Page last updated at 21:50 GMT, Monday, 18 May 2009 22:50 UK

Rumsfeld 'Bible texts' criticised

Donald Rumsfeld
Mr Rumsfeld has been accused of taking risks with national security.

Former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been accused of using quotes from the Bible in his briefings to George W Bush during the Iraq War.

The quotes were placed on the cover of the briefings alongside images of US soldiers, GQ magazine has reported.

President Bush was criticised for using the word "crusade" to describe the US "war on terror".

Critics said he risked giving Muslims the impression that the war was a clash between Christianity and Islam.

Defence 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".

One Muslim member of staff was offended by the quotations, GQ reveals.

Soldiers at prayer

But other former officials doubt that Mr Bush saw the briefings very regularly, and say that Mr Rumsfeld was unlikely to have "tolerated" having the quotes on the briefings for very long, the New York Times reports.

The decision to put the biblical quotations on the cover pages was taken by Maj Gen Glen Shaffer, a director for intelligence serving both Mr Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to GQ.

The use of the quotations has been criticised by some US commentators.

"If these official daily collages of Crusade-like messaging and war imagery had been leaked, they would have reinforced the Muslim world's apocalyptic fear that America was waging a religious war," wrote Frank Rich in the New York Times.

Mr Rumsfeld was "taking a risk with national security," he added.

One cover page featured pictures of US soldiers at prayer and US tanks in Iraq, underneath a passage from the Book of Isaiah: "Their arrows are sharp, all their bows are strung; their horses' hoofs seem like flint, their chariot wheels are like a whirlwind."

Another briefing showed a picture of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein beneath 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."


I wonder what's worse: a defense secretary who puts Old Testament quotes on progress updates on an invasion of a Muslim country or a defense secretary who thinks this will add to his president's knowledge and expertise.

The Atlantic Monthly's Andrew Sullivan questions Mr Rumsfeld's wisdom and judgement.

Proof that Don Rumsfeld was actually a closet crusader? 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.

"Allahpundit", writing at, takes a more sympathetic view of the former Defence Secretary.

Who could possibly think that something like this could make people think that we were on a crusade against Islam?

"Hilzoy", of Obsidian Wings, thinks the Bible quotations could have inflamed Islamic opinion.

He was cynically playing the religious angle to seduce and manipulate a president who frequently quoted the Bible. But the secretary's actions were not just oily; he was also taking a risk with national security. If these official daily collages of Crusade-like messaging and war imagery had been leaked, they would have reinforced the Muslim world's apocalyptic fear that America was waging a religious war.

New York Times columnist Frank Rich does not mince his words in his assessment of the Defence Secretary.

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