WASHINGTON – Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld routinely used militaristic passages from the Bible on the cover pages of White House intelligence documents, according to startling new revelations by GQ.
The magazine said he displayed the passages over photographs of US forces in Iraq to curry favor with then president George W. Bush, despite concerns about the incendiary impact on Islamic opinion if they were ever made public.
One of the images was from March 31, 2003, showing a US tank roaring through the desert about 10 days after the United States invaded Iraq to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Over the image was printed a verse from Ephesians: "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."
The report by Robert Draper, who wrote a well-received book about Bush called "Dead Certain," also detailed the frustration and occasional fury of former officials who said Rumsfeld constantly undermined the president's goals.
Draper said: "Rumsfeld impaired administration performance on a host of matters extending well beyond Iraq to impact America's relations with other nations, the safety of our troops, and the response to Hurricane Katrina."
The bellicose passages of Scripture appeared on the front page of top-secret intelligence summaries prepared by the Pentagon for Bush, a born-again evangelical Christian, Draper reported.
The briefing documents were so sensitive that they were often hand-delivered by Rumsfeld to the White House, he said.
GQ published a slide-show of the images at http://men.style.com/gq/features/topsecret.
One showed US troops trudging through the desert under a passage from Isaiah: "Their arrows are sharp, all their bows are strung; their horses' hoofs seem like flint, their chariot wheels are like a whirlwind."
Another showed Saddam delivering a speech to camera with these words from the First Epistle of Peter: "It is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men."
Draper noted that unlike Bush, Rumsfeld did not wear his faith on his sleeve. And he said the use of the biblical passages was the brainchild of a director for intelligence working under the Pentagon chief.
"Still, the sheer cunning of pairing unsentimental intelligence with religious righteousness bore the signature of one man: Donald Rumsfeld," Draper's report said.
"At least one Muslim analyst in the (Pentagon) building had been greatly offended," it said.
"Others privately worried that if these covers were leaked during a war conducted in an Islamic nation, the fallout -- as one Pentagon staffer would later say -- 'would be as bad as Abu Ghraib'."
Bush himself discovered the perils of using Christian terminology when, five days after the September 11 attacks of 2001, he angered many in the Muslim world by describing his "war on terror" as a "crusade."
Some former officials cited by the New York Times played down the GQ report, expressing doubt that Bush regularly saw the Rumsfeld documents, which they said were less important than the president's daily intelligence briefing.
After months of criticism including an open revolt by several retired generals, Rumsfeld stepped down in November 2006, the day after the Republicans suffered a crushing defeat to the Democrats in congressional elections.
During one of his rare public appearances since then, Rumsfeld was denounced as a "war criminal" by two protestors at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner on May 9.
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