"Hatred stirreth up strife."
The Holy Bible, Proverbs
They had a certain symmetry. Each preached hatred and neither was denounced as promptly as some might have thought appropriate.
Mahathir Mohamad gave a speech to the Organization of the Islamic Conference on October 16 in which he made an astonishing declaration. He said, among other things, that Jews seek to run the world. He said: "The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them." Mr. Mohamad’s speech struck a resonant chord with many in his audience. Yemen’s foreign minister said he agreed with Mr. Mohamad. He said that: "Israelis and Jews control most of the economy and the media in the world." The Egyptian foreign minister was no less flattering. He said the speech was "a very, very wise assessment." George Bush’s close friend and ally, Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, described the speech as "very correct."
Mr. Bush criticized the speech four days after it was delivered. That was longer than it took other leaders to respond. At first blush one might attribute that to insensitivity. That is probably not fair to Mr. Bush. It is probably because he had not heard about the speech because no one had bothered to tell him about it. Unlike many of his predecessors who could and did read newspapers and watch television news, Mr. Bush eschews all those activities. In an interview with Brit Hume on Fox News on October 17, he explained that he gets the news from neither television nor newspapers. He explained that: "The best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what’s happening in the world."
Leaders of other countries who can read and do and are, therefore, not dependent on others to tell them what is happening in their world, were quicker to respond. On October 17, Prime Minister John Howard of Australia called the remarks repugnant and said "any invocation of rivalry between Jews and Muslims is very unhelpful." Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the speech "ran counter to the principles of tolerance and dialogue between the West and the Muslim world." Mr. Frattini probably hadn’t heard about Jerry Boykin. Jerry is a General in the United States Army and is to the Muslims what Mr. Mohamad is to the Jews. He is also the deputy undersecretary of defense of intelligence in charge of a new Pentagon office that focuses on finding people like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. He’s had no success.
General Boykin is a Christian. He is a Christian who hates Muslims, just as Mr. Mohamad is a Muslim who hates Jews. He is a Christian with great belief in the power of the Lord. Speaking of why George Bush is president he said: "Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he’s in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this." This was the first official proclamation attributing Mr. Bush’s election to divine intervention (and if true could cause some people to abandon their faith).
In his speeches General Boykin says that Islamic extremists hate the United States and then proceeds to give them reason to do so. He says that Christians worship "a real God" and others revere"an idol." He has described the war in which Mr. Bush is now engaged as a battle against Satan.
Attending a National Prayer Breakfast, General Boykin described "a demonic presence in [Mogadishu] that God revealed to me as the enemy." Speaking of Somali warlord Osman Ato he said: "He went on CNN and he laughed at us, and he said, ‘They’ll never get me because Allah will protect me. Allah will protect me.’ Well, you know what, I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." Three days after Mr. Ato’s television appearance (a coincidence and not an interval having religious significance) Mr. Ato was captured. General Boykin went into Mr. Ato’s cell and said: "Mr. Ato, you underestimated our God."
When NBC news broadcast videotapes of the general giving his religiously inspired hate-filled speeches, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld responded. He didn’t criticize the general. Instead he said: "We do know that he is an officer that has an outstanding record in the United States Armed Forces." General Boykin is in charge of finding terrorists. Mr. Rumsfeld didn’t mention that he’s failed to find either Mr. bin Laden or Mr. Hussein. The General may be awaiting divine intervention.
The General has the right to say whatever he will. Mr. Mohamad has the right to say whatever he will. Neither contributes to world peace. In a letter dated October 17, Senators John Warner and Carl Levin said inflammatory statements by a senior military officer "may easily be exploited by enemies of the United States and contribute to an erosion of support within the Arab world." They got that right. Messrs. Mohamad and Boynton got it wrong. They do, however, help us understand why people hate people.