Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Defense briefings manipulated Pres. Bush

Leading off last night's Countdown, Keith Olbermann reveals that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made cover pages for his presidential briefings that combined scripture with pictures of military personnel in Iraq. The full story can be viewed here:

The pages revealed such pairings as:
"Whom shall I send, and who will go for us."
A picture of soldiers praying--the day before the invasion.

"It is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men." -1 Peter 2:13
A picture of Saddam Hussein.

"Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, The nation that keeps faith." --Isaiah 26:2
A picture of the crossed swords, the entrance to the ceremonial parade route.
These cover pages are pretty sick.

Olbermann's discussion and conversation with Richard Wolffe were quite good and covered the purpose and repercussions of their use. But there is one thing that they failed to mention. In their attempt to describe how brazen and manipulative this was on the part of Rumsfeld, they missed one specific opportunity: Bush is famous for not reading what's handed to him.
Rumsfeld isn't simply using Biblical quotes to manipulate a devoutely religious president, but giving a visual "summary" for a leader that wouldn't read the interior pages.
The pages themselves are constructed in a highly visual manner. They contain a photograph taken on the previous day, and a quote from the Bible that is made relavent to the photograph to tell a story of righteousness on the part of the United States. This is, in itself, a disturbing thing. But paired with Bush's tendency to rely on the good intentions of his subbordinates, reveals an incredibly dangerous opportunity for manipulation and deceit.

As governor, Bush famously suggested that he could decide death penalty cases in 15 minutes (despite dozens of pages of documents per case), and then part-way through the term, he reduced the time to 10 minutes. When setting foot in the Oval Office, Bush changed the protocol to include single-page summaries so that he would not be responsible for reading the entire document. Conscious of this tendency on the part of the then-president, Rumsfeld was able to color the summary he was giving the president to fit the schema that they had developed: The United States is acting righteously, boldly, and with God's support in its attempt to bring down the forces of evil.

What we do with this evidence, I don't really know. It does continue to reinforce our fears that their was a shadow-government in the White House, run by the Vice President and assisted by the Secretary of Defense to convince the president to start a phony war. Or it could be a disturbingly crass misuse of Scripture. But does it really matter? The damage is still done.