General Boykin: Bush’s Holy Warrior

Revolutionary Worker #1271, March 20, 2005, posted at

Dressed in battle fatigues, his pants tucked into his polished combat boots, General William "Jerry" Boykin stepped up to the stage in the Good Shepherd Community Church in Boring, Oregon. General Boykin’s June 2003 talk, similar to ones that he had delivered around the country over the previous years, was a multimedia affair, with Boykin’s remarks timed to correspond to images in a lengthy slide show projected onto a large screen.

Boykin displayed slides of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and North Korea’s Kim Jung Il. "Why do they hate us?" Boykin asked. "The answer to that is because we’re a Christian nation. We are hated because we are a nation of believers."

Boykin said that "the enemy" was not any one of these individuals—"The enemy is a guy named Satan. Satan wants to destroy this nation. He wants to destroy us as a nation and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army. I’m here on a recruiting trip. I’m asking you to join this army."

Separation of church and state has been one of the basic tenets that bourgeois democracy in this country has claimed to be based on from the beginning. But for Boykin—who believes America’s enemies "will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus"—there really is no difference between the "Christian army" and the U.S. military.

In his Oregon talk, Boykin said about George W. Bush, the U.S. commander-in-chief: "Now ask yourself: 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 he’s in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this. God put him there to lead not only this nation but to lead the world in such a time as this."

Boykin also described a set of photographs he had taken of Mogadishu, Somalia, from an Army helicopter in 1993. The U.S. military was occupying this east African country at the time, and Boykin was the head of the Army’s Delta Force. Boykin took the photographs shortly after the unsuccessful mission that resulted in 18 U.S. troops being killed. (This mission was the subject of the book and movie Black Hawk Down.) Boykin claimed that when he came home and had the photos developed, he noticed a strange dark mark over Mogadishu. "Ladies and gentleman, this is your enemy," Boykin said to the congregation as he flashed his pictures on a screen. "It is the principalities of darkness. It is a demonic presence in that city that God revealed to me as the enemy."

Who is this General Boykin? The day before he appeared on the pulpit in Oregon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had nominated Boykin for a third star and named him to a new position as Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. In the U.S. Army, three-star generals are only one rank below the highest-ranking four-star generals (like Colin Powell, when he was the Chief-of-Staff). Boykin was put in charge of the "High Value Target Plan" to track down bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Mullah Omar and others.

The fact that a man like General Boykin occupies such a high position says a lot about the power and influence of the Christian fascists within the U.S. military and the ruling state overall.

In a 1998 article, Bob Avakian drew attention to the growth of the Christian right within the U.S. military:

What is also important to recognize is that within the armed forces there has been, for some time now, the development and cultivation of a situation in which the outlook of the fundamentalist reactionaries occupies a prominent place, including among higher level officers. In the book Making the Corps (which, as the title suggests, focuses on the Marine Corps but also discusses other branches of the American military) the author, Thomas E. Ricks, notes that "the military increasingly appears to lean toward partisan conservatism." Ricks cites a number of statements from people in the military illustrating this viewpoint, and he quotes a typical denunciation of "cultural radicals, people who hate our Judeo-Christian culture...[whose] agenda has slowly codified into a new ideology, usually known as ’multiculturalism’ or ’political correctness,’ that is in essence Marxism translated from economic into social and cultural terms." Ricks goes on to observe that this "reads like fairly standard right- wing American rhetoric of the nineties," such as might be expected from Robertson or Pat Buchanan, but its significance lies in the fact that its authors were two Marine reservists and William S. Lind, "a military analyst who has been influential on the doctrinal thinking of the Marines"; and, as Ricks expresses it, their "startling conclusion" is that "the next real war we fight is likely to be on American soil. (From "Bob Avakian on the Right-Wing Agenda: The Truth About the Right- Wing Conspiracy—And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer." Reprinted in RW #1225, Oct. 17, 2004.)

FAITH Force Multipliers

Boykin’s talk in Oregon was not the only church talk that he has given. In fact, since 9/11, Boykin has given his presentation in at least 23 Baptist and Pentecostal churches across the country. At these talks Boykin has usually been accompanied by two military aides and has almost always been in uniform.

Many of the talks were part of a program called "FAITH Force Multipliers" organized by the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the largest religious denominations in the United States. "Force multipliers" is a military term that refers to elements that can increase the effectiveness of military units in battle.

The call to action for the "FAITH Force Multipliers" program says that Christians must "put on our spiritual armor" and wage "a spiritual war for [America’s] soul."

Controversy around Boykin first surfaced in early 2003 when he attempted to bring a group of pastors to the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, NC, which Boykin headed at the time.

In a letter inviting pastors to attend the two-day session at the Special Warfare Center, Rev. Bobby Welch said, "You will go with General Boykin and Green Beret instructors to places where no civilians and few soldiers ever go. We must find a group of men who are warriors of FAITH, pastors who have the guts to lead this nation to Christ and revival!" Welch told the invitees they would see Boykin’s headquarters, a demonstration of "today’s war-fighting weapons," and how "Special Forces attack the enemy inside buildings (live fire/real bullets)" as well as hear a speech and get "informal time" with Boykin.

After Americans United for the Separation of Church and State exposed and protested the invitation, military officials scaled back the visit to the same level as tours given to other civilian groups. But Boykin and the FAITH Force Multipliers decided that if they couldn’t bring their people onto the military bases, they would bring the military to the churches—in the person of Boykin himself.

In June 2004, Rev. Bobby Welch, the organizer of the Fort Bragg visit and one of the founders of the FAITH Force Multipliers program, was elected president of the 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention.

Saving General Boykin

Boykin’s anti-Muslim and Christian fascist remarks caused an uproar when they were reported in the major media in October 2003. Boykin’s remarks basically put forward that the United States was involved in a "holy war" of Christianity against Islam—a position that the Bush administration denies in its public statements.

Immediately, groups on the Christian right mobilized their followers to defend Boykin. Focus on the Family Chairman James Dobson said, "It’s time we stood up and defended those who are saying the things most of us as Christians believe."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said General Boykin "is a soldier’s soldier" who has "a moral foundation" upon which he lives. Army Joint Chiefs Chairman General Myers would only say, "It doesn’t seem like any rules were broken." Boykin’s civilian boss, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, praised Boykin’s "outstanding record." When outrage forced Rumsfeld to lauch an investigation into Boykins’ remarks, he insisted that he was only doing this at Boykin’s request. And President Bush made no public remarks on the controversy.

After a ten-month investigation, a Pentagon report found no reason to punish Boykin. The report was not released to the public. But a senior Defense official told the Washington Post that the report is seen as a "complete exoneration" that ultimately found Boykin responsible for a few "relatively minor offenses" related to technical and bureaucratic issues.

Boykin, Torture, and Abu Ghraib

At the same time as Boykin’s comments were being investigated, Rumsfeld called on Boykin to play a key role in the operation to "Gitmoize" (the U.S. military base at Guantánamo, Cuba, is known within the U.S. military as Gitmo) the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

At the end of 2003 it was becoming clear to the Bush administration that the Iraqi resistance was much stronger than they had anticipated. A secret Defense Department report leaked to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh complained about the lack of intelligence coming from Iraq.

Rumsfeld and the Pentagon were upset that interrogators at U.S. prisons in Iraq were not producing enough intelligence, compared to what the interrogators at Guantánamo had been able to "extract" from the prisoners held there. According to high-level Pentagon officials interviewed by MSNBC, the Pentagon developed a program to provide a bridge for the "migration" of "coercive" techniques from Guantánamo to Iraq.

The use of "painful coercion"—known in the world outside of U.S. government doublespeak as torture—had been approved at the highest levels of the Bush administration as part of the "war on terror." White House counsel Alberto Gonzales (who has just been approved as the new U.S. Attorney General) opened the gates for the use of torture—with a memo saying that the Geneva Convention and treaties signed by the U.S. banning torture did not apply to the detainees at Guantánamo. The Bush administration later expanded on this and declared al-Qaeda and other captured members of "international terrorist networks" to be "illegal combatants" and not eligible for protection under the Geneva Conventions.

Boykin was sent by Rumsfeld and Stephen Cambone, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, to meet with Major General Geoffrey Miller, who was in charge of the military prison at Guantánamo. Boykin ordered Miller to fly to Iraq and extend the methods used at Guantánamo to the prison system there.

The internal Army report on the abuse at Abu Ghraib revealed that Miller urged that military intelligence be placed in charge of the prison. The report quoted Miller as recommending that "detention operations must act as an enabler for interrogation."

Miller also briefed military commanders in Iraq on the interrogation methods used in Cuba—methods that could, with special approval, include sleep deprivation, exposure to extremes of cold and heat, and placing prisoners in "stress positions" for agonizing lengths of time. It was after this that the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops—some of which has come out publicly in leaked photos—took place.

Rumsfeld, Boykin, and "The Coming Wars"

A recent article in The New Yorker magazine by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh ("The Coming Wars," January 24 and 31, 2005) reports that the Pentagon and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld "have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities’ strategic analyses and covert operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War national-security state." According to Hersh, "Bush has an aggressive and ambitious agenda for using that control—against the mullahs in Iran and against targets in the ongoing war on terrorism in his second term."

Hersh reports that the Bush administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions against Iran since last summer. In addition, according to former CIA clandestine officers interviewed by Hersh, the Pentagon has been given permission by Bush to conduct covert commando operations in a large number of countries, including Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Malaysia and Tunisia.

A Pentagon official described this as "a global free-fire zone."

These programs will operate in secret and will not be subject to Congressional oversight. Previously, top members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were briefed on covert operations programs. Under the new programs, not only will Congressional committees not be informed but even U.S ambassadors, CIA station chiefs and military chiefs of operations will be kept in the dark.

Hersh writes: "’Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador?’ the former high-level intelligence official asked me, referring to the military-led gangs that committed atrocities in the early nineteen- eighties. ’We founded them and we financed them,’ he said. ’The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. And we aren’t going to tell Congress about it.’ A former military officer, who has knowledge of the Pentagon’s commando capabilities, said, ’We’re going to be riding with the bad boys.’"

And who is being put in charge of this new program? According to Hersh, "Rumsfeld and two of his key deputies, Stephen Cambone, the Under-secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and Army Lieutenant General William G. (Jerry) Boykin, will be part of the chain of command for the new commando operations."

Lunacy Backed Up By, and Serving, Imperialism

Many people are surprised to find out that a high-ranking member of the U.S. military like Boykin holds such lunatic views. But Boykin is hardly a lone nut. Why has he been able to rise to the top ranks of the U.S. military? Why have top officials defended Boykin? Why was he entrusted with a key role in instituting torture in Iraq even after his views provoked a storm of controversy?

Boykin’s views are outrageous, but the reality is that such views are widespread in the government today. Bush himself has said that he believes he was put in office by god and that god told him to invade Iraq. These views are echoed in the top levels of the ruling class, in the Congress, in the Supreme Court, in the military. And there is a Christian fascist social base of tens of millions of people.

This is a lunacy backed up by, and serving, imperialism. As the RW has pointed out ("The Rise of the Christian Fascists," by Larry Everest, Dec. 26, 2004), "What better ideology for a time of unbounded war, demanding enormous carnage and demanding unthinking, cold-blooded killers and heavy sacrifices, than Christian fundamentalism, which celebrates vengeance, cruelty, punishment, and mass murder, and demands unquestioning, unthinking obedience?"