Veterans Call on Odierno to Cancel West Point Speech By Boykin Over Anti-Muslim Statements
PUBLISHED: January 30, 2012
Muslim-American Iraq War Veteran Also Speaks out
Group starts email campaign for its over 100,000 members to also email Odierno
West Point, NY - Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan of VoteVets.org are today writing to Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, and moving the group's 100,000 supporters to do the same, to urge him to cancel a planned speech by retired Lt. Gen. William Boykin at a prayer breakfast at the Military Academy at West Point, on Feb. 8. Last week, the veterans wrote to the Superintendent of the Academy urging the same thing, but the school indicated that the speech would go on as planned.
Boykin has a long history of making inflammatory remarks about Islam and Muslims, which go against Army values, counter-insurgency strategy, and disrespect the service of the thousands of Muslim-Americans who have served in uniform.
"We write to you regarding LTG Boykin after the Superintendent at West Point, LTG Huntoon, stated that the invitation to LTG Boykin will not be reconsidered. As men who are proud to have worn the uniform of this great country, we find that unconscionable," wrote Jon Soltz, Iraq War Veteran, and Richard Allen Smith, Afghanistan War Veteran, who are the Chairman and Vice Chairman of VoteVets.org, respectively.
"LTG Boykin's values are inconsistent even with current Army doctrine that is taught at the Joint Readiness Training Center, National Training Center and the Combined Arms Center which instructs Army leaders to respect the Muslim culture as a part of counterinsurgency operations. It is counterproductive for our future Army leaders to hear the views of LTG Boykin, a man whose views are inconsistent with the values of the Army as an institution," they conclude.
The full text of the letter is below.
Additionally, a Muslim American Iraq War Veteran wrote to the 100,000-plus members of VoteVets.org, expressing his dismay that West Point would invite Boykin to speak, and directed supporters to a web page where they can also email Gen. Odierno.
Shahriar A. Chowdhury, who served in Iraq with the Army from 2003-2004, wrote, "As a Muslim-American who served in Iraq as a Platoon Leader, I find it reprehensible that West Point would invite Lt. Gen. Boykin to speak to Cadets at a Prayer Breakfast when he openly calls for a ban on mosques in America, which are protected under the Constitution, and a host of other disturbing comments about Muslims. While I am typing this, I have a cousin who is on Active Duty in the Marines and is proud of his service. What does this say to him? What does this say to the thousands of Muslim-Americans who are serving in the United States military right now?"
VoteVets.org indicated that should General Odierno not reverse the decision to have Boykin speak, they will go further up the chain of command, and make a final appeal to President Obama, before the planned Feb. 8 prayer breakfast.
Founded in 2006, and backed by over 100,000 members, the mission of VoteVets.org is to use public issue campaigns and direct outreach to lawmakers to ensure that troops abroad have what they need to complete their missions, and receive the care they deserve when they get home. VoteVets.org also recognizes veterans as a vital part of the fabric of our country and will work to protect veterans' interests in their day-to-day lives. VoteVets.org is committed to the destruction of terror networks around the world - with force when necessary - to protect America. While non-partisan, the group is the largest progressive organization of veterans in America.
January 26, 2012
General Raymond T. Odierno
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1400
Dear General Odierno
General David Petraeus (Ret.) has been a vocal advocate of the need for our society, and especially our armed forces, to build and maintain bridges of trust into the Muslim community in America and abroad. When an extremist in Florida sought to burn a Koran in a media stunt, General Petraeus accurately stated that the act "would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan- and around the world- to inflame public opinion and incite violence" and that "Such images could, in fact... put our troopers and civilians in jeopardy and undermine our efforts". The same could be said regarding Lieutenant General William Boykin (Ret.)
It has come to the attention of our organization that LTG Boykin has been invited to speak at the United States Military Academy prayer breakfast on February 8, 2012. We write to you regarding LTG Boykin after the Superintendent at West Point, LTG Huntoon, stated that the invitation to LTG Boykin will not be reconsidered. As men who are proud to have worn the uniform of this great country, we find that unconscionable. You may not be aware of Lieutenant General Boykin's history of extremist and hateful comments towards Islam. LTG Boykin has repeatedly characterized our war against al- Qaeda and other extremist groups, a war that we are both Veterans of, as a religious war pitting Christianity against Islam. Boykin claims to have captured terrorists in Somalia solely because the god of Muslims is "an idol". The Pentagon Office of the Inspector General later found that LTG Boykin's remarks were improper for a military officer. LTG Boykin, since his retirement, has also stated that "there is no greater threat to America than Islam" and that there should be "no mosques in America." LTG Boykin also co-authored a study from the Center for Security Policy that claimed that"most mosques in the United States already have been radicalized, that most Muslim social organizations are fronts for violent jihadists".
These remarks are incompatible with the Army values, and a person who is incompatible with Army values should not address the cadets of the United States Military Academy. As has been articulated by GEN Petraeus, these remarks threaten our relationships with Muslims around the world, and thereby, our troops serving in harms way. LTG Boykin's values are inconsistent even with current Army doctrine that is taught at the Joint Readiness Training Center, National Training Center and the Combined Arms Center which instructs Army leaders to respect the Muslim culture as a part of counterinsurgency operations. It is counterproductive for our future Army leaders to hear the views of LTG Boykin, a man whose views are inconsistent with the values of the Army as an institution.
Not to mention, many Muslim Americans have fought and died in the uniform of the American Soldier in post-9/11 combat, as well as in previous eras. To allow LTG Boykin to address the corps of cadets would be disrespectful to the Muslim cadets currently enrolled at West Point. It would be a slap to the face to Muslim Americans who have served their country, not to mention those who gave the fullest sacrifice for their nation and their comrades.
Sir, as Veterans, we have the utmost faith in your leadership. As Veterans of these wars and men who have served in combat alongside Muslim Americans, we respectfully request that you retract LTG Boykin's invite to the USMA Prayer Breakfast. The presence of LTG Boykin at West Point would violate Army Values, as well as potentially be used as propaganda by the enemy and endanger our troops in combat.
Jon Soltz Richard Allen Smith
Iraq War Veteran Afghanistan War Veteran
Chairman, VoteVets.org Vice Chairman, VoteVets.org