Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced yesterday that the Pentagon was investigating speeches in churches by a high-ranking Defense Department official who called the war on terrorism a Christian battle against Satan and disparaged a Muslim adversary as an idol worshiper. The inquiry seems like a waste of time. Mr. Rumsfeld should remove the officer, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, as deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence, where he leads the effort to capture the people on a most-wanted list headed by Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

General Boykin has made a practice of speaking about his job from the pulpit while wearing his uniform. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that he had told a congregation in Oregon that he was leading a “spiritual
battle” against Satan. The only way for the United States, “a Christian nation,” to defeat terrorists is to “come against them in the name of Jesus,” he said.

This is not a debate about General Boykin’s religious views, as his conservative defenders say, or about free speech. The question of what military rule he may have violated ”” which is what the Pentagon inquiry may seize on ””is a distraction…


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