The Leaven of Herod

Donald Rumsfeld covered Iraq briefing papers with Biblical texts

Donald Rumsfeld, the former US defence secretary, provided George W Bush with top secret intelligence briefings on the Iraq war that featured cover pages adorned with Biblical quotes.

By Alex Spillius in Washington

According to a report in GQ magazine the religious texts were imposed over pictures of the US armed forces engaged in the war.

Shown to only a small circle of senior advisers, the pages were first used on the eve of the 2003 invasion and were designed to provide support and encouragement to Mr Bush, a Christian who often cited the Bible while in office.

Some Pentagon officials feared that if the documents were leaked at the height of the conflict, the use of Christian language to justify the invasion of a Muslim nation would cause a furore in the Islamic world.

One official told GQ that the damage done to America’s image would have been as bad as that caused by the release of photographs showing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.

On April 1, 2003, as US troops were heading for Iraq, and casualties were beginning to be taken, Mr Rumsfeld’s “World Intelligence Update” featured a line from Proverbs 16:3: “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed”. Beneath was a picture of a machine-gunner on the road from Baghdad to Hilla.

Two days before Saddam Hussein was toppled on April 9, 2003, the cover sheet showed a picture of the Iraqi leader and a quotation from 1 Peter 2:15: “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”

The Biblical passages were reportedly the idea of Maj Gen Glen Shaffer, a senior military intelligence official, and a Christian, who told colleagues that his “seniors” including the president, were grateful for the cover pages.

Mr Rumsfeld is not known for his piety but appears to have been currying favour with his boss, who at first called his “war on terror” a “crusade” but then backed down when the depiction caused consternation in Muslim nations.

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