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.



    Recent Stories

    • Analysis

    Will the real Gene Sharp please step forward?

    July 16, 2019

    Recent criticisms calling the founder of nonviolent theory a Cold Warrior are way off the mark. To rightly evaluate him, we need to understand the role he chose for himself.

    • Feature

    Professors and students unite to oppose cuts to Lebanon’s only public university

    July 12, 2019

    A six-week strike by teachers has bolstered a movement against proposed austerity measures targeting Lebanon’s dangerously underfunded education system.

    • Column

    How movements can use drama to seize the public imagination

    July 9, 2019

    Drama helps movements draw attention to their issues, but it won’t come without creativity and direct action tactics that reach beyond the choir.