Boykin needs to be relieved of command – Hate at the core of prisoner abuse scandal

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As revelations surface from interviews with Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, former Iraqi prison commander, that the Abu Ghraib prison evolved into an interrogation center — Orwellian goodspeak for torture chambers — and control of the prison shifted to the military intelligence command, one name resurfaces from the archives of recent scandal: Boykin.

Army Lt. Gen. William Boykin is under a reluctant investigation for a church-to-church speaking tour last year in which he demonized Islam and Muslims and characterized the current conflict as a religious war between Christians, who are good, and Muslims, who are on the side of ‘Satan.’ To make matters worse, it was discovered that he often wore his military uniform during these speeches, furthering the impression that he was speaking from the military’s viewpoint.

The Bush administration is dragging its probe into Boykin’s statements, which is understandable considering the evangelical ties between Boykin and Bush. However, the investigation of Boykin and how his personal views are shaping his actions on the ground need to be accelerated. The reason for this call to re-energize the probe is simple: Boykin is the head of military intelligence, under whose command the recent crimes against Iraqi prisoners were carried out.

An Army General resorting to the evangelical extremist practice of demonizing one religion to glorify his own religion causes grave concerns about his ability to treat those he dehumanizes humanely. One of the functions of hate is to delude self-righteous haters into believing a license has been granted to treat objects of hatred in unthinkable ways. Torture, humiliation and even murder become easier as the hatred burns deeper into the soul of the deluded.

With Boykin in command, the same sort of hatred he spewed from American pulpits is apparently being ingrained into the malleable minds of young soldiers. While these soldiers will undoubtedly claim the Nuremberg Defense, it is an important fact that orders were given from above. Therefore, the investigation should travel upward to the one individual who has proven his ability to instill hate against Muslims in the minds of those unfortunate enough to listen.

The administration needs to immediately relieve Boykin of command while the investigation evolves from several sermons in America to include his role in the current atrocities in Iraq. A request made by Sen. John Warner of Virginia, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, asking Boykin to step aside during the sermon investigation last year was ignored. The request needs to be made into an order.

Bush should not let his evangelical ties to Boykin cloud his judgment, as he has during the church-tour probe. The administration’s failure to address Boykin’s conduct last year undermines what little credibility Bush managed to retain after his onslaught against politically active Muslims in America and around the globe. If Bush plans to continue ignoring the growing number of elephants in the china shop, we should expect more dishes to break — leaving the shop in such a mess that our progeny will be sweeping floors for generations.

The uncomfortable conclusion one could draw from Bush’s loyalty to his evangelical comrade in arms is that they both share the same beliefs and views about the current conflict. It appears we are leaving the suspicion stage at which actions and statements made by the administration, politicians and military personnel only give the appearance of a renewed crusade against Islam and Muslims and moving towards the unsettling realization that such suspicions are slowly and painfully being confirmed. A violent evangelical extremist crusade against Islam is being waged against Muslims all over the world, including those living in the USA, and this is wrong.

Civil and human rights groups are calling for international inspectors to assess the US-controlled prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Cuba. While this is a good start, much more work must be done to correct the culture of hate that has infested the minds of many Americans. Talk radio, biased labeling, associating criminal acts with the religion of Islam, Army recruitment video games portraying all enemies as having beards and a host of other practices that cultivate animosity towards Muslims must stop.

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