Pentagon’s Iraq War Reports Featured Biblical Passages, Magazine Reports

U.S. Defense Department reports on the Iraq war sent to the White House in 2003 were frequently graced with biblical quotations, a magazine reported in May.

GQ magazine reported that the daily briefings, called “Worldwide Intelligence Update,” had covers that included photographs of soldiers praying or in action in Iraq. These photos were accompanied by Bible verses.

One cover sheet showed a photo of a large Baghdad monument of two crossed swords, with a tank beneath it. The quote above the image, from Isaiah 26:2, is: “Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith.”

Another cover depicted images of soldiers fighting with the quote from Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

GQ compiled a slideshow of select cover sheets for its Web site. The magazine reported that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld often delivered reports to the White House by hand.

This “mixing of Crusades-like messaging with war imagery…had become routine,” the GQ article said.

It’s unclear why the covers were used or if Rumsfeld personally approved them. Although Rumsfeld was known for his acerbic temper during his tenure as Defense Secretary, he has never been viewed as overly pious.

There was some speculation that Rumsfeld may have used the Bible quotations to get the attention of President George W. Bush, an evangelical Christian who frequently employed religious rhetoric in his speeches. But Lawrence Di Rita, a Pentagon spokesman during Rumsfeld’s tenure, told The New York Times that was unlikely.

“The suggestion that Rumsfeld would have used these reports to somehow curry favor over at the White House is pretty laughable,” Di Rita said. “He bristled any time people put quotes or something extraneous on the reports he wanted to read.”

GQ reported that the covers were the work of a general at the Pentagon. The reports were considered top secret, and the magazine asserted that some Pentagon officials were worried that if they became public, it would feed the notion that the war in Iraq was a type of religious crusade against Islam.