Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, a much decorated soldier, was wounded by the political correctness movement last week over comments he made comparing the war against militant Islam to a battle against Satan. Boykin, who is deputy undersecretary of Defense, had told evangelical Christian audiences that radical Islam threatens to destroy America "because we're a Christian nation." He has also said, according to tapes of his remarks obtained by the Los Angeles Times and NBC News, that Muslims worship an "idol" and not "a real God."
After the predictable uproar in certain circles, Boykin issued the familiar "if I have offended anyone" boilerplate apology. There should have been a debate about the substance of his remarks. By silencing him and ordering retreat, the Pentagon apparently thinks it will mollify those whose language and actions are far more incendiary than whatever perceived sin the general has committed.
Why don't members of the Islamic faith silence some of their own? They can start with speakers at the Organization of Islamic Conference last week in Malaysia. Mahathir Mohamad, the Malaysian prime minister, told an applauding audience made up of kings, presidents and emirs that Jews are running and ruining the world. Jews, he claimed, "invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others."
These are not "extremist" views held by a radical minority. These are mainstream Islamic views, as evidenced by the favorable response from the Egyptian foreign minister, who called the remarks, "a very, very wise assessment." Afghan President Hamid Karzai, an American ally whose country would still be governed by the Taliban were it not for American soldiers, some of whom are Jewish, called the speech "very correct."
The Bush administration is making a fundamental mistake when it promotes the fiction that our enemies can be made less threatening by what America says and does. That should now be obvious to Democratic senator and presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman, who spoke last Friday (Oct. 17) to an Arab American Institute meeting in Dearborn, Mich. Lieberman, who is Jewish, noted that Jews and Muslims are descendants of Abraham. "I am your brother," he said, and added, "Whatever differences we may have on the issues of the day are differences of ideas, not of religion or nationality." Members of the audience heckled him.