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Pentagon to Investigate General's Remarks on Islam - 2003-10-21

The Pentagon will launch an internal investigation into controversial comments by a top military intelligence official that cast the war on terrorism in religious terms.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says Army Lieutenant General William Boykin asked for the investigation following criticism from some Muslim groups and political figures.

Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon he believes an investigation is appropriate. But he declines to say whether he believes the general did anything wrong in telling church groups that Muslims worship an idol, not a real god, and that radical Muslims hate the United States because it is a Christian nation.

However, another top Pentagon official, General Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, says he has met with General Boykin who now wishes he had shown more care in his remarks.

"There's no doubt in my mind in talking to him that if he could pick his words more carefully, he would," he said. "There's also no doubt in my mind that he does not see this battle [against terrorism] as a battle between religions. He sees it as a battle between good and evil. He sees it as the evil being the acts of individuals, not the acts of any religion or affiliation with religion."

Last Friday, General Boykin issued a written apology but denied he was a religious zealot and suggested his comments had been misunderstood.

The statement approved by defense officials and distributed by the Pentagon included a reference to the United States being a Christian nation.

When asked by a reporter Tuesday if that showed good judgment on the part of the Defense Department, Mr. Rumsfeld said only that it was the general's statement and not the Pentagon's.