Holy War In Iraq?: Rumsfeld Intelligence Briefings Quoted Scripture

The role of religion in the U.S. military has been an ongoing problem for Americans United.

Usually, our concern stems from complaints that soldiers are being coerced to attend religious services during training or that Bibles are being distributed to U.S. soldiers on military bases.

But if reports by GQ and The New York Times are any indication, religion may be playing even more of an inappropriate role in the military than we thought. And it's disturbing, to say the least.

GQ's Web site reveals troubling information about former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's daily top-secret briefings to former President George W. Bush. These briefings, called "Worldwide Intelligence Update," were "a daily digest of critical military intelligence so classified that it circulated among only a handful of Pentagon leaders and the president," according to GQ.

During the early part of the Iraq War in 2003, the covers of the briefings included photos of soldiers praying or in action in Iraq. These photos were accompanied by Bible verses.

For example, one cover sheet showed a photo of a large Baghdad monument of two crossed swords, with a tank beneath it. The quote above the image, from Isaiah 26:2, is: "Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith."

Another slide depicts the cover of an April 2003 briefing. It shows images of soldiers fighting with the quote from 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."

GQ has compiled a slideshow of select cover sheets to these daily briefings that Rumsfeld often delivered to the White House by hand.

This "mixing of Crusades-like messaging with war imagery...had become routine," the GQ article said.

It's a routine that would make anyone ask if the Bush administration saw the war in Iraq as some sort of holy war. And it wouldn't be the first time that question had come up.

Back in 2003, AU called on Rumsfeld to remove Lt. William G. "Jerry" Boykin from his appointed position as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Boykin had made comments during a series of speeches at church gatherings that claimed the United States was attacked because it is a Christian nation. He insisted Muslims worship idols and that the real enemy of America is not Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein, but Satan.

At that time, AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said, "Boykin literally believes that the United States government is engaged in a holy war. That's totally unacceptable for someone in a top government post. A man who sees the conduct of U.S. foreign policy as some sort of Christian religious crusade should not be making policy."

But it appears that others in Bush's administration were thinking along the same lines, and these cover sheets are the scary proof.