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Around the world this week's headlines were a riot, as "a wave of anti-American demonstrations swept the Islamic world from the Gaza Strip to the Java Sea, sparked by a single paragraph in a magazine alleging that US military interrogators had desecrated the Koran." I don't live in America, so I can't gauge how much press or airtime this story is getting there. But elsewhere we learn that "President Hamid Karzai is planning an administrative shake-up after violent Afghan protests over the alleged desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay left 14 dead and 120 injured".
CNN notes that "The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff says an investigation has so far turned up no evidence of U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrating the Muslim holy book, the Quran." But such denials don't carry much weight with true believers.
There's nothing new to the story, such tales of American's disrespect for Islam and abuse of Muslims have been a huge cornerstone of the post-911 Al-Qaeda recruiting drives. A California sex therapist sparked some violent responses when she posted bizarre theories about the "rape of Iraq" on her web site. In a similar episode Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner held a press conference in which he displayed graphic photos of what he claimed were US soldiers raping Iraqi women. The Boston Globe ran the pictures in a very large, above the fold front page story, but found themselves apologizing shortly thereafter when it was revealed that Turner's collection had been downloaded from an internet porn site - they were fakes. In January 2004 reports of American soldiers ripping up a Koran and desecrating a Mosque in Iraq made brief headlines, until the US released video of the raid and debunked the claims. Now Newsweek - an American magazine - apparently lends a new credence to what might be otherwise questionable reports. Here's Newsweek:
Investigators probing interrogation abuses at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay have confirmed some infractions alleged in internal FBI e-mails that surfaced late last year. Among the previously unreported cases, sources tell NEWSWEEK: interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur'an down a toilet and led a detainee around with a collar and dog leash. An Army spokesman confirms that 10 Gitmo interrogators have already been disciplined for mistreating prisoners, including one woman who took off her top, rubbed her finger through a detainee's hair and sat on the detainee's lap.A cautious reader might ask "How small was that Qur'an?? But others are a bit quicker to respond, and some have paid with their lives. More may follow, as there will likely be no "proof" that the events described in Newsweek didn't happen.
And certainly riots weren't the desired result of Newsweek's story. In fact, the overlooked final part of the offending paragraph seems to imply the purpose was to sell books:
(New details of sexual abuse?including an instance in which a female interrogator allegedly wiped her red-stained hand on a detainee's face, telling him it was her menstrual blood?are also in a new book to be published this week by a former Gitmo translator.)It's interesting that Newsweek mentioned that - for reasons you'll soon see. The book in question is titled Inside the Wire, and an early story about it appeared in the New York Times:
SAN JUAN, P.R., Jan. 27 (AP) - Female interrogators tried to break male Muslim detainees at the United States prison camp in Guantᮡmo Bay, Cuba, by sexually touching them, by wearing miniskirts and thong underwear, and, in one case, by smearing a Saudi man's face with red ink, which he was led to believe was menstrual blood, according to part of a draft manuscript written by a former Army sergeant.
The manuscript, which was obtained by The Associated Press, was written by Erik R. Saar, who was an Arabic translator at Guantᮡmo from December 2002 to June 2003.
Mr. Saar, 29, did not provide the manuscript, but he did confirm the authenticity of nine draft pages obtained by The A.P. He asked that his hometown remain private so he would not be harassed.
The manuscript is classified as secret pending a Pentagon review for a book Mr. Saar is writing about the military's use of women as part of tougher physical and psychological interrogation tactics against terrorism suspects.
Let's review: The book was classified, but was being sent for approval for publication to the Pentagon. The AP obtained a few pages - not from Eric Saar, they're quick to point out - and published a story revealing what they contained.
It's possible that if Saar didn't release the publicity building documents then perhaps the book's actual writer did. Listed as co-author is Viveca Novak, a long-time contributor to Time magazine (which is why I said it was interesting that Newsweek mentioned the book - although they didn't include the title in their report, and didn't mention the real author's identity.)
But before looking at some of her previous work, let's see her publisher's description of her latest:
Inside the Wire is a gripping portrait of one soldier's six months at the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba?a powerful, searing journey into a surreal world completely unique in the American experience.Oddly enough, the description fails to mention that the "document" that was "leaked" was actually a few pages of the book, submitted for Pentagon approval.
In an explosive newsbreak that generated headlines all around the world, a document submitted by army Sergeant Erik Saar to the Pentagon for clearance was leaked to the Associated Press in January, 2005. His account of appalling sexual interrogation tactics used on detainees at Guantanamo Bay was shocking, but that was only one small part of the story of what he saw at Guantanamo?and the leak was only one more strange twist in his profoundly disturbing and life-changing trip behind the scenes of America's war on terror.
And if you scroll down to the bottom of the publisher's page you'll find an indication of the level of detailed fact checking Ms Novak brings to her work:
At pages 191-192, Inside the Wire: A Military Intelligence Soldier?s Eyewitness Account of Life at Guantanamo by Erik Saar and Viveca Novak, erroneously states that civilian interrogators hired through an army contract with CACI were in Guantanamo Bay. The book also describes the activities of two contract interrogators. CACI has unequivocally stated that it had no involvement in any interrogation operations at Guantanamo and that it had no relationship whatsoever with the civilian contract interrogators involved in the use of the interrogation techniques discussed in the book. The Penguin Press and the Authors acknowledge and regret the error. In addition, The Penguin Press and the Authors are taking a number of corrective actions, including inserting erratum slips in Penguin?s remaining copies of the book, providing erratum slips to Penguin?s accounts for insertion into books that have already been shipped, and advising media organizations that will be interviewing the authors of the error. Future printings will be corrected to address the error.At #800 on the bestseller's list at Amazon future printings may not be necessary. This is the book that should be flushed down a toilet.
Now, back to our story. Ms Novak's career with Time gives a clear look at her approach to the story she's written - and a good indication of why she's sharing writing credits (and perhaps why most reviews fail to mention her existence). She's had problems with detaining terrorists since the earliest days of the War on Terror, expressing misgivings with the competence of the Justice Department and the Administration in general as early as November 2001. To be fair, as with so many reporters it's difficult to tell where they really stand on the war because their problem is a deep dislike of the Bush Administration. In this group Novak can claim primacy - she wrote How Ethical is the Bush Administration Anyway? Back in June 2001 when most reporters were covering shark attacks. To be completely fair, her oldest Time articles reveal her problem isn't really with the Bush Administration - she just loves to write about Republicans. (And when time permits she also covers "antiabortion forces")
All of this is perfectly fine, of course. This is America, and we all have freedom of speech, and nobody will riot in front of the offices of Time, Newsweek, or Penguin publishers over this new outrage. So cash your checks with pride, Viv. You too, Eric. The prisoners in Guantanamo may or may not get over the shame of being teased by women in thongs, but 14 Afghanis are certainly and permanently dead.
Update: Newsweek has followed up with another article devoting two paragraphs to detailing accounts of Americans desecrating the Qur'an, and acknowledging that "Such stories may spark more trouble."
Also see The Year in Pictures
Clarification: This post has been misinterpreted as implying that Eric Saar might be the source of the leak to Newsweek on the Koran incident - that was never the intention.
It is worth noting that rumors in the Muslim world have lost control many times. For example, in November 1979, false rumors that the United States had participated in the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca provoked a mob attack on the U.S. embassy in Islamabad. The Pakistani government's delayed response enabled the mob to burn the embassy. Four people died, two of them U.S. nationals (one of them being a U.S. Marine).Posted by Rob at May 15, 2005 12:01 AM
Just spent the last two hours trying to run this down for a column. So far, it appears that a "detainee" flushed pages down in protest hoping to clog the toilet. Leave it to Newsweek and the MSM to launch a story so inflammatory and not name a source.
God, we have two wars on our hands...and the biggest hurdle is ourselves. This will set us back back months regardless of whether or not its true or false. I've oft-maintained that the MSM does not want us (US) to win. Selling papers is the big game.
Lord help us.Posted by Buzz Patterson at May 15, 2005 12:44 AM
There seems to be a lot of outrage at Newsweek and yet none at Dr. Rice who sold us out.
Condoleeza Rice's remarks not only lend credence to the Islamic faith, but act to legitimize the Constitution of Saudi Arabia.
More here ~
LHMPosted by LHM at May 15, 2005 01:09 AM
Makes one wonder how big of a read Newsweek is in Pakistan, huh? I have a feeling that certain groups (maybe even the reporter) have been stoking this fire in an attempt to have that Arab street (that we've heard about for years) rise up against the US.Posted by Anonymous Coward at May 15, 2005 01:17 AM
Awesome blogging on this story!Posted by TS at May 15, 2005 01:26 AM
They "acknowledge and regret the error"??? What the heck is that crap? How do they get away with this? It seems as though the media can just print, say and broadcast anything they damn well please and on the off-chance they get caught, oh well, "we regret the error". I am so angry, I can hardly see straight. Great job you guys.Posted by diana at May 15, 2005 06:06 AM
Journalists are responsible for the "truth" they create. It's bad enough when they mislead the American public, and deceptively sway them to the (liberal) mainstream media point of view.
Its' quite another when the same untruths spark protests, violence, and anti-American outrage.
Not the enemy, just on the other side.Posted by Dadmanly at May 15, 2005 06:32 AM
Whatever happened to the day when reports had to confirm stories?? Todays stories of hints and allegations just turn me off of the MSM more and more. In this case, I think the Gov't of Afghanistan should sue this lady for inciting riots. This is clearly a case of irresponsible journalism.Posted by SC at May 15, 2005 07:17 AM
So Mr. Saar's hometown remains "private so he would not be harassed", Ms. Novak hides behind her source and the First Amendment, and meanwhile 14 Afghanis are dead? These two selfish cowards should be the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of the victims.
It is the same selfish cowardice that fuels their desire for our defeat. Their worldview is built upon the premise that the administration's strategy on and execution of the WOT is wrong. Above all things, they are frightened of the possibility that Bush could be right.
And what would stop American Torte Lawyers from representing the family and relatives of the dead Afghans in an American court for Newsweek's 'shouting fire in a croweded theater' action?Posted by Don at May 15, 2005 01:19 PM
(So far, it appears that a "detainee" flushed pages down in protest hoping to clog the toilet.)
Yes, that is the case as I understand it also. Wonder where THAT story is, or if it's just ok for a muslim to do this.
Also worthy of note is it is apparently ok for them to burn our flag, etc.
A big (WTF?) to the fact it seems more than ok for them to decapitate Americans.
As far as I'm concerned ... none of the alleged techniques bother me even if they WERE used ... light weight at best.
Maybe they would prefer their heads chopped off with a dull knife instead ... like they do to American "detainees".Posted by Jonathan at May 15, 2005 03:13 PM
To Viveca and the staff of Newsweek: There ought to be a special award for your brand of journalism, just as there are "Razzies" for truly tasteless films. But what you did goes beyond bad taste. The bloodstains on your hands can't be washed off, so don't try to pull a Pontius Pilate or Lady Macbeth act on us. If you repent, God will probably cut you some slack, but I'm not holding my breath!Posted by Bloodthirsty Warmonger at May 15, 2005 06:09 PM
An 800 ranking on Amazon is not indicative of a poor seller. In fact that means it is selling better than all but 799 books in the United States.
A few years back I wrote a book that got to somewhere around 23,000 on the Amazon list. That was good enough to make it my publisher's best-selling book for that month. (And, this is not an unknown publisher. Rather it is on the same level as Presidio or Stackpole.) That was a good enough ranking to indicate sales that sold out the first printing and have the publishers issue a second printing.
If "Inside the Wire" really was at 800 on Amazon, the publishers would be fools not to republish it. At this point all that can be done is to watch that they *do* include the corrections.Posted by Mark L at May 15, 2005 07:44 PM
The only reason we shouldn't desecrate a Koran is because it would, indeed, cause rioting. As we know, it caused rioting even when it didn't happen.
But get real! Humiliating somebody by destroying a book is NOT an act of torture.
I revere the Bible, but if I was questioning some nut who used Scripture to justify acts of terrorism, and if I thought I could get life-saving answers by desecrating the Bible, I'd do it in a heartbeat.Posted by John at May 16, 2005 02:06 AM
Update on the story posted
Posted by LHM at May 16, 2005 08:28 AM
When Seymour Hersch first appeard on Fox talking about Gitmo "abuse," he said his source was a Muslim FBI investigator--unnamed, of course. Couldn't it possibly be a that sympathetic ear verified these allegations?Posted by Patricia at May 16, 2005 04:54 PM
I saw a pallet full of this book at Costco this past weekend. It must have dropped below 800 on Amazon by now.Posted by Blooch at May 16, 2005 10:22 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(17) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)