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Rumsfeld and the 'beastly' Boykin
By Ramtanu Maitra

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 7, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld apologized to the Iraqi families for the abuse of detainees by US troops at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Rumsfeld also took responsibility for the abuses since they occurred while he was head of the Pentagon.

However, it is likely that an apology might not be enough to get Rumsfeld off the hook, and it could be a matter of perhaps a very short time before his administrative career comes to an end. But behind Rumsfeld's apologies lies an attempt to cover up a controversial character hired by him to pin down the "interrogation" process: Lieutenant-General William "Jerry" Boykin, a Christian fundamentalist and no lover of Muslims.

The 'beast-man'
The Washington-based Executive Intelligence Review, a political and economic weekly, has long pointed out that the determination and ruthlessness of the Bush administration, expressed particularly since September 11, was orchestrated by what it described as a few "beast-men" who, as the word suggests, have no hesitation in acting like beasts. One person characterized as such was Boykin.

Boykin is the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Intelligence under Stephen Cambone, a personal friend of Rumsfeld and one who has the defense secretary's ears. The presence of Cambone as Boykin's boss has previously helped Rumsfeld avoid questions surrounding alleged mistreatment of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq, and even of Muslim prisoners in general.

As the New York Times pointed out in its May 7 editorial, "the road to Abu Ghraib began in some ways in 2002 at Guantanamo Bay", pointing out it was then that the Bush administration began building up a world-wide military detention system, hidden from public view and from any judicial oversight, in which detainees were denied normal legal protections. The New York Times suggests that in reality a slew of "beast-men" function within the Bush administration. To these people, "democracy", "freedom" and "reconstruction" are convenient words to cover up the real murk underneath.

'Judeo-Christian superiority'
Boykin is one who inhabits the murk. Writing for the Los Angeles Times on October 16 last year, columnist William Arkin pointed out that Boykin sees the "war on terror" as a religious war between Judeo-Christian civilization and Satan, with Islam of course cast in the latter role. According to Arkin, Boykin told a religious group in Oregon, in June, that radical Islamists hate the United States "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian ... and the enemy is a guy named Satan." He continued to say that "our spiritual enemy will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus".

Boykin, a 30-year veteran of the US Army's Delta Force, the Central Intelligence Agency and Army Special Forces, told another audience, in reference to operations he was involved in in Somalia in 1993, that "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." Arkin further reports that Boykin believes that President George W Bush was not elected to the White House by mere mortals, but chosen by God, and that he himself received his orders from God. Arkin also noted that Boykin's concept of "war on terror" is quite different from the way the US president looks at it. Boykin sees it as a war against Muslims.

Following Boykin's comments on "my God", made in a public speech, an internal investigation has been under way in the Pentagon by the Inspector General's department, but no findings have been made known.

It did not take a heap of naked bodies and other photographs to expose who Boykin is and always was. Arab-Americans and American Muslims have long complained about Boykin. The photographs are a confirmation of what the man was suspected to be as the man in charge of hunting down intelligence and tasked with, among other duties, catching Osama bin Laden.

But to date, the Bush administration has protected Boykin and the dubious methods of which he must have been aware - or even authored - to obtain information. Professor Yvonne Haddad, a professor at Georgetown University's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, said the administration's failure to discipline Boykin smacked of hypocrisy. "When someone says anything against blacks or Jews, they are immediately relieved of their jobs," Haddad pointed out.

Pattern of abuse
Boykin's job in the Pentagon makes his Christian fundamentalist background especially sensitive: he is charged with speeding up the flow of intelligence on terrorist leaders to combat teams in the field so that they can attack top-ranking terrorist leaders. It can easily be speculated that it is this urgency to obtain intelligence, and an uncompromising religious outlook backed by a "beast-man" mentality, that has led to the lower echelons in the US military to adopt Saddam Hussein-like brutalities. It is quite possible that now that the lid on the excesses in Iraq has been lifted, more reports will surface.

Since most of the people that Boykin is charged with capturing are Muslim, his words and actions will now draw even more scrutiny in the Arab and Islamic world. Bush, a born-again Christian, often uses religious language in his speeches, but he keeps references to God non-sectarian. At one point, immediately after September 11, the president said he wanted to lead a "crusade" against terrorism. But he quickly retracted the word when told that, to Muslim ears, it recalled the medieval Christian crusaders' brutal invasions of Islamic nations.

In that context, Boykin's reference to the God of Islam as "an idol" is more than provocation; it exposes what is, at best, an ignorant mind. Bush has made a point of praising Islam as "a religion of peace". He has invited Muslim clerics to the White House for Ramadan fast-breaking dinners, and has criticized evangelicals who have called Islam a dangerous faith.

For the army, the issue of officers expressing religious opinions publicly has been a sensitive problem for many years, according to a former head of the Army Judge Advocate General's office who is now retired but continues to serve in government as a civilian.

"The army has struggled with this issue over the years. It gets really, really touchy because what you're talking about is freedom of expression," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "What usually happens is that somebody has a quiet chat with the person," the retired general said.

The coverup
Finally, the Boykin-Cambone partnership under Rumsfeld. Cambone was one of the staunchest believers that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction existed. Since all others at the top "believed" the same way, the views of Cambone, who resides somewhat down the rungs of the power ladder, were not given much publicity.

But at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with Rumsfeld and others on May 7, Cambone acknowledged his role in sending Guantanamo Bay's Camp X-Ray head, General Geoffrey Miller, to Iraq. During an exchange concerning his deployment of Miller to Iraq, Cambone said: "We had, then, in Iraq a large body of people who had been captured on the battlefield that we had to gain intelligence for force protection purposes. And he was asked to go over, at my encouragement, to take a look at the situation as it existed there. And he made his recommendations."

The decision to use General Miller apparently came after he reported on Camp X-Ray, saying three quarters of the 600 Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects held there were becoming compliant and offering intelligence tips.

The Washington Post has reported that the defense department approved interrogation techniques for Guantanamo Bay which included forcing inmates to strip naked and subjecting them to loud music, bright lights and sleep deprivation. Miller recommended that detention operations in Iraq must act as an "enabler" for interrogation.

"This is not a few bad apples. This is a system failure, a massive failure," Senate Armed Services Committee member Lindsay Graham, a conservative Republican, was quoted as saying.

So far, Rumsfeld has announced inquiries against seven defendants, with each one to be run by a senior military officer. He is now suggesting an independent review of these inquiries. Meanwhile, it's business as usual for Boykin and Cambone.

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May 11, 2004



Rumsfeld: The fallen angel?
(May 8, '04)

Welcome back, 'friends'
(May 8, '04)

Now the desperate damage control
(May 7, '04)

It's snowing on Rumsfeld's parade
(Oct 25, '03)

 

 
   
       
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