Re "General Casts War in Religious Terms," Oct. 16: A warrior religious fanatic assigned to hunt down a warrior religious fanatic? Have we all forgotten world history, especially the infamous Crusades? Army Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin seems to perceive himself as a soldier of a "bigger God." Super. So does Osama bin Laden.
This country was in part designed to be a haven for people fleeing religious persecution, and now our leaders seem to be waging jihads for a living. This assignment terrifies me. I fear our leaders are fiddling while our principles burn to the ground.
Re "The Pentagon Unleashes a Holy Warrior," Commentary, Oct. 16: I was dismayed to read William Arkin's and The Times' mischaracterizations of Jerry Boykin. I have known Jerry since 1974, and although most of your facts are correct, the inferences you draw are not. Jerry is indeed a profoundly religious man, privately and publicly. He believes in good and evil and sees the U.S. as basically good and those who would destroy us as evil. However, he is not intolerant or disrespectful of others who believe differently.
I worked as his deputy for two years, and I manifest no religious beliefs, instead deeming religion to be a private matter. During that time Jerry never pressured anyone to follow his example in religious matters; we maintained a close professional and personal working relationship throughout. Jerry supported and helped others of whatever beliefs at every turn. Contrary to your portrayal, he is humble and self-effacing, not self-righteous.
Most troubling is your implication that Jerry, by seeing himself as a servant of God, would defy or act against the direction of his superiors because of his beliefs. All officers take an oath to the Constitution. If Jerry ever found himself in a profound conflict between his beliefs and a lawful order, one that could not be resolved, he would do what any other officer would -- request relief from the military and retire. Your cited example of intolerance, calling the God of a Somali gunman an idol, is not a slur directed against Islam or its followers but rather directed against the one-dimensional portrait of Allah as a God of death and destruction. Those who believe in such a God do worship a false idol.
Jerry now has a difficult and demanding job, that of coordinating and integrating the disparate intelligence sources and means in order to find Bin Laden, et al. He is uniquely qualified for the job, and we should all wish him speedy and complete success.
John R. Scales
Brigadier General, Retired
Boykin has one thing right: President Bush did not get into the White House because a majority of the electorate put him there. But he's got just about everything else wrong. God didn't send Bush to Washington. Dubya's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and the Supreme Court did. And the U.S. is not a theocracy; it is a democratic republic and always will be. Boykin's over-the-top remarks are not only inappropriate but are a risk to our continued national security, and he must go before he does any further damage.
On the day that a head of state, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, inflamed a meeting of Islamic leaders by saying that "Jews rule the world by proxy," The Times reported on a U.S. general who claimed a strong religious commitment in pursuing the thugs of the Arab world, Saddam Hussein and Bin Ladin. While Mohamad is the head of state, Gen. Boykin remains under the command of Bush, who reflects the majority of the U.S. citizens with a more tolerant view of the Islamic world.
What is the point of your propaganda? Why no front-page article on Mohamad?
The administration's appointment of Boykin as undersecretary of Defense for intelligence defies reason. Though Bush quickly retracted his "crusade" language shortly after 9/11 and since has sought to win the hearts of moderate, mainline Muslims, Boykin has cast the war on terrorism in strident terms of Christians against Muslims, our god against their god.
Is this our national policy?
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's war cabal in the Pentagon is bad enough, retired Adm. John Poindexter's plan to game risk assessment was bizarre and this caps both of them. Dr. Strangelove rules.
James D. Parriott Sr.