The differences between our society and the Muslim world sometimes make it much easier to objectify those who live there. For example: The recent comments of General William Boykin about Islam.
During the recent American intervention in Somalia, Boykin made some very inappropriate comments at a Christian prayer group, including the implication that Muslims are idol-worshippers. These are comments of an extremely polarizing nature that can make a situation such as the one in Iraq much more volatile than it should, as well as causing effects here at home.
An Inspector General’s review of Gen. Boykin’s remarks is currently pending and its results may have some considerable repercussions.
After a crisis such as the 9/11 attacks, ethnic and religious tensions can escalate quickly. A useful parallel, though not entirely recent, is the anti-Japanese sentiment that swept across the nation after Pearl Harbor, peaking in the internment of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast.
Hailing from a small town myself, I have seen firsthand the same kinds of bigotry as Boykin’s intensify since the attacks and have heard enough anti-Arab and Islam slurs to last a lifetime. The last thing this country needs is its leaders encouraging the reactions of many, both home and abroad, to view the conflict in terms of Christianity vs. Islam.
With more and more Iraqis mistrusting the intentions of the American presence in their country, news of Gen. Boykin’s comments will not exactly help us improve our relations with the Iraqi people. At a point when American casualties during the occupation have surpassed those of the actual war, this is the last thing we need.
Maybe this should be expected of American leadership anyway, considering we preemptively attacked Iraq and still cannot give proof of our reasons for doing so. Finally, if Muslims really are “subhumans” as Gen. Boykin says, why do we have an $87 billion occupation budget for Iraq?
But even as Boykin apologized for his remarks, he reinserted his foot into his mouth with his allegation that the United States is a “Christian nation”. Strangely enough, his statement was prepared with the full assistance of the Pentagon’s legal and press staffs, and a similar statement can be found in the 2002 Republican Party Platform. For his part, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has refused to take a stance on the issue, evading Boykin’s half-apology with the claim, “It is not our statement. It is his statement.”
The world watches American soldiers die in Iraq each day and President Bush’s shilling for foreign aid in the Iraqi reconstruction. With all that, the Defense Secretary’s response to Boykin’s words should be all the more meaningful. But they are not. In the end, if we want our fellow nations to believe our intentions in Iraq are just, we must fire Gen. William Boykin.
Kyle Wind can be reached at email@example.com.