27 May 2005

Retractions and clarifications

    No persons are more frequently wrong, than those who will not admit they are wrong.
      Francois De La Rochefoucauld
This quote seems tailor-made for the current administration. The Newsweek story has quickly taken a back see to filibusters and Michael. Yet I keep hearing bits and pieces of news that make me think there is little that Newsweek needs to apologize for.

Yesterday, according to this Associated Press report, U.S. officials confirmed five cases in which a prisioner's Quran was mishandled. But they're quick to point out that there is "no credible evidence" of Quran flushing. They won't give any details of what was done to the Quran in those five cases, but Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood, commander of the Gitmo prison assures us that none of them involved a toilet. They did admit, though, that in three cases the mishandling seems to be have been deliberate.

The use of the word "mishandling" instead of "desecration" is dubious in itself. It's a softer word that implies that mistreatment of the Quran was mild at best. The fact that no one will divulge nature of the mishandling leads one to believe that it might have been worse than the term suggests. That is was done intentionally would only make it worse. It's like the term "detainee" instead of "prisoner".

So what did Newsweek really do then? Based on this A.P. report, quoting the prison commander himself, the only thing they got wrong was the nature of the Quran's mistreatment. I find it hard to believe that that one element of the story is enough to push Afgan rioters over the edge. "They desecrated the Quran? Hmmm, I'm kind of annoyed at that.... wait, a what? A TOILET? ARRRRGH!!!" And riots ensue.

And I think I'm going to be sick if hear one more person in the Bush administration say that Newsweek is responsible for damaging our image with the Muslim world. They're saying this after, mind you, after reports confirming wide-spread prisoner abuse in Afganastan. It'd ludicrous.

There's also this, from Air Force General Richard Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff:
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.
So, if you ask the U.S. authories in Afganastan, they're not even blaming Newsweek for the riots (though I think the Whitehouse has since explained to them why they're wrong). (Thanks to Keith Olbermann for this link.)

And speaking of retractions, my comments on this Seething in the Wilderness post included the following:
That said, I wish Newsweek had somehow been more careful. People lost their lives and now it will be harder to uncover the truth.
I take it back. Newsweek is not to blame for the subsequent spew from the Bush administration. That would be like blaming a mugging victim for using an ATM on a bad street.

If you haven't, take a look at Keith Olbermann's last three blog posts (starting here). His is fast becoming my new favorite political blog, and he has this issue pegged.

By the way, one of my favorite Olbermann is an aside, where he says he's finally recognized the Fox News Channel. It's "the newscast perpetually running on the giant video screens in the movie 1984." Boy ain't it.

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