A senior Pentagon intelligence officer, under fire for his comments about Islam, said on Friday he was "neither a zealot nor an extremist" and apologized to those offended by his statements but did not take back any of his remarks.
Army Lieutenant General William Boykin, whose comments at churches and prayer breakfasts cast the US war on terrorism in starkly religious terms, sought to explain comments including one that Muslims worship an "idol" and said he was not "anti-Islam."
Democratic lawmakers, including two presidential candidates, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, criticized Boykin's remarks and chastised President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for failing to criticize the general. And a Saudi diplomat called Boykin's remarks "outrageous."
A statement released late on Friday by the Pentagon public affairs office represented Boykin's first attempt to publicly explain himself since his remarks came to light this week.
He did not address his future, but defense officials said he had no plans to quit. The officials also said he planned to "tone down" his remarks. One official said, "I would not expect him to engage in those sorts of speaking engagements in the future."
"I am neither a zealot nor an extremist. Only a soldier who has an abiding faith," said Boykin, deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and war-fighting support.
"I do believe that radical extremists have tried to use Islam as a cause for attacks on America," he said.
"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, or extremist [sic] of any faith," Boykin said.
"I am not anti-Islam or any other religion," he added. "I support the free exercise of all religions. For those who have been offended by my statements, I offer a sincere apology."
NBC News this week broadcast videotapes of Boykin, an evangelical Christian, giving speeches while wearing his army uniform at various Christian functions.
He portrayed the US battle with Islamic radicals as a clash with "Satan," saying they sought to destroy America "because we're a Christian nation."
In one speech, Boykin recalled a Muslim fighter in Somalia who said US 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.
In his statement, Boykin said his comments about that Muslim fighter "were not referencing his worship of Allah but his worship of money and power; idolatry. He was a corrupt man, not a follower of Islam."
Boykin added: "My references to Judeo-Christian roots in America or our nation as a Christian nation are historically undeniable."
He also said he defends the right of every American to worship "as he or she chooses." He said he was an invited guest speaker at churches.
"I have frequently stated that I do not see this current conflict as a war between Islam and Christianity. I have asked American Christian audiences to realize that even though they cannot be in Iraq or Afghanistan, they can be part of this war by praying for America and its leaders," he said.
Lieberman has called on Bush to condemn Boykin's "hateful remarks."
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete