Rumsfeld's holy war: How President Bush's Iraq briefings came with quotes from the Bible
2009-05-20 0:00

By Paul Thompson | MailOnline

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was sold as a fight for freedom against the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. But for former U.S. defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his elite Pentagon strategists, it was more like a religious crusade.

The daily briefings about the progress of the war that Mr Rumsfeld gave to President George W Bush were illustrated with victorious quotes from the Bible and gung-ho photographs of U.S. troops, it has emerged.

Gung ho: This image of a jet taking off, including the words of Psalm 139-9-10, was on the briefing for March 19, 2003

The news is certain to anger Muslim critics of the invasion, whose claims that a Christian superpower was trying to overthrow an Islamic nation were rebuffed at the time by the White House.

One of the top-secret 'worldwide intelligence updates', which were hand-delivered to Mr Bush by Mr Rumsfeld, includes an image of an F-18 Hornet fighter jet roaring off from the deck of an aircraft carrier. On it were the words of Psalm 139-9-10: 'If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast, O Lord.' The cover of another featured pictures of U.S. soldiers at prayer with a quote from Isaiah: 'Whom shall I send and who will go for us? Here I am Lord, Send me.'

Foolish men: Rumsfeld used biblical passages to convince Bush that America was on the right path in its invasion of Iraq

A photograph of Saddam Hussein included a quotation from the First Epistle of Peter: 'It is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.'

The religious theme for briefings prepared for the president and his war cabinet was the brainchild of Major General Glen Shaffer, a committed Christian and director for intelligence serving Mr Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In the days before the six-week invasion, Major General Shaffer's staff had created humorous covers for the briefings to alleviate the stress of preparing for battle.

But as the body count rose, he decided to introduce biblical quotes.

Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush: Religious crusade in Iraq

However, many of his Pentagon colleagues were reportedly opposed to the idea, with at least one Muslim analyst said to be greatly offended. A defence official warned that if the briefing covers were leaked, the damage to America's standing in the Arab world 'would be as bad as Abu Ghraib' - the Baghdad prison where U.S. troops abused Iraqis.

But Major General Shaffer, 61, who retired in August 2003, six months after the invasion, claimed he had the backing of the president and defence secretary. When officials complained, he told them the practice would continue because it was 'appreciated by my seniors' - Mr Rumsfeld and Mr Bush. The briefing covers were revealed for the first time by GQ after they were leaked to the U.S. magazine by a source at the Pentagon.

The biblical quotes were the branchild of Major General Glen Shaffer, a strongly religious man who was director for intelligence serving Mr Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Mr Bush, a born-again Christian, believed the invasion was a 'mission from God'.
However, the news that his war cabinet meetings had a biblical theme will only add to criticism of the war, which has claimed the lives of around 4,300 U.S. servicemen and women since March 2003.

Another of his briefings included the words 'Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed' alongside a photo of a U.S. marine with a machine gun.

And on an image of U.S. tanks rumbling through the Victory Arch monument in Baghdad was a quote from Isaiah: 'Open the gates the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps the faith.'

Pious: U.S. troops pray, captioned with text from Isaiah, on the front of this security briefing for George Bush

A photograph of U.S. tanks in Iraq used a further 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.'

Anti-war campaigners said the images and words were used by Mr Rumsfeld to curry favour with his boss by playing on Mr Bush's devout religious beliefs. The Reverend Barry Lynn, of the U.S. campaign group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said U.S. soldiers 'are not Christian crusaders, and they ought not be depicted as such'. He added: 'Depicting the Iraq conflict as some sort of holy war is completely outrageous. It's tremendously damaging to America's reputation in the world.'

The Pentagon said yesterday it did not use biblical quotes on the daily briefings for President Obama.


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