Media in Trouble: All the news thats UNfit to print!: Shifting Blame

"The information of the people at large can alone make them safe, as they are the sole depositary of our political and religious freedom." --Thomas Jefferson 1810

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Shifting Blame

This was bound to happen. Blame the messenger for the policies of the Pentagon. Newsweek retracts the part of the story that says:
Based on what we know now, we are retracting our original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered Quran abuse at Guantanamo Bay.

OK so there was no proof of a military investigation that said there was Quran abuse at Gitmo. However, the original source just basically went back on his word. Two things I think should be done with this debacle. First CLEAR FUCKING REPORTING FROM OTHER NEWS SOURCES. This has become some type of pissing contest for who can claim the coveted "most trusted name in news" label for themselves just like Rathergate. After Rathergate, ABC kept running ads on CNN and the like with Peter Jennings being this trustworthy guy to deliver the news. This is no different, instead of reporting "Newsweek pulls story" they should add that they pulled the story after the source backed down on them, and that this story has been reported before and delivered in courts of law. This wasn't an editor/reporter maverick thing. This was a senior US government official (whom in so long as he/she is not CIA undercover should be outed) who went back on his word of "I am pretty sure I saw some documents that said we flushed Qurans down toilets somewhere." Now the administration has been so good at plugging leaks it seems obvious the problem here was the leak and not the reporting.

Right from the appology:
At NEWSWEEK, veteran investigative reporter Michael Isikoff's interest had been sparked by the release late last year of some internal FBI e-mails that painted a stark picture of prisoner abuse at Guantánamo. Isikoff knew that military investigators at Southern Command (which runs the Guantánamo prison) were looking into the allegations. So he called a longtime reliable source, a senior U.S. government official who was knowledgeable about the matter. The source told Isikoff that the report would include new details that were not in the FBI e-mails, including mention of flushing the Qur'an down a toilet. A SouthCom spokesman contacted by Isikoff declined to comment on an ongoing investigation, but NEWSWEEK National Security Correspondent John Barry, realizing the sensitivity of the story, provided a draft of the NEWSWEEK PERISCOPE item to a senior Defense official, asking, "Is this accurate or not?" The official challenged one aspect of the story: the suggestion that Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, sent to Gitmo by the Pentagon in 2001 to oversee prisoner interrogation, might be held accountable for the abuses. Not true, said the official (the PERISCOPE draft was corrected to reflect that). But he was silent about the rest of the item. The official had not meant to mislead, but lacked detailed knowledge of the SouthCom report.

There IS an enormous body of evidence that abuses of similar kind (and by similar I mean Inflamatory to Muslims) occured at both Gitmo and Abu Grahib. Examples that come to mind include, naked muslim ass piles, simulated "south park republican" sex, bloody tampon facials, and nutsack shocking. Given these examples flushing the Quran sounds mild and not out of reach. Also is mentioned in the AP article:
The Newsweek report was not the first public airing of allegations about U.S. personnel at Guantanamo Bay desecrating a Quran. In August and October 2004 there were news reports based on a lawsuit and a written report by British citizens who had been released from the prison in Cuba. They claimed abuse by U.S. guards, including throwing their Qurans into the toilet.

In January, Kristine Huskey, a lawyer representing Kuwaitis detained at Guantanamo, said they claimed to have been abused and in one case a detainee watched a guard throw a Quran into a toilet.
(free link to the Kristine Huskey piece from me)

SO why should we address the real issue here. Afghanistan went nuts for one of two reasons: 1) It is still not "under control" with our occupying forces still there. 2) This was the final nail in the coffin, after hearing about Abu Grahib, extraordinary rednitions, and Muslims being held at Gitmo for seemingly no apparent reason. So either way, Newsweek is not responsible for any riots, they may have just sparked the flame, but the gas was there already.

And lets not forget that Afghanistan and Muslims everywhere hear all kinds of "anti-american" news from many more channels (particularly those which speak their language, like Al Jazeera) and believe them. Just because a once credible news source from America printed this story doesn't mean that the photos of the ass pile at Abu Grahib, and the 60 minutes and NOW expose's of didn't have an effect as well.

But lets not look at the policies (or the policy makers) which allowed the American treatment of prisoners to be shrowded in suspicion. For this suspicion has finally come back to haunt them. The haunting came in the form of Arab riots not about the article, but about the policies which allow the rioters to believe this could potentially happen under American controlled prisons. The article was based on what a Pentagon official told them, and was dually checked with another source at the Pentagon by savy reporters; not on some shady documents that could have been typed by just about anybody in MS Word. Journalists would be wise to focus not on the Newsweek faux pas (of retracting the story, not getting it wrong) but on the fac that these facts have been brought up before.