Onward, Christian Soldiers

Does finding out that a top military intelligence official was sending Donald Rumsfeld briefings emblazoned with religious crusader talk about the invasion of Iraq, like “open the gates so that the righteous may enter” fit “the left’s narrative that the Iraq war must have been conceived with an ulterior motive — war for oil, war for Israel, war because Bush heard God’s voice in his head”?

uh, yeah.

Robert Draper of GQ has a searing profile of ex-Sec Def Rumsfeld and how he botched the 2003 war of choice against Iraq. It includes a description of Gen. Glen Shaffer’s daily briefings to Rumsfeld:

on the morning of Thursday, April 10, 2003, Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon prepared a top-secret briefing for George W. Bush. This document, known as the Worldwide Intelligence Update, was a daily digest of critical military intelligence so classified that it circulated among only a handful of Pentagon leaders and the president; Rumsfeld himself often delivered it, by hand, to the White House. The briefing’s cover sheet generally featured triumphant, color images from the previous days’ war efforts: On this particular morning, it showed the statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down in Firdos Square, a grateful Iraqi child kissing an American soldier, and jubilant crowds thronging the streets of newly liberated Baghdad. And above these images, and just below the headline secretary of defense, was a quote that may have raised some eyebrows. It came from the Bible, from the book of Psalms: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him…To deliver their soul from death.”

This mixing of Crusades-like messaging with war imagery, which until now has not been revealed, had become routine. On March 31, a U.S. tank roared through the desert beneath a quote 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.” On April 7, Saddam Hussein struck a dictatorial pose, under this passage from the First Epistle of Peter: “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”(snip)

These cover sheets were the brainchild of Major General Glen Shaffer, a director for intelligence serving both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense. In the days before the Iraq war, Shaffer’s staff had created humorous covers in an attempt to alleviate the stress of preparing for battle. Then, as the body counting began, Shaffer, a Christian, deemed the biblical passages more suitable. Several others in the Pentagon disagreed. At least one Muslim analyst in the building had been greatly offended; 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.”

But the Pentagon’s top officials were apparently unconcerned about the effect such a disclosure might have on the conduct of the war or on Bush’s public standing. When colleagues complained to Shaffer that including a religious message with an intelligence briefing seemed inappropriate, Shaffer politely informed them that the practice would continue, because “my seniors”—JCS chairman Richard Myers, Rumsfeld, and the commander in chief himself—appreciated the cover pages…

No matter how you parse it — this is creepy. On one level it calls into question judgment. Why spend millions of dollars on cultural and religious sensitivity training and anthropologists to game out the war, if you are going to spit in everyone’s eye anyway? But even darker, it calls into question, again, the motivation behind the invasion and subsequent occupation of  Mesopotamia.

And yes, Hot Air, it does call into question the very sanity of the operation. Bloggers there would prefer we pretend it was all about indulging the chief :  “Proof that Don Rumsfeld was actually a closet crusader?” quips Allahpundit. ” No, more like proof that Rumsfeld tried to speak Bush’s language in the early days of the war to give him strength as the first casualties were taken.”

We all have our crosses to bear.

UPDATE: Former aide to Rumsfeld said his boss disputes he “appreciated” religiously tinged briefing papers

Glen Shaffer

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