REUTERS NEWS AGENCY
WASHINGTON—Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declined yesterday to criticize a senior Pentagon intelligence official who has told Christian gatherings that Muslims worship an "idol" and not "a real God," and instead praised the general's "outstanding" military record.
Army Lt.-Gen. William Boykin, deputy undersecretary of defence for intelligence and war-fighting support, has used speeches at churches and prayer breakfasts to portray the U.S. battle with Islamic radicals as a fight with "Satan," saying they sought to destroy America "because we're a Christian nation."
NBC News broadcast videotapes of Boykin, an evangelical Christian, giving a number of speeches while wearing his military uniform at Christian functions around the country.
In one speech, Boykin recalled a Muslim fighter in Somalia who said U.S. forces would never get him because Allah would give him protection. "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," Boykin told his audience.
At a Pentagon briefing, Rumsfeld declined to answer when asked whether it was appropriate or advisable for a high-ranking Pentagon official to make such remarks in public, and did not say whether he would investigate.
"We do know that he is an officer that has an outstanding record in the United States armed forces," Rumsfeld said.
"There are a lot of things that are said by people in the military, or civilian life, or in the Congress, or in the executive branch, that are their views. And that's the way we live. We're a free people," Rumsfeld said.
"Saddam Hussein could do it pretty well, because he'd go around killing people if they said things he didn't like."
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that "at first blush, it doesn't look like any rules were broken."
In another speech, Boykin said God selected George W. Bush as president.
"Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this."
Describing America's fight with Islamic extremists, Boykin also said, "The enemy is a spiritual enemy. He's called the principality of darkness. The enemy is a guy called Satan."