Not the Comfy Chair! (Updated)
Well, Newsweek has admitted that it screwed up. Big time:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Newsweek magazine said on Sunday it erred in a May 9 report that U.S. interrogators desecrated the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, and apologized to the victims of deadly Muslim protests sparked by the article.
Editor Mark Whitaker said the magazine inaccurately reported that U.S. military investigators had confirmed that personnel at the detention facility in Cuba had flushed the Muslim holy book down the toilet.
The report sparked angry and violent protests across the Muslim world from Afghanistan, where 16 were killed and more than 100 injured, to Pakistan to Indonesia to Gaza. In the past week it was condemned in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and by the Arab League.
On Sunday, Afghan Muslim clerics threatened to call for a holy war against the United States.
"We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst," Whitaker wrote in the magazine's latest issue, due to appear on U.S. newsstands on Monday.
It is not Monday morning quarterbacking to say that they should have known better -- many observers noted the danger right off the bat of posting such an inflammatory story based on only a single anonymous source.
The point I want to make is a different one than the obvious MSM-continues-to-slide-into-the-abyss observation. That is: We really, really seem to have dumbed down the whole "torture" thing. When I grew up, torture was pulling out someones fingernails or whacking their genitals with a stick while they were tied to a cane chair or maybe starving them in a pit for a few weeks.
Here is my fervent hope: If I ever find myself imprisoned by hostile forces, I pray that they will torture me by sitting me in a chair and having me watch them flush books down the toilet. The toughest part will be acting like I am really suffering watching a copy of some document I respect, maybe the US Constitution or Atlas Shrugged or the latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, swirling down the pipe. Then, if that does not work, I hope and pray that they then resort to stripping me naked and taking pictures of me in a human pyramid with other prisoners. I just hope they don't find out that I already did something similar in college.
By the way, while we are inventing a kindler-gentler torture, can we also tone down our dedication to icons? I have never understood the need to ban Koran flushing or American flag burning. Both the Koran and the flag are symbols that have meaning to each individual. If someone wipes their butt in public with the American flag, my respect for the US and what it stands for is in no way tarnished - only my opinion of the flag-wiper has changed.
UPDATE: WOW! How did I miss this one? I really, REALLY hope they choose this torture for me:
One female civilian contractor used a special outfit that included a miniskirt and thong underwear during late-night interrogations with prisoners, mostly Muslim men who consider it taboo to have close contact with women who aren't their wives...
The female interrogator wanted to "break him," Saar adds, describing how she removed her uniform top to expose a tight-fitting T-shirt and began taunting the detainee, touching her breasts, rubbing them against the prisoner's back and commenting on his apparent erection....
In November, in response to an AP request, the military described an April 2003 incident in which a female interrogator took off her uniform top, ran her fingers through a detainee's hair and sat on his lap. That session was immediately ended by a supervisor and that interrogator received a written reprimand and additional training, the military said.
Please, no. Anything but that. Las Vegas better watch out or it may start losing visitors to Gitmo. I wonder if this is going to cause a problem for the ACLU, which has been opposing these interrogation techniques at Gitmo. After all, doesn't this woman have a right to free expression?
Postscript: By the way, I am serious that I think the media has purposefully dumbed-down the definition of torture to improve their story, and in the process has hurt the US internationally. However, while I find most of the torture accusations a joke, I still absolutely oppose the whole Guantanamo Bay indefinite detention camp concept. I don't like allowing US authorities to set up a civil-rights-free zone, and I think it is an incredibly slippery slope that we are climbing on. And yes, I say this with full knowlege that some bad folks could be released back into the wild. Guess what -- the American justice system does this all the time. We have 200 years of history of preferring to let guilty parties go free rather than letting innocent parties rot in jail, and I am not ready to overturn our pretty succesful precendent on this matter.
UPDATE: And to be clear, this is torture, or close enough. Its good these folks are being brought to justice. I encourage the media to keep up the pressure on true misconduct -- the gratuitous "wrapped-them-in-the-israeli-flag non-tortures just dillute our focus. I guess I would also encourage those of you who want to extrapolate from these events to a condemnation of the US military as a whole to inform yourself. The US military, like any institution of human beings, has criminals in it. However, that being said, our military has been by far the best behaved occupying force in history, bar none (And, if you don't think they should be occupiers at all, well, blame the politicians that sent them). For every story of atrocious behavior by a US soldier are 20 stories of soldiers being fair and kind. The fact that these 20 other stories don't make the paper doesn't make them any less true.
Posted on May 15, 2005 at 10:04 PM | Permalink
I don't see how the British and Australian armed forces can ever help the USA against her principal enemy - the US media.
Posted by: dearieme | May 16, 2005 3:34:02 AM
I know that it seems ridiculous for anyone to get upset at seeing a copy of a holy book destroyed, but that is our value system, not others. Respect for others means treating them how they would want to be treated. Obviously prisoners have to be treated as prisoners, but there is no excuse for pushing their buttons just to get all riled up. Think about how we would feel if someone flushed the original U.S. Constitution or Declaration of Independence down the drain.
Sure, Newsweek errored in their story, but the U.S. government facilitated this error by keeping these prisoners away from the public eye in Cuba so no one could verify what was happening. Very bad things could be happening in Gitmo. I guarantee that we are generating a lot of hate towards us. What are we trying to accomplish and is it worth it?
Posted by: Michael H. | May 16, 2005 6:04:52 AM
New bumper sticker? "Newsweek lied: People died."
Seriously, does anyone seriously think that the Afghan people involved in the riot will believe a retraction by Newsweek? It is more likely (however incorrect) that they will think that Newsweek's retraction was forced upon them by the Bush Administration. At least, that's what the leaders of the riots will tell to their minions. Newsweek's apologies will not bring back the dead, nor will it change the minds of the Afghan people.
Newsweek, CBS, and the New York Times have seriously damaged their credibility of late, and I can't helip but to think that there is a consistent motive behind all of this: "Anything that hurts President Bush must be published, damn the consequences."
Posted by: Damon G. | May 16, 2005 7:18:00 AM
"It is not Monday morning quarterbacking to say that they should have known better -- many observers noted the danger right off the bat of posting such an inflammatory story based on only a single anonymous source."
Something about this quote bothers me. Since when do we allow the sensiblities of people in countries that don't respect first admendment right to dictate what can and cannot be printed in our press? How inflammatory it is in these countries should not be a factor in determining what gets printed in our press.
Posted by: Michael H. | May 16, 2005 10:43:32 AM
There is a very interesting discussion of this issue at Half Sigma. Click on my name to reach the link.
Posted by: Michael H | May 16, 2005 3:53:32 PM
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