A Defense Department spokesman says
there are no plans to ask a senior military intelligence official to step aside
over his controversial comments casting the war on terrorism in religious terms.
Spokesman Larry DiRita suggests that by publicly apologizing, by promising
not to speak to religious groups again, and by calling for an internal investigation,
Army Lieutenant General William Boykin has done enough.
Mr. DiRita does not defend the senior intelligence official's comments that
Muslims worship an idol or that Islamic radicals hate the United States because
it is a Christian nation.
But he praised General Boykin's distinguished military career and told reporters
at the Pentagon there are no plans to ask him to leave his post.
"I am not here to defend his statements," said Mr. DiRita. "What I am here
to do is to say he took these actions, including asking to be investigated,
which we are going to do and that is going to take a certain amount of time,
and when you weigh the preponderance of all those things, nobody is thinking
about asking him to step aside."
The general's comments to religious groups appeared to contrast sharply with
the Bush administration's efforts to avoid casting the war on terrorism as
a clash between religions. Some members of Congress as well as some Muslim
groups have criticized the general and called for his reassignment.
Speaking to reporters during his tour of Asia, President George Bush has
also repudiated General Boykin's comments. He said he told Muslim leaders in
Indonesia the general did not reflect his opinions or the thoughts of the U.S.