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The Defense Department gospel

armorofgodDonald Rumsfeld took the Lord’s name in vain. Today at Religion Dispatches, I discuss the documents released by GQ this weekend, cover sheets for 2003 intelligence briefings that Rumsfeld delivered to President Bush. On them, Biblical passages sit suggestively alongside scenes of desert warfare.

With only the most cursory bit of investigation, I was able to show that in their original context, many of the passages mean exactly the opposite of what the documents used them to mean—they in fact undermine the wisdom of military might, rather than secure it. I then go on to explore the eerie resemblance between these cover sheets and the propaganda used by Islamist militants.

These pieces of official iconography—at once digital folk art and presidential artifacts—lay bare that as early as 2003 the self-image of American warmakers at the highest levels had become hardly distinguishable from the enemy’s most populist propaganda. Terrorist creations collected by West Point’s Islamic Imagery Project differ only in that they were broadcasted rather than classified.

Most of the coverage of these documents in the media has dealt with their political significance—they are a sign of Rumsfeld’s manipulation and irresponsibility. But I try to take them for their religious meaning. Believers who take these scriptures seriously should be outraged at their flagrant misuse at the highest level of American power.