WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A retired general who portrayed the U.S. fight against Muslim radicals as a battle with Satan has withdrawn from speaking to the West Point military academy after a veterans’ advocacy group objected, the military academy said on Monday.
Retired three-star general William Boykin was invited to speak at a February 8 West Point prayer breakfast.
“William Boykin has decided to withdraw speaking,” the military academy said in a statement, adding that another featured speaker would be invited.
VoteVets, which describes itself as the biggest U.S. progressive veterans’ organization, objected to the invitation, saying his views endangered U.S. troops.
U.S. Army doctrine “instructs Army leaders to respect the Muslim culture as a part of counterinsurgency operations,” VoteVets said in a letter to West Point Superintendent Lieutenant General David Huntoon.
Boykin’s past remarks “threaten our relationship with Muslims around the world, and thereby, our troops serving in harm’s way,” said VoteVets, which represents veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Boykin, then a Pentagon intelligence officer, touched off a firestorm in October 2003 after giving speeches while in uniform in which he referred to the so-called war on terrorism as a battle with Satan.
He also said the United States had been targeted “because we’re a Christian nation.”
Boykin said later he was not against Islam or any other religion. An Army investigation found Boykin violated Pentagon rules by failing to clear speeches and that he should be punished.
VoteVets was founded in 2006 and has more than 100,000 supporters, according to its website.
It opposed the 2007 “surge” of troops in Iraq and has spent about $35 million on veterans’ advocacy and through its political action committee, Chairman Jon Soltz said.
Most of the political candidates it has supported have been Democratic. The five shown on its website as “Our Candidates” are all Democrats.
Writing by Greg McCune; Additional Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Paul Thomasch