Newsweek and the Flushing Qurans

I’ve been amused by some of the reactions to my column this week. Liberals and conservatives alike seem disappointed that I didn’t tackle the Newsweek retraction of their story mentioning the fact that US torturers at the Guantánamo Bay concentration camp dedicated to holding, torturing and murdering Muslim civilians flushed at least one Quran down the toilet in order to fuck with their detainee victims.

One of my primary motivations as a cartoonist and columnist is to shine a spotlight on stories that deserve more attentioin and on viewpoints about big stories that are being marginalized. The Newsweek story doesn’t fit the bill for me as it has not only received widespread attention but has also received reactions similar to mine: the development of hypocrisy as atool of propaganda by the Bush Administration, the wussiness of the media in general, etc. Of course, anyone who has read “The Torture Papers” knows that U.S. torturers at Gitmo and other post-9/11 gulags have routinely desecrated Qurans and insulted Islam, including forcing devout Muslims to eat pork. Given the fact that Newsweek’s supposed “sin” was its use of a single source for this story, common sense posits that it’s probably–unlike the Bushies’ numerous fictions about WMDs, Pat Tillman, Jessica Lynch, the Saddam statue story and Osama hiding out in Afghanistan–true.

Even were this specific incident to be proven fictional, however, America’s global reputation as a Muslim-hating and -murdering hate state would nevertheless be established by the shitty way it treats Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq. Surely a nation that bombs mosques isn’t too worried about flushing a Quran down the can.

I am, however, a little baffled by the Muslims’ own reaction to this story. They get their panties in a collective bunch over this–the damage of a book–but not the fact that the United States has murdered over 100,000 of their brothers and sisters since 2003 alone?

As for Newsweek, it’s safe to say that they yielded to White House pressure. Perhaps they were threatened with reduced access (which would be a blessing in the long run, since hobnobing with pols is the last thing journalists ought to be doing anyway). And the White House certainly wanted the world to see that pressure in action.

Rick from my hometown writes:

I hope someone finds the truth about their story regarding the Quran being flushed down toilets. This is another case of media incompetence. I’m not saying it didn’t happen but you have to be damn sure before you print it. Didn’t they know what would occur from a story like this? Are they that stupid?

The United States has already admitted murdering scores of innocent Muslim detainees at Gitmo and other U.S. gulags. If those stories didn’t elicit such a reaction, why would the editors at Newsweek believe that this one would? Anyway, you don’t hold stories because there might be a negative reaction to them and you don’t source potentially controversial stories more thoroughly than others. You source all stories the same, run what’s important and let the riots fall where they may.

I wonder how different things would be if the Democrats had put this passion against the war in Iraq as they have with the judges and Bolton. Bolton is of so little consequence. How can he make the world’s view of us any worse? Nobody of any stature in the UN is going to listen to him. The only thing he could do is drive what few allies we have left away which would be a good thing.

That’s a good point. Democrats, it seems, are choosing battles they think they can win by tactics rather than those they should win by the force of argument. Thus the judicial filibuster (which is a sleazy new tactic which apes the GOP’s own novel use of parliamentary procedure in Texas redistricting and elsewhere), the Bolton fight, etc.

Samir writes:

I’m interested to know what you think of the incredible blowback that has come on Newsweek for the Quaran-flushing story. I’ve noticed an alarming trend lately: the divestment of blame. To any sane persons, the major reasons Americans and Westerners are dying abroad are the following:
1) People are trying to kill them because they hate the west or western foreign policy and how it affects their countries
2) The governments (particularly the US) are not sufficiently protecting troops
3) The western and local governments are not doing anything to improve perceptions of the west
4) America’s government has somehow fomented a climate based on repeated torture, war, and incredibly bad public relations that lead to many Muslims feeling and fearing attacks on their religions.
Enter Newsweek. They were certainly negligent in reporting, but that happens. The critical point here is that we’ve allowed for situations like Abu Graib where this is a plausible event.
And now, the press and Whitehouse are hell-bent on making Newsweek fully culpable for the riots abroad. The insanity of this position scares the hell out of me; imagine a world where GM made defective
cars that don’t work over 65 MPH but since the proximate cause of an accident was a cheerleader telling her boyfriend to go faster, we do an inquiry into the morality of cheerleaders.
Newsweek unfortunately tweaked a sensitive spot. But how can they be to blame for these deaths?

Answer: they can’t. I’ve written that Dick Cheney is a greedy, murderous asshole. There–I’ve done it again! But if you go and toss a pie at him, that’s your problem. I don’t endorse that sort of thing any more than Newsweek’s editors endorsed the riots…which are, in any case, indigenous acts of resistance against American invasion forces.

Dierdre writes:

Hey, Ted. I want to get your opinion on something. The Newsweek Quran abuse story reminds me so much of the Dan Rather National Guard scandal that it makes me wonder: what if the Right is behind this? I mean, if
you think about it, can you remember a time during any other administration when presumably reliable sources associated with the government have fed such erroneous information to the press? Perhaps this is a concerted effort by the Right to further discredit the media – another step towards fascism.

The right is certainly attempting to destroy what’s left of the fourth estate after it has largely committed suicide, but I doubt that this is the work of a brilliant Rove-ian agent provacateur. This is probably just what it looks like: opportunism meets wussidom.

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