By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press WriterMon Apr 3, 7:23 PM ET
A Senate Republican wants an Army general who drew criticism for church speeches casting the war on terrorism in religious terms to lead the U.S. special operations command.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Sen. George Allen (news, bio, voting record), R-Va., recommended Lt. Gen. William G. (Jerry) Boykin, currently the Pentagon’s deputy undersecretary for intelligence, for the post in Tampa, Fla.
The current commander, Gen. Doug Brown, is retiring, and the Pentagon has not filled the job.
“I am told, and I believe it to be true, that no special operations officer currently on active duty is more highly respected or admired by his superiors, peers or subordinates alike, than Jerry Boykin,” Allen wrote in the letter dated March 31 and obtained by The Associated Press.
Allen, a first-term Virginia senator and potential 2008 presidential candidate, does not serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is in charge of approving Pentagon nominations. A spokesman for the senator said Boykin is one of Allen’s constituents and that many people approached the senator and recommended the general.
Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record), the Republican chairman of that committee and Virginia’s senior senator, does not agree with Allen’s suggestion.
“Senator Allen is entitled to his views. He did not consult with me on this matter, but this officer would not be among those whom I would recommend for this position,” Warner said in a statement to the AP.
In 2003, Boykin gave speeches at evangelical Christian churches in which he painted the war on terror as a Christian fight against Satan and suggested that Muslims worship idols. Boykin later apologized for his characterizations as conservatives rushed to defend him.
A Pentagon investigation the following year found that Boykin violated regulations by failing to make clear he was not speaking in an official capacity when he made the speeches, sometimes wearing his Army uniform. The probe also found Boykin violated Pentagon rules by failing to obtain advance clearance for his remarks.
In the letter, Allen said his confidence in Boykin’s abilities overrides any concerns about what may surface during confirmation hearings should the administration nominate Boykin. Specifically, Allen mentioned the religious statements as well as U.S. interrogation policies at the Guantanamo Bay prison, Abu Ghraib in Iraq and elsewhere.
“Granted, these are issues which cause discomfort. But I firmly believe the nomination of General Boykin to be important enough to take a stand,” Allen wrote.
The senator said his request to nominate Boykin is supported by “many of my colleagues here in the Senate” and those who have served with Boykin, given the general’s extensive special operations resume, which includes the Army’s Delta Force and service in the Somalia conflict.
Source: AP via Yahoo! News