When Washington officially embarked on its latest permanent war a few years ago, it entrusted the effort to Deputy Undersecretary of Defence for Intelligence Lieutenant General William G. 'Jerry' Boykin, who modestly perceived the war on terrorism as nothing less than a cataclysmic clash between Judeo-Christian values and Satan himself.

Putting aside the Judeo-Christian error, Boykin, an evangelical Christian, addressed an Oregon religious group in June 2003 wearing his military uniform, to declare that radical Islamists hated the US "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian ... and the enemy is a guy named Satan."

At the time, and beyond the customary embarrassing moments that died down after a few news cycles, his outbursts were deemed to be vulgar but not much more than a blunder.

To be sure, Boykin's superiors, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers, Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and President George W. Bush, remained non-sectarian even if the avowedly born-again Christian Bush regularly quoted scriptures in his speeches. We now have a new revelation that provides the missing piece of the puzzle.

According to the magazine GQ, which published a series of Top Secret briefing covers from the Secretary of Defence's Worldwide Intelligence Update, the daily reports prepared for senior officials carried quotations from the books of Psalms and Ephesians as well as the epistles of Peter.

At the height of the War for Iraq, and as casualties increased, these biblical quotes were apparently intended to boost Bush's sagging morale.

The March 31, 2003 report, for example, quoted Ephesians 6:13 - "Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand" - over a sunset photograph depicting an American tank driving through the desert.

The April 7, 2003 report, one of 16 copies distributed to a very small number of high-ranking American officials, the quote was from Peter (2:15) - "It is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men," - over a picture of Saddam Hussain delivering a speech on Iraqi television.

Reading these covers seemingly offended at least one Muslim analyst at the Pentagon though their alleged author, Major General Glen Shaffer, then director for intelligence serving both the Joint Chiefs as well as the secretary of defence, felt no such compunction.

Shaffer wished to alleviate Bush's stress and Rumsfeld presumably concurred even if both knew that the war was in a Muslim country.

In as much as several officers considered the propagation's fallouts as potentially devastating, neither Rumsfeld nor Bush seemed to be particularly offended, since the practice did not stop.

Nevertheless, beyond inappropriate juxtapositions, the ill-advised caricatures reduced American soldiers fighting in the war as nothing more than Christian crusaders, which was dangerous in the extreme.

Of course, a few days after the tragic 9/11 attacks, Bush shaped his response by declaring that "this crusade & this war on terrorism" would be fought in earnest, which demonstrated both ineptitude as well as historical deviancy.

Though aides quickly corrected the president then, and Bush praised Islam as "a religion of peace" several times, these latest corroborations, leaked by an individual with access to these highly secretive briefings, clarified the prevalent mindset.

When critics of the war cautioned Washington about the risks involved-that the war on terrorism was being perceived as a clash between Christianity and Islam-officials snickered.

In time, prisoner abuses, rendition programmes, illegal incarcerations and many other errors compounded the many self-imposed ills but few realised that all of these mistakes were presented to Bush layered in biblical prose.

When General Boykin referred to his imaginary Muslim foe by declaring that he "knew my God was bigger than his", and that he "knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol", he sounded like a lost soul.

This point was not lost on the Rev Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who declared a few days ago that American soldiers were "not Christian crusaders and they ought not be depicted as such."

In fact, underlined Lynn, "depicting the Iraq conflict as some sort of holy war is completely outrageous" and, one might add, another monumental miscalculation.

Since leaving office, both Bush and Rumsfeld have engaged in the "history-will-one-day-judge-me-kindly" game, though their time is up now.

Spiritual motives aside, one is loathe to associate with folks who use God's words in vain, all to aggrandise their petty selves.

On the contrary, history will record that hundreds of thousands of innocent lives were destroyed for political gains, something that will never be forgotten by generations to come

Dr Joseph A. Kechichian is a commentator and author of several books on Gulf affairs.

Your comments

It is strange that terrorists states declared war on terror. Some times these terrorist states, led by America, declare war on innocents like Palestinians, Iraqis and Afghanis stating that they want to eliminate the terrorists but finally killing hundred and thousands of innocent Muslims. Important thing is to be noted that how can aggressors, occupiers and supporters of occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine have the right to declare war on terror .
Syed Qurban Hussain
Posted: May 21, 2009, 10:41

Let me clarify one thing for Americans whom I admire both as people and as a nation as a response to this article. The American people needs 100 men like President Obama, who are qualified and knowledgeable of the history of the other world, especially in the Muslim world, who own manpower and oil. At present US's policy and its observations towards others is decided by Israeli and US government is fully engaged to a policy based on their approval. They carry a remote control which put it on and off according to their interest. And creating conflicts between the Muslim Religion and Christian Religion has been their means of survival throughout ages.
Zahra Saleh
Posted: May 21, 2009, 09:33