October 23, 2003


Can our deity beat their deity? (Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe, 10/23/2003)

AT FIRST it sounded like satire. My God is bigger than yours? Did General William Boykin actually taunt his Islamic enemy with that muscular divinity? Not my weapons are bigger than yours. . . .

But for all we talk about the clash of civilizations, we know that the most important global struggle is not between one religion and another but between fanaticism and tolerance -- the two principles that cut across all borders and run through every religion. In the long struggle between theocracy and democracy, General Boykin has, I am afraid, thrown his lot in with the enemy.

If Americans are to stand for tolerance, it's more than a strategic error to say that my God is bigger than yours. It's a sacrilege to our civic religion.

There is about as much nonsense per column inch here as we have come to expect from Ellen Goodman, the AAA Maureen Dowd. There is at least one completely false statement and, tolerantly, a downplaying of Mahathir's antisemitism. But she is being admirably truthful when she accuses General Boykin of sacrilege to the established church of tolerance and I'm sure that OJ can but admire the forthright way she wishes to punish the General for his heresy.

Posted by David Cohen at October 23, 2003 2:27 PM

What about us nonchristians who object to being blown up by Muslims? Don't we count?

I guess not.

You'd think by now, I'd be used to being an unchosen person.

I still don't recall any statement by the president or Congress that our side is waging religious war.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 23, 2003 2:48 PM

You get to come along for the ride. That's why OJ calls you "freeriding atheists."

Posted by: David Cohen at October 23, 2003 3:04 PM

"If Americans are to stand for tolerance, it's more than a strategic error to say that my God is bigger than yours. It's a sacrilege to our civic religion."

Dunno David, I think she has achieved a clarity sadly lacking on the part of many commentators on the left.

Tolerance = God

Intolerance = Sacrilege

She places Tolerance appropriately alongside Reason and Diversity in the leftist trinity.

May they soon take their well deserved place alongside Baal, Marduk and Ishtar.

Posted by: RDB at October 23, 2003 3:12 PM

RDB -- I agree. That was the point I was trying to make. I would just add that I have no problem with tolerance, which I understand to mean that no one should be punished just for not believing what I believe. But I have no tolerance for Tolerance, the new religion of the left, which apparently means the opposite of tolerance.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 23, 2003 3:25 PM

A free riding sectarian is one who derides secularism, then dies of old age.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 23, 2003 7:19 PM

This is crazy. We're not really sure what General Boykin actually said. The proper context, the larger themes.

Here's a person who has sacrificed 30+ years for this country. A man with a distinguished and heroic past. Before we toss him aside, Ms. Goodman, can we have some semblance of due process? Can we read a copy of the transcripts of his comments?

Or are those concepts not practiced in the Church of High Liberal Tolerance? It appears that tolerance, as practiced by Goodman, only extends to those who agree with her Civic Religion. Some tolerance.


Posted by: SteveMG at October 23, 2003 7:19 PM

Which of Goodman's statements is completely false? I'd say she misquoted Jerry Falwell, but I'm not sure.

It shouldn't be too hard to figure out if Boykin simply has the Old Time Religion or if he's a real wack job; his Church speeches have been recorded on widely circulated video tapes. If he's repeatedly said that Muslims, not just Muslim terrorists, worship an "idol" instead of a "real God" then he should be dismissed as undersecretary, pronto.

Even without his speeches, I'm not sure we should entrust the defense of our country to a man who thinks he photographed Satan hovering over Mogadishu.

(P.S. The National Review thinks Boykin should be fired: http://www.nationalreview.com/nr_comment/editors200310230849.asp )

Posted by: Peter Caress at October 23, 2003 8:41 PM

Goodman: President Bush quickly labeled Mahathir as "wrong and divisive." But he didn't utter a harsh word about a wrong and divisive general.

www.whitehouse.gov:Q Is your job made tougher in convincing them that Americans don't have a war on -- don't dislike Islam when you have General Boykin saying that Muslims all --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that came up, Boykin came up. I said, he didn't reflect my opinion. Look, it just doesn't reflect what the government thinks. And I think they were pleased to hear that.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 23, 2003 9:59 PM

Jeff -- So, when you use a word, it means exactly what you want it to mean, no more and no less?

Posted by: David Cohen at October 23, 2003 10:08 PM

Boykin's become politically inconvenient. He'll be gone soon.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at October 24, 2003 5:00 AM

To the extent of my ability to use words, yes. Why do you ask?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 24, 2003 7:28 AM

Because you seem to use the word "secularism" in a way that doesn't include the two largest secularist movements of the 20th century, each of which made sure that 20 million non-combatants did not die of old age.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 24, 2003 9:17 AM

Ali -- I'd be surprised if that's the case. The President could never have said what Boykin said, but its not a political problem for him. What Boykin said, both the parts that are right and the parts that are wrong, is pretty mainstream Americana.

Michael -- I've not otherwise heard that there are video tapes of Boykin's speeches in circulation. The other mentions I've seen say that a speech was surreptitiously taped by the LA Times reporter, who refuses to release the tape in full.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 24, 2003 9:20 AM

The reporter's background and political associations are apparently a bit on the "lunar leftist" side from what I have heard. Not that there is anything wrong with that but an objective, disinterested journalist he is not.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 24, 2003 1:46 PM


So what criteria did you use to decide they were secular?

The mere absence of an immortal God is hardly good enough--those "secularisms" of which you speak were every bit as sectarian as conventional organized religions. I'm sure you remember the various Communisms' takes on the Inquisition.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 24, 2003 2:05 PM

Ooops--wrong place.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 24, 2003 2:30 PM

What he purportedly said -- unless the tape I heard was a fake -- was standard stuff from people of his beliefs. The idea that the paynim worship Mahound would have raised no eyebrows in East Tennessee when I was growing up.

I would not want my son to go into combat under the command of such a lunatic, any more than, if I were a Muslim, I'd want my son to go into combat protected from bullets by a holy amulet, as, in fact, happened to Muslim sons in Somalia.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 24, 2003 3:31 PM

Both Nazism and Communism would tell you that they are scientific.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 24, 2003 3:49 PM

Re National Review editorial calling for the dismissal of Boykin.

Editors just posted that the editorial was an internal editorial presenting the pro-dismissal argument and was NOT meant to be the official view of the NR Editors.

Right now, they are arguing for restraint and circumspection l'affair Boykin. Wait to see the transcripts, hear Boykin's response, then decide.

As I said, let's give this gentleman some reasonable due process here. In terms, at least, of the court of public opinion.


Posted by: SteveMG at October 24, 2003 4:47 PM


I doubt Dubya is willing to have someone on board whose presence would give ammo to his critics in Muslim countries that this is a religious war and thus put pressure on their home governments to stop aiding America with the war on terror.

Domestically I doubt he's got much to worry about.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at October 24, 2003 5:13 PM

Aside from a few arrests in Pakistan, and probably some help in shutting down financial webs, exactly what have we received from Muslim countries with the war on terror?

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 24, 2003 10:22 PM

Ali -- If that's the criteria, a good half of the Army and probably a larger portion of the Marines would have to go.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 25, 2003 12:02 AM

Boykin's job is to kill America's enemies. If it makes him feel better to think they're God's enemies too, so what? He dosn't make policy, he just carries it out.

Boykin kills Somali gunmen, Islamic nutcases, third-world communist and fascist thugs, I don't give a damn if he kills them in the name of Jesus or the easter bunny, so long as he kills ALOT of them.

Dubya will just ignore this Boykin flap untill the press corps forgets about him or gets distracted by something shiny lying on the road.

Yay Boykin!

Posted by: Amos at October 25, 2003 12:04 AM


You said it, bro.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 25, 2003 2:43 PM


Maybe so, but their comments haven't been broadcast across the world.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at October 25, 2003 3:09 PM

Now that his have, it ought to give Muslims furiously to think -- why do people like Boykin think our religion is an enemy to their society, and what could we do to change their opinion?

Because, even if he's retired, as so many Christian fundamentalist officers have been over the decades, his outlook is genuine enough, and his side has the big battalions.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 25, 2003 8:58 PM


Christian Science says it is scientific. Doesn't make it so.

Communism and Nazism relied on argument from authority, and brooked no disagreement.

That is antithetical to rational inquiry and secularism.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 25, 2003 9:14 PM

Psychoanalysts consider themselves scientific, but I bet nobody posting here would accept that they are.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 26, 2003 3:39 PM

Only if they submit to the rigours of their own standards.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 26, 2003 9:53 PM