Let’s pretend that Americans United hired a former Army general for a top executive position. And let’s pretend that it came to light that this man had written a memoir containing sensitive information that compromised the security goals of the United States – a book he hadn’t bothered to first vet with the Pentagon, by the way.
How do you think the far right would be reacting? What would they be saying about Americans United?
Enough pretending. This actually happened – only it wasn’t Americans United that hired this loose-lipped general. It was the Family Research Council, the nation’s leading Religious Right political lobby.
The ex-general in question is William G. “Jerry” Boykin. He’s quite a piece of work, and his antics have graced this blog before.
(A quick Boykin sampler: He has asserted that military leaders are so disgusted with President Barack Obama that many want to “take out” the president. He says Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to build any more mosques in America. He once called America’s efforts to combat international terrorism a “holy war.”)
Boykin may have finally gone too far. The Washington Post reported recently that military officials “quietly” issued a “scathing reprimand following a criminal investigation that concluded [Boykin] had wrongfully released classified information….”
Reported the paper, “According to the Jan. 23, 2013, memorandum, the Army determined that Boykin’s 2008 book, Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom, disclosed ‘classified information concerning cover methods, counterterrorism/counter-proliferation operations, operational deployments, infiltration methods, pictures, and tactics, techniques and procedures that may compromise ongoing operations.’” (The Post got information about this through a Freedom of Information Act request.)
The reprimand was pretty severe. A memo signed by Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, who at the time was the Army’s vice chief of staff, accuses Boykin of “unprofessional behavior” that “reflects poorly on your character.”
“As a former senior leader of the United States Army, you are expected to set and exemplify the highest professional and ethical standards,” reads the reprimand. “Your decision to disregard legal advice and allow Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom to be published without seeking classification review reflects a gross lack of judgment.”
Austin’s memo further states that Boykin’s actions are “prejudicial to good order and discipline in the armed forces.”
Alas, the Army decided not to pursue criminal action against Boykin.
I know a few military people, and most of them would be pretty chastised to receive a letter like this. After all, the call to duty and the desire to serve your country are the factors that motivate many men and women to enlist. A memo like this lays it out starkly: You have let your country down. You have failed in your mission. Your nation expected better of you.
Most military people, after receiving a reprimand like this, would have the decency to feel ashamed and perhaps even try to make amends. Not Boykin. To him, the whole thing is, of course, a frame-up. He questioned the timeline and asked why it took the Army five years to sanction him.
“Any reprimand has to be taken seriously, so I don’t want to come across as flippant about it,” Boykin told The Post. He then proceeded to be flippant about it, adding, “But at this stage in my life, it really hasn’t had any impact on my life like it would have if it had happened when I was on active duty.”
Shorter Boykin: “I may have shafted my country, but I have another job now so who cares?”
This is the man, mind you, whose organization believes anyone who disagrees with its “Christian nation” mythology and its reckless campaign to mix fundamentalist religion and government like a tossed salad is practically a traitor. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Religious Right types question the patriotism of those of us on the opposite side of the church-state divide.
A few years ago when Boykin was still in the Army, Americans United made note of his stunts and wrote to Pentagon leaders, requesting that he be fired. AU pointed out that Boykin’s tendency to frame the war on terror as a holy crusade was not helpful to U.S. interests.
Military officials didn’t listen to us. That’s unfortunate. If they had, perhaps this latest embarrassment could have been avoided.