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Pentagon deleted part of official's apology

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A U.S. lieutenant general who framed the war on terror as a religious crusade is taking some heat from critics. CNN's Barbara Starr reports. (October 16)
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War Against Terror

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An apology from Lt. Gen. William Boykin for casting the war on terrorism in terms that offended some Muslims originally included a promise that he would no longer speak at religious events, CNN has learned.

But that language was deleted on the advice of Pentagon attorneys and the press office, a Pentagon spokesman said.

Other statements also were withdrawn by the Pentagon, a spokesman said, included Boykin's belief that God put President Bush in the White House.

It's not clear why the changes were made.

As deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Boykin is involved in analyzing intelligence needed for the war on terrorism.

A former head of U.S. Army Special Forces who is involved in the search for Osama bin Laden, he said in a June speech to a Christian prayer group that radical Muslims hate the United States "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and roots are Judeo-Christian and the enemy is a guy named Satan."

He also said that when dealing with a Somali warlord, "I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol."

Boykin's apology was issued Friday, but the Council on American Islamic Relations said his continued involvement in the war on terror sent a negative message to Muslims.

"This apology should be appreciated, but the question is do we want a person with extremist views ... in this position in the war on terror," said Nihad Awad, the group's executive director. "If he continues to be there it sends a very negative message to the Muslim world."

Boykin had told Pentagon officials he would stop making controversial speeches about his personal religious beliefs. The original language in his written statement read "the sensitivities of my job today dictate that further church speeches are inappropriate."

That portion of the statement was taken out in the final version distributed by the Pentagon press office.

Among the other excluded language:

• "I believe that God intervenes in the affairs of men, to include nations, as Benjamin Franklin so eloquently stated. Yes I believe that George Bush was placed in the White House by God as well as Bill Clinton and other presidents."

• "As a Christian I believe that there is a spiritual war that is continuous as articulated in the Bible. It is not confined to the war of terrorism."

• "The evidence that this nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles is undeniable. We are a nation of many cultures and religions but the evidence of our foundation is historic."

The published statement by Boykin was stronger on this last point: "My references to Judeo-Christian roots in America or our nation as a Christian nation are historically undeniable."

Pentagon officials also had said that the news media took Boykin's statements out of context, but the final statement did not address that issue.

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