Boykin asks for review by inspector general
General's remarks about Muslims continue to needle Pentagon
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Army Lt. Gen. William Boykin, under fire for remarks about Muslims to a Christian prayer group, has requested an inspector general review his actions, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday.
Boykin, who apologized last week for the remarks in which he implied Muslims worship an idol, made the request Tuesday, Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news briefing.
"I have indicated that if that's his request, I think it's appropriate," Rumsfeld said.
It remains to be determined whether the review will be carried out by the Army or the Defense Department inspector general, he said.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Virginia, and the committee's ranking Democrat, Carl Levin of Michigan, wrote to Rumsfeld Friday asking that the Pentagon inspector general review whether "there has been any inappropriate behavior" by Boykin.
"We recognize the right of every American to free speech. However, as is well established, there are limits on the right of expression for service members," said the letter, released Tuesday.
"Public statements by a senior military official of an inflammatory, offensive nature that would denigrate another religion and which could be construed as bigotry may easily be exploited by enemies of the United States and contribute to an erosion of support within the Arab world, and, perhaps, increased risk for members of the U.S. Armed Forces serving in Muslim nations," Warner and Levin wrote.
Warner said on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon that Boykin should be temporarily reassigned while the review of his actions is under way. He also said the inspector general's report should go to the Senate as well as to Rumsfeld.
Remarks in June
Boykin, deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said in a speech to a Christian prayer group in June that radical Muslims hate the United States "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and roots are Judeo-Christian and the enemy is a guy named Satan."
He said that in dealing with a Somali warlord during the U.S. military operation there in 1993, "I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."
Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he talked to Boykin Monday and that the embattled general expressed "how sad he was that his comments have caused the furor that they have."
"There's no doubt in my mind, in talking to him, that if he could pick his words more carefully, he would," said Pace, who appeared at the Pentagon briefing with Rumsfeld.
"There's also no doubt in my mind that he does not see this battle as a battle between religions."
"He sees it as a battle between good and evil. He sees it as the evil being the acts of individuals, not the acts of any religion or affiliation with any religion," Pace said.
Outcry from Muslims
Boykin's remarks prompted an outcry from Muslim groups at home and abroad.
Critics charge his words undermine careful efforts by President Bush and Rumsfeld to avoid casting the war on terrorism in Christian vs. Muslim terms at a time when much of the Islamic world is awash in anti-American sentiment.
Rumsfeld, though conceding that Boykin's comments do not reflect his views or Bush's, bristled at the criticism he has received for defending Boykin last week as "an officer that has an outstanding record," as well as defending his right to express his views. (Full story)
"I have been highly criticized for not rushing to judgment and criticizing words that I've never even seen," Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld, who last week said he had not seen Boykin's remarks, said he has subsequently viewed a network tape of the event.
He said the tape was of poor quality and "had a lot of very difficult to understand words with subtitles which I was not able to verify."
"So I remain inexpert on precisely what he said, and I'm told he used notes and not text," Rumsfeld said.
Boykin issued a written apology Friday saying he intended to convey the message to the church audience "that Americans need to pray for our leaders, both government and military." (Full story)
"I have frequently stated that I do not see this current conflict as a war between Islam and Christianity," he said.
"I do believe that radical extremists have tried to use Islam as a cause for attacks on America. As I have stated before, they are not true followers of Islam. In my view, they are simply terrorists, much like the so-called 'Christians' of the white supremacy groups."
Boykin also said he would continue to defend free speech and "the right of every American to worship as he or she chooses."
He said his references "to Judeo-Christian roots in America, or our nation as a Christian nation, are historically undeniable."
The statement was prepared with the assistance and advice of the Pentagon's media and legal staffs. (Full story)
Rumsfeld was asked Tuesday how he could reconcile their participation in preparation of a statement that talked about "historically undeniable" Christian roots with the official views of the administration.
"It is not our statement. It is his statement," Rumsfeld said. "He has put out a statement. And that is what it is. Nothing more, nothing less."
"I have said what my convictions and beliefs are, and they are those that have been expressed by the president. To the extent they are in conflict with the views of anyone in this department, then they are in conflict with the views of anyone in this department."
CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.