Donald Rumsfeld was a stubborn, undermining, power-hungry, cowardly, jerky, zealous, selfish impediment to the success of the Bush administration at home and abroad. That’s what a scathing GQ takedown of the former secretary of Defense claims, using extensive interviews with old White House and Defense Department officials as evidence. According to on- and off-the-record sources who were present during key meetings relating to Hurrricane Katrina, Rumsfeld was almost single-handedly responsible for the event leaving a black eye on Bush’s presidential record, by stubbornly refusing to authorize the use of troops beyond the National Guard to help rescue efforts. He was desperate to remain in control of the situation in Iraq even as he was reluctant to take the necessary steps to solve growing problems there. He was brusque and dismissive to fellow senior staff, including Andy Card, Michael Chertoff, and Condoleezza Rice. Senator Lindsay Graham even argued that his continuing presence in the White House exacted a heavy toll on the entire Republican Party. “I think most Republicans believe that if Rumsfeld had been dismissed before the [midterm] election, we would’ve hung on to the Senate,” the South Carolina senator said. “I think they’re probably right.”
But much of that reporting could be dismissed by Rummy’s supporters as a little one-sided and speculative. What was inarguably startling was the physical evidence of Rumsfeld’s hubris that GQ uncovered. A source fed them the cover sheets of dozens of top-level Iraq intelligence and defense briefings — seen only by the president and a handful of other officials. On each of them was patriotic photography highlighting successes in the Middle East, overlaid with Bible quotes. “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men – 1 Peter 2:15” read one inscription, over a photo of Saddam Hussein. “Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith – Isaiah 26:2” read another, accompanying a picture of a tank entering Baghdad. These Christian references were used by Rumsfeld to appeal to Bush’s own religious fervor, but were criticized openly by other Defense officials, especially those who were not Christian themselves, and those who worried that if the cover sheets were ever leaked, they would heighten the perception that the United States was engaged in some sort of holy war with Islam. Rumsfeld chose to ignore the complaints, and now the evidence of what is at the very least unabashed pandering — if not outright scary zealotry — is available for all to see.