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Rumsfeld’s Biblified Briefings

Last week, GQ magazine reported that the top secret intelligence briefings that were sent to President Bush by the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003 were often adorned with inspirational Bible verses and images meant to influence the president, who is a self-described Christian and often liked the conflict in Iraq to a modern day “crusade.”

A few examples of these briefings:

March 17, 2003. A picture of two American soldiers topped with the verse Isaiah 6:8, which says, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Here I am, Lord, send me!”46983181

April 7, 2003. A picture of Saddam Hussein topped with the verse 1 Peter 2:15, which says, “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”

April 8, 2003. A picture of American tanks driving underneath two large crossed swords topped with the verse Isaiah 26:2, which says, “Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, The nation that keeps faith.”

Bush was completely open about the impact of his Christian faith on the decisions in his presidency, and Rumsfeld was a grossly incompetent defense secretary, so I can’t say I was surprised when I heard about this.

Yet I don’t know which part of me is more outraged: the Christian or the American.

Rumsfeld might not have personally put the verses on the briefings. Odds are, according to GQ, it was Maj. Gen. Glen Shaffer, a director for intelligence who served both Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But that point is moot; the nation’s highest military officer wielded strong religious rhetoric in order to push a country into war. I don’t know what could be more irresponsible.

“Defense department staff were privately worried,” GQ reports, “that if the briefings with biblical quotes on them had ever been made public, the fallout would have been ‘as bad as [the revelations of prisoner abuse at] Abu Ghraib.’” Time will tell if the public takes as much umbrage at these revelations as it did with the Abu Ghraib scandal. My guess is that it won’t, because the majority of religious Americans identify themselves as Christians.

Yet why does this anger me so? Perhaps because Rumsfeld, a nonreligious man, cynically used Christian scripture to manipulate a man who had seemingly already made up his mind to invade Iraq and “stay the course.” Hey Rummy, ever heard about those silly little medieval crusades the European Christian church undertook against the Muslims? Yeah, they don’t look so hot in the history books.

The release of these documents came at an inopportune time for Dick Cheney, the former vice president, who was out on a media blitz trying to defend his legacy. But it’s not like the current opinion of the Bush administration could get any more tarnished than it is. That’s why I don’t think this will be as big a scandal as the others. The public—myself and the current president included—has tried to move on from Bush and Rumsfeld and the Holy War.

These documents are but another stack in the “That Figures” box.

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History Life Politics Presidents

Forty-One

I’m watching the video tribute to George H. W. Bush at the Republican National Convention. It reminded me how great a person and American he is. World War II fighter pilot, Congressman, Ambassador to the U.N., envoy to China, Director of the CIA, Vice-President, and finally, President — there are few public servants with such a record.

Seeing him at the ripe age of 84, he reminded me of my grandpa Cliff, both by his appearance and by his resume. Grandpa Cliff served as a lieutenant in Patton’s Third Army, trudging through the Battle of the Bulge, then through decades of service in the FBI. Both men are decorated members of the Greatest Generation.

I watched the Bush Sr. episode of American Experience a while back and it explained that regardless of some of Bush Sr.’s decisions in office, he held true to his own code of honor and dignity. That code guided him through some tough times and hard decisions. Even when the decisions were unpopular. Perhaps we’ll be thinking the same things about 41’s son Dubya one day. Or not.