US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has declined to criticise a senior US general who has said the United States is fighting Satan and that Muslims worship an "idol" and not "a real God".
Army Lt Gen William Boykin, deputy undersecretary of defence for intelligence and war-fighting support, portrayed the US battle with Islamic radicals as a fight with "Satan," saying they sought to destroy America "because we're a Christiannation".
NBC News broadcast videotapes of Lt Gen Boykin, an evangelical Christian, giving a number of speeches while wearing his military uniform at Christian functions around the country.
In one speech, he recalled a Muslim fighter in Somalia who said US forces would never get him because Allah would give him protection. "Well, you know what I knew, that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol," Boykin told his audience.
At a Pentagon briefing, Mr Rumsfeld declined to answer when asked whether it was appropriate or advisable for a high-ranking Pentagon official to make such remarks in public, and did not say whether he would investigate.
"There are a lot of things that are said by people in the military, or civilian life, or in the Congress, or in the executive branch, that are their views. And that's the way we live. We're a free people," Mr Rumsfeld said.
In another speech, Lt Gen Boykin said God selected George W. Bush as president. "Why is this man [Bush] in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this."