WASHINGTON — A series of cover sheets for intelligence reports written for Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and other senior Pentagon officials during the early days of the war in Iraq in 2003 were adorned with biblical quotations, and appeared Sunday, six years later, on the Web site of GQ magazine.
The daily briefings were called the “Worldwide Intelligence Update,” one of several intelligence reports compiled overnight and presented in a folder for Mr. Rumsfeld and other officials as they came to work.
In the selection of the cover sheets that GQ placed on its Web site, photographs of soldiers praying or in action on the sands of Iraq were overlaid with quotations like this one from Isaiah: “Their arrows are sharp, all their bows are strung; their horses’ hoofs seem like flint, their chariot wheels are like a whirlwind.”
Another, showing a tank at sunset, had this quotation from Ephesians: “Therefore put on the full armor 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.”
The accompanying article, written by Robert Draper, the author of a book about George W. Bush that was published in the last year of his presidency, suggested that Mr. Rumsfeld often delivered the briefings “by hand, to the White House.” But several former officials said Sunday that they doubted that Mr. Bush regularly saw the Pentagon briefing, which was considered both less complete and less sensitive than the president’s daily brief, the compilation of overnight and long-term intelligence assessments prepared for the president, and delivered every morning.
Lawrence Di Rita, the Pentagon spokesman during Mr. Rumsfeld’s time as secretary of defense, said that he had no recollection of the biblical briefs, but that he doubted the famously acerbic and sometimes cranky secretary would have tolerated them for long, much less shared them with Mr. Bush.
“The suggestion that Rumsfeld would have used these reports to somehow curry favor over at the White House is pretty laughable,” Mr. Di Rita said. “He bristled anytime people put quotes or something extraneous on the reports he wanted to read.”
Mr. Rumsfeld’s reputation at the Pentagon was as a strong ideologue, but not as someone motivated by religious convictions.
The GQ article reports that the cover sheets were thought up by a general who worked on the Joint Staff, and that they replaced humorous covers that had been created in the prelude to the war.
The magazine reported that some Pentagon officials were concerned that, if the cover sheets — which were marked “Top Secret” — were ever leaked, they could be interpreted as a suggestion that the war was religiously driven, a battle against Islam. But those officials were not named in the article, and a number of former Pentagon officials interviewed Sunday said they had no memory of seeing the illustrations or quotations.
Still, the publication of the cover sheets may raise more questions about the proper role of religion in the military, and whether a Christian-influenced culture, rather than a neutral one, permeated some corners of the military.
The issue flared at the Air Force Academy four years ago, when the football coach posted a locker room banner for “Team Jesus,” and there have been lawsuits against the Pentagon concerning military retreats at off-base churches, or the displays of crucifixes at military chapels in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2005, the Pentagon’s inspector general recommended “corrective action” against Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, the deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence, who, in appearances before evangelical groups, likened the war against Islamic militants to a battle against Satan.