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Allison Kilkenny

Allison Kilkenny

Posted: May 17, 2009 10:41 AM

Rumsfeld was Bush's Rasputin

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If you want to read a really crazy article, hop over to Robert Draper's article in GQ. It's all about how former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld acted as a modern day Rasputin by manipulating the adolescent emotions and exploiting the evangelical beliefs of George W. Bush.

Rasputin was a Russian mystic who curried favor with Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, by exploiting the superstitious beliefs of the royals. No one really thought a single, crazy religious nut could bring down an entire empire, and Rasputin's critics even derisively called him the "mad monk."

But Rasputin was highly influential in the decisions of the royals, and when he wasn't raping nuns, he was an official court official. Elements of Rasputin foreshadowed modern evangelicalism. He used to preach about sin, and repentance, though he was simultaneously a sex fiend and a drunk. Religious and a hypocrite? Shock! Horror!

Flash-forward to our own Donald Rumsfeld. In GQ's highly insightful article, Draper describes how Rumsfeld utilized some Rasputin-like techniques to manipulate Bush's more mystic beliefs. That includes delivering highly classified intelligence briefings to Bush that featured, "triumphant, color images from the previous days' war efforts" and "a quote...from the Bible, from the book of Psalms: "Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him...To deliver their soul from death."

Rumsfeld is a smart man, who is familiar with American history, so it wouldn't be fair to accuse him of a senior moment where that whole separation of church and state thing flew out of his head. This kind of play is more sinister, and something a master manipulator like Rasputin would find most appealing. This kind of tribal, religious exploitation started with Rumsputin, and extended through the military where senior military officers preached to soldiers about the benefits of Christianity.

While Rumsfeld certainly approved of the covers, which is why he never put the brakes on the project, they were not his creation. That credit goes to Major General Glen Shaffer, a director for intelligence serving both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense. He says he created the biblical quotes/War Kicks Ass combo package to boost moral when the war entered quagmire territory.

Some military officers may believe their proselytizing, but other officials surely used religious quotes and imagery to evoke tribal instincts in less sophisticated minds. Talking about an omnipotent stalker, who can send you to hell if you eat shellfish, is a powerful fear tactic, and a man like Rumsfeld, who has never been known to be a diehard Christian, was using a specific set of tools to appease his simple, God-fearing boss.

Perhaps this isn't groundbreaking news, but it's yet again a reminder of the importance of that thing called "separation of church and state." Keep your mystics to yourselves.

Cross-posted from Allison Kilkenny's blog. Also available on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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