NPR logo Donald Rumsfeld's Bible Verses


Donald Rumsfeld's Bible Verses

Defense Dept. briefing cover sheet during Rumsfeld era. hide caption

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It was widely known that many members of the Bush Administration wore religion on their sleeves. But it was likely news to many that they actually stamped religion onto official Pentagon documents.

Author Robert Draper has a piece in GQ Magazine in which he reports that under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, classified intelligence briefings for President George Bush contained cover sheets with color photographs from the war front over which were superimposed Biblical passages.

Draper, who wrote the entertaining "Dead Certain", a peek inside the Bush White House written with Bush's approval, says Rumsfeld allowed the cover sheets in order to curry favor with the born-again president. He also reports that the use of Old and New Testament verses was somewhat controversial within the Pentagon.

Draper describes one cover sheet and the questions the briefings raised in the Pentagon:

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..."

... 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."

Given how Rumsfeld's tenure eventually played out, he might have wanted to keep another Bible verse in mind — Proverbs 16:18:

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.