing, Mr. Rumsfeld, his civilian superior, simply shot back: “We’re a free people.”
Like the September 11 commission and Boykin reports, the prisoner abuse report fails to bore beneath the surface, to where the core causes are. The American government sets up investigative bodies to divert the public from the roots of scandals and thus maintain a blameless appearance.
Public outrage over the Enron, Halliburton, September 11 intelligence, Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) mis-intelligence, the U.S.A. Patriot Act, civil liberties violations, massive racial and religious profiling and detentions, Guantanamo human-rights violations, military tribunals, enemy combatant declarations, Boykin church speeches and Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandals somehow failed to prompt these pseudo-investigators to connect the dots between these scandals. Publicizing those connections would shake our society’s basic beliefs and cause us to question our government’s motivations.
The Boykin affair is a perfect example. The report authors avoided the fact Gen. Boykin traveled the country telling churches George W. Bush was appointed by God to defend America, was raising a spiritual army of Christians to destroy the Muslim terrorists whose commander is Satan, that Muslims hate America because it is a Christian nation and making many other comments that crossed well-understood lines of acceptable speech in a military uniform. Instead, they focused on finding if there were administrative violations in his defamations of Islam and Muslims before 23 congregations.
Muslims who felt the brunt of Gen. Boykin’s two-year anti-Islam rampage surely will sleep soundly, knowing this menace managed to fill out his paperwork properly while using his official position to spread hatred of Muslims in religious communities across the country.
Another recent report from the California Senate Office of Research on state hate crimes provides alarming statistics. While Gen. Boykin ran amok with his Muslim-bashing sermons, anti-Muslim hate crimes in California alone rose 2,333.3 percent, not including six murders of Muslims there. Of course, we are to rest comfortably in the mistaken belief Boykinlike behavior and rising hate crimes are unrelated.
Gen. Boykin is in charge of military intelligence, under which command the Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo concentration camp scandals arose. Perhaps he escapes liability because, as we learn from the misdirecting report, President Bush personally nominated him for his third star. This fact is not lost on the observant, especially considering the evangelical beliefs both men share and how these views are used to paint America as the Christian good and others as the Muslim evil.
Gen. Boykin was formerly in charge of the Army’s “training, educating, and developing doctrine.” This goes a long way toward explaining how easy it was for soldiers under his command to commit such atrocities. It is really not abuse if the enemy is reduced to a subhuman classification, such as “evil.”
Under this ideology, backed by Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Bush, soldiers are not committing human-rights violations. Evil is not human. There is the crux of the problem when conflicts are presented in religious terms and the enemy described as the antithesis of our self-declared goodness.
Perhaps a citizen-run commission should investigate the connection of all these issues, their impact on the world, and how to free people from the fear and hatred thrust upon us.
Upper Marlboro, Md.