Draper on Rumsfeld

DRAPER ON RUMSFELD…. Frank Rich teased the new blockbuster article in his NYT column today, noting that GQ has run an important new piece by Robert Draper, “adding new details to the ample dossier on how Donald Rumsfeld’s corrupt and incompetent Defense Department cost American lives and compromised national security.”

In general, when these pieces run, the right reflexively attacks the motives (and/or ideology) of the writer. But Draper is hardly a left-leaning partisan — he wrote the Bush-endorsed biography, “Dead Certain,” written after receiving cooperation from the former president and some of his top aides.

Rich highlights some of Draper’s Rumsfeld-related revelations.

Draper reports that Rumsfeld’s monomaniacal determination to protect his Pentagon turf led him to hobble and antagonize America’s most willing allies in Iraq, Britain and Australia, and even to undermine his own soldiers. But Draper’s biggest find is a collection of daily cover sheets that Rumsfeld approved for the Secretary of Defense Worldwide Intelligence Update, a highly classified digest prepared for a tiny audience, including the president, and often delivered by hand to the White House by the defense secretary himself. These cover sheets greeted Bush each day with triumphal color photos of the war headlined by biblical quotations. GQ is posting 11 of them, and they are seriously creepy.

Take the one dated April 3, 2003, two weeks into the invasion, just as Shock and Awe hit its first potholes. Two days earlier, on April 1, a panicky Pentagon had begun spreading its hyped, fictional account of the rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch to distract from troubling news of setbacks. On April 2, Gen. Joseph Hoar, the commander in chief of the United States Central Command from 1991-94, had declared on the Times Op-Ed page that Rumsfeld had sent too few troops to Iraq. And so the Worldwide Intelligence Update for April 3 bullied Bush with 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.” (Including, as it happened, into a quagmire.)

What’s up with that? As Draper writes, Rumsfeld is not known for ostentatious displays of piety. He was cynically playing the religious angle to seduce and manipulate a president who frequently quoted the Bible. But the secretary’s actions were not just oily; he was also taking a risk with national security. If these official daily collages of Crusade-like messaging and war imagery had been leaked, they would have reinforced the Muslim world’s apocalyptic fear that America was waging a religious war. As one alarmed Pentagon hand told Draper, the fallout “would be as bad as Abu Ghraib.”

The cover-sheets are not only creepy, they point to Rumsfeld’s belief — which was probably accurate — that then-President Bush was easily manipulated. Accompanying a photo of U.S. tanks rolling into an Iraqi city, Rumsfeld included this scriptural reference: “Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, The nation that keeps faith.”

Draper’s piece is online. Read it, as the saying goes, and weep.