GQ: Secret 2003 Iraq intel reports began with Bible quotes

That’s just the sexiest detail in a devastating profile of Rumsfeld assembled by Robert Draper, but since it fits 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 — it’s the detail the media will focus on. You can view a slideshow of the reports here. 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.

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…

The Scripture-adorned cover sheets illustrate one specific complaint I heard again and again: that Rumsfeld’s tactics—such as playing a religious angle with the president—often ran counter to sound decision-making and could, occasionally, compromise the administration’s best interests. In the case of the sheets, publicly flaunting his own religious views was not at all the SecDef’s style—“Rumsfeld was old-fashioned that way,” Shaffer acknowledged when I contacted him about the briefings—but it was decidedly Bush’s style, and Rumsfeld likely saw the Scriptures as a way of making a personal connection with a president who frequently quoted the Bible. No matter that, if leaked, the images would reinforce impressions that the administration was embarking on a religious war and could escalate tensions with the Muslim world. The sheets were not Rumsfeld’s direct invention—and he could thus distance himself from them, should that prove necessary.

Still, the sheer cunning of pairing unsentimental intelligence with religious righteousness bore the signature of one man: Donald Rumsfeld. And as historians slog through the smoke and mirrors of his tenure, they may find that Rumsfeld’s most enduring legacy will be the damage he did to Bush’s.

That’s the jumping-off point for a long, gossipy, engrossing analysis of how Rumsfeld (almost) ruined everything, from Iraq to U.S./Russia relations to even the feds’ Katrina response. So damning is it that it’s almost self-discrediting: He simply couldn’t have been that bad for that long and stayed on the job, Bush’s famous reputation for loyalty notwithstanding, so we’re left to puzzle out how much of the dish is simple scapegoating by other anonymous Bush officials eager to push blame onto the media’s favorite whipping boy. Draper’s not some nutroots hack, though, having written a book about Bush’s administration for which Dubya himself agreed to be interviewed several times. Either way, believe me when I tell you you’ll want to read the whole thing. As for the intel reports, the intent seems innocuous enough but it’s bizarre to me that they’d have gone ahead with religious messages on war documents — secret war documents no less, buttressing the “ulterior motive” meme — knowing what a PR disaster it would have been had these leaked at the time. In a way, it reminds me of Rush saying he wants Obama to fail: The motive may be noble, but surely there’s a less self-destructive way to make the point.