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The Muslims Are Mad? Blame it on Newsweek!

-by Jared McBride

"People are dead because of what this son of a bitch said.People are dying. They are burning American flags. Our forces are in danger."
- Pentagon Spokesman Larry Dirita 1

While a great deal of left-wing press has focused on White House press secretary Scott McClellan's truly absurd comments regarding the Newsweek scandal - "I think there's a certain journalistic standard that should be met. In this instance it was not. The report has had serious consequences. People have lost their lives." - I believe the Dirita quote raises the hypocrisy level of this scandal to new heights.

To briefly summarize the events to date: In the illegal detention center known as Guantanamo Bay (or concentration camp, depending on how you view it) located on the soil of another sovereign nation (Cuba), an employee of the Pentagon or US soldier, while in the midst of a interrogation of a prisoner, was reported by Newsweek to have flushed a Koran, or part there of, down the toilet. The unknown source supposedly got cold feet, and then Newsweek got colder feet, retracting their story after coming under attack by the White House, Pentagon, and other individuals and institutions which have been consistently responsible for perpetrating war crimes.2

There was absolutely nothing journalistically wrong with Newsweek's use of its source. This may be news to the White House and conservatives, but when a journalist uses what he or she believes to be a reliable source, they have the right to cite that source in good faith without waiting for the government to fact-check it. Perhaps Dirita and the Whitehouse would prefer a Pravda-like system instead?

Moreover, given the widely-known evidence about the regular employment of torture by the US Government, it was hardly a non sequitur for Newsweek to consider the abuse of a holy book on par with the US government's standards.3 Was anyone in America actually surprised to hear such a report?

As to the veracity of the Newsweek claim, Chairman Chief of Staff, Gen. Meyers remarked, "They have looked through the logs, the interrogation logs, and they cannot confirm yet that there was ever the case of the toilet incident." As if that is supposed to clear the US Government of any wrong doing! Does a single person in America actually believe that if the incident did appear in the interrogation log - as if an interrogator would be stupid enough to record such a thing - that Gen. Meyers was going to go on national television and say, "Well, yes, we have substantiated the Newsweek claim, our interrogator actually did flush a Koran down the toilet." Gen. Meyers comments are completely worthless.4

I, personally, am not even interested in discussing whether this particular story is true or not. No one has enough information to prove this claim true or false yet, despite whatever pathetic and cowardly actions Newsweek takes from here on.5 Everyone knows once the American nationalism steam roller starts, almost all media and public figures will dive out of way immediately. Besides, there are also other reports of Koran desecration by the US government. British, Russian, and Arab news agencies have all reported on the desecration of the Koran during interrogations at Gitmo based on eyewitness testimony prior to the Newsweek report. The blog DailyKos has documented them.6

Now to turn to Dirita's bewildering comments. Dirita (and the White House) believe that US forces are now "in danger" because Newsweek cited what they believed to be a reliable source, which subsequently sparked protests in Muslim countries. That is like throwing someone in a tank with a shark, and then blaming a passerby who accidentally drips blood into the tank for putting the person in danger. But then again, this is logic of the Pentagon - the same people who brought you Vietnam.

Apparently, Dirita doesn't believe troops are in danger because they were used to illegally invade two nations. Dirita doesn't believe that our forces are in danger because they're illegally occupying two Muslim countries against the will of the people of these countries. And Dirita doesn't believe that our forces are in danger because of the policies of the Pentagon and the US government, including widespread use of torture. Dirita believes our troops are in danger because - of all things - Newsweek.

It is also curious that Dirita and others from the Right are extremely upset about the deaths of Afghans during the anti-US protests.7 They even have taken up the rallying cry: "Newsweek Lied, People Died." Since when did the Right become concerned with the welfare of Middle Eastern citizens? Perhaps in his new-found empathy for the people of the street, Dirita could provide some statistics on civilian deaths in Iraq or Afghanistan as a result of US military actions. "People died" in all those bombing raids too, didn't they, Dirita? Whose hands are their blood on?8

The vitriol espoused by the White House is also particularly surprising when we consider their previous stance on numerous issues such as: the absence of WMD's, the Iraq - Al-Qaeda connection, and the connection between Iraq and 9/11. Now I may be mistaken but I have yet to hear any retractions (or apologies) on anyone of the above mentioned matters or the innumerable smaller lies contained within them.

Let's look at specific issue to illustrate this pointer further: mobile chemical labs in Iraq. ThinkProgress.org provides a fine example of Scott McClellan enlightening us on the world of reliable sources:

QUESTION: Does it concern the President that the primary source for the intelligence on the mobile biological weapons labs was a guy that U.S. intelligence never every interviewed?

MCCLELLAN: Well, again, all these issues will be looked at as part of a broad review by the independent commission that the President appointed. But it's important that we look at what we learn on the ground and compare that with what we believed prior to going into Iraq.

[White House Press Gaggle, 4/5/04] 9

So journalists who cite what they believe are reliable sources in should be held responsible for massive demonstrations against US policy, but governments who rely on intelligence of unreliable sources and sell wars to their citizens based on this intelligence are not to be held responsible. I would also be remiss if I didn't take the opportunity to note that the main source on Iraq's WMD's was a "drunken liar."10 With sources like that it's amazing the word "standard" ever comes out a White House spokesperson's mouth.

As for the other criticism spewing from collective mouth of the Right, frankly, it's difficult to take seriously. Remember: these are same people, who, when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, claimed it would have been better to not report the torture at all because "it didn't help our cause over there anyway."11 Their concept of the "journalistic standard" revolves mainly around one axiom: the US can do no wrong. Anything claims contrary to this belief are branded traitorous. When the claims are true, such as Abu Ghraib, My Lai, Watergate, to name a few, other excuses are created. When the claims made in good faith turn out to be cloudy or proven false, they use the opportunity to chastise their enemies, accuse them of conspiracy, and prevent any future investigations into the clandestine and illegal activities of the US government.

Governments lie. Serious investigative journalism is one avenue to the truth. Newsweek may have missed the mark here, but that is not the point, nor the reason for massive anti-US protest. Two illegal wars, two illegal occupations, a heavily biased relationship with Israel, tens of thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq, and a history of supporting dictators in the Middle East are the root the problems. Anything else is a distraction.12

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Jared McBride graduated as a History major from Northeastern University and is now currently studying in Germany.

For notes, click here.