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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
"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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