WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would not have approved Christian-themed covers to intelligence reports on the invasion of Iraq, calling them "counterproductive to the war effort," a spokesman said Tuesday.
The covers, some of which were published in the latest issue of GQ magazine, juxtaposed images from the 2003 invasion with verses from the Bible.
According to the magazine, Rumsfeld used the covers to curry favor with then-President George Bush, a devout evangelical.
In a written statement Tuesday, Rumsfeld spokesman Keith Urbahn said the secretary saw the reports only occasionally, and they were never shown to Bush.
"Rumsfeld was fully aware that words and actions could be harmful and counterproductive to the war effort. It's safe to say that some of these cover slides could be considered in that category," Urbahn said. "The suggestion that Rumsfeld would have composed of, approved of, or personally shown the slides to President Bush is flat wrong. It did not happen."
The story of the slides was only part of a larger, highly critical article about Rumsfeld, who was fired in 2006 after the unpopular war in Iraq helped contribute to that year's Republican electoral losses. An official quoted anonymously in the GQ article said the slides - which had been prepared by a two-star general on the Pentagon's intelligence staff - could have done damage "as bad as Abu Ghraib" if they had become public during the invasion of an Islamic nation.
Among the covers published by GQ was one showing a U.S. tank silhouetted by a desert sunrise below a quote from the New Testament book of 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."
Another featured a quote from the first book of Peter atop a photo of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. It read, "It is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men."
The article's author, Robert Draper, penned a 2007 book on the Bush presidency. Urbahn said Draper was "being taken by people with an axe to grind." But the story had the ring of truth to David Kuo, who led the White House "faith-based" program office during the Bush administration.
"The guy knows how to market things, and clearly he knew how to market things to his boss, to his audience of one - the president of the United States. And that was to use these biblical quotes," Kuo told CNN.
Kuo said Iraq was "always a war in search of justification." But he called the slides "frankly appalling to me, as a follower of Jesus."
"I never saw these memos. But I've got to tell you, if their use of biblical language and spiritual ignorance is anything as bad as their military ignorance, it is clear why the Iraq war is a debacle," he said.