President George W. Bush was a god-fearing child given control of our military apparatus…or perhaps he was a child manipulated by a military that found religion a convenient hook. Frank Rich describes the internal propaganda used during the war. What I find shocking is that Bush received regular intelligence briefings with covers that invoked a combination of G.I. Joe war imagery and militaristic bible verses.
Take the one dated April 3, 2003, two weeks into the invasion, just as Shock and Awe hit its first potholes. Two days earlier, on April 1, a panicky Pentagon had begun spreading its hyped, fictional account of the rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch to distract from troubling news of setbacks. On April 2, Gen. Joseph Hoar, the commander in chief of the United States Central Command from 1991-94, had declared on the Times Op-Ed page that Rumsfeld had sent too few troops to Iraq. And so the Worldwide Intelligence Update for April 3 bullied Bush with 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.” (Including, as it happened, into a quagmire.)
What’s up with that? As Draper writes, Rumsfeld is not known for ostentatious displays of piety. 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. As one alarmed Pentagon hand told Draper, the fallout “would be as bad as Abu Ghraib.”
Well, now they’ve leaked. Here’s an example.
It’s appalling on so many levels: that Rumsfeld thought that polishing up his report with the jingoistic equivalent of a clear plastic binder would win him points; that it apparently worked; that religion was used to promote war in the White House; that it was used despite the fact that it could worsen our chances of success. And we still have Dick Cheney doing a cheerful media tour encouraging us to support torture, which really wasn’t torture, but if it was, it was good for us.
We lived under the rule of monsters for eight years. We can’t just pretend it didn’t happen, we need to fight back in the courts to condemn these people and their actions.