What Else Is In Scott's Head?

The blog site for writer Scott C. Smith. Some observations on the world we live in and life in general. And maybe some politics.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Beyond Newsweek

With the dust starting to settle over the whole supposed Newsweek "controversy" over a May 9 report that interrogators at the Gitmo detention center in Cuba had desecrated a Qur'an (Newsweek has since retracted that part of its report), we now have some hindsight to look over the events of the past week and put them into some context.

Right-wingers are portraying the Newsweek report as an example of anti-Bush bias. Of course, any publication that is critical of the Bush administration is automatically accused as anti-Bush by Bush's right-wing cheerleaders (Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, primarily). Newsweek's report from May 9, which was about alleged abuse by interrogators at Gitmo, wasn't only about Qur'an desecration. There were other allegations, including instances of sexual humiliation of prisoners.

What we have happening are right-wingers, along with the Bush administration, criticizing Newsweek's reporting of events, but not the events themselves. Ever since the first pictures from Abu Ghraib emerged, the Bush supporters did all they could to play down the events at Abu Ghraib, with Rush Limbaugh famously equating the prisoner abuse to a fraternity hazing ritual.

The right-wing pundits are missing one important piece of the puzzle: Newsweek wasn't inventing an event to make Bush look bad; their source was someone in the Bush administration who supposedly had seen correspondence to confirm Qur'an desecration. That source backed off from the report.

Also lost in all of the right-wing outrage was the fact that at a press on May 12, Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Richard Myers told reporters that the violence in Afghanistan was NOT because of the Newsweek story. Here's the quote from the press conference:

"Q: Do either one of you have anything about the demonstrations in Afghanistan, which were apparently sparked by reports that there was a lack of respect by some interrogators at Guantanamo for the Koran. Do either one of you have anything to say about that?

GEN. MYERS: It's the -- it's a judgment of our commander in Afghanistan, General Eikenberry, that in fact the violence that we saw in Jalalabad was not necessarily the result of the allegations about disrespect for the Koran -- and I'll get to that in just a minute -- but more tied up in the political process and the reconciliation process that President Karzai and his Cabinet is conducting in Afghanistan. So that's -- that was his judgment today in an after- action of that violence. He didn't -- he thought it was not at all tied to the article in the magazine.

General Craddock, our commander of Southern Command, has been in Guantanamo for the last couple of days digging into this issue to see if there was a time when the Koran was not respected. I can tell you that the version of the Koran that we provide to detainees is approved by the ICRC. So we're very careful about that. They have looked through the logs, the interrogation logs, and they cannot confirm yet that there were ever the case of the toilet incident, except for one case, a log entry, which they still have to confirm, where a detainee was reported by a guard to be ripping pages out of a Koran and putting in the toilet to stop it up as a protest. But not where the U.S. did it.

Now, there -- so it's something we're going to look at. That's still unconfirmed; it's a log entry that has to be confirmed. There are several log entries that show that the Koran may have been moved to -- and the detainees became irritated about it, but never an incident where it was thrown in the toilet."

Isn't that interesting: a report that a guard had allegedly ripped out the pages of a Qur'an. So as an interrogation tactic, it's not so far out of the realm of possibility for something to have happened. But of course Newsweek, not wanting to be on the Bush administration's bad side, have completely cowed to the administration.

I mean, what's worse? A report in a magazine that a Qur'an had been desecrated? Or when George W. Bush told insurgents in Iraq to "bring it on" as far as launching attacks against our forces in Iraq? Of course Bush's comments are worse, but the so-called liberal media does everything it can to report positively on what George W. Bush says and what his administration does.


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