Wednesday, May 18, 2005

"Let's Drop the 'Lynch Newsweek' Bull"

If I am understanding the news reports correctly, the terrible thing Newsweek did was report the story of flushing the Koran, because they should have known that such a story would cause riots. So, they retracted the story, no doubt after getting a rather ominous message from on high that they had better eat their words or suffer under the scrutiny of the Gestapo...oh,wrong era; make that Homeland Security (btw, did anyone notice in Negroponte's little speech after being sworn in today that while slipping in all the previous positions he had held, he inadvertently left out Honduras? I guess he didn't want any death squad skeletons rattling around on his day of glory).

What I find troubling is that the media doesn't seem to be talking much at all about what would seem to be the primary issue; is there some foundation of truth in the story? Or, how about a discussion of the justification for the existence of Gitmo itself? We're operating a concentration camp off the coast of Florida, and the media thinks what we want is updates about Michael Jackson. Anything to distract us from the truth about what our government is really up to, I suppose. No doubt most of the media have also been contacted by "Security."

Even with all the attempts to distract the public, stories of torture and abuse have managed to get out anyway. Consider just this one story (more like a nightmare, I'd say), from a year ago, which I highlighted in a piece entitled In the Name of God? It is from the sworn statement by Abu Ghraib detainee Ameen Sa'eed Al-Sheikh;

The night guard came over, his name is Graner, open the cell door, came in with a number of soldiers. They forced me to eat pork and they put liquor in my mouth. They put this substance on my nose and forehead and it was very hot. The guards started to hit me on my broken leg with a solid plastic stick...they stripped me naked. One of them told me he would rape me. He drew a picture of a woman to my back and makes me stand in shameful position holding my buttocks. Someone else asked me, "Do you believe in anything?" I said to him, "I believe in Allah." So he said, "But I believe in torture and I will torture you"...They ordered me to curse Islam and because they started to hit my broken leg, I cursed my religion. They ordered me to thank Jesus that I'm alive. And I did what they ordered me...They left me hang from the bed and after a little while I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I found myself still hang between the bed and the floor. Until now, I lost feeling in three fingers in my right hand.
Using one's faith tradition as an implement of torture didn't suddenly spring up from a sidebar in Newsweek earlier this month. It is a technique that shows up in testimony after testimony of former detainees. So, because the Pentagon denies the story of flushing the Koran at Gitmo, should we drop the issue? Or, regardless of the repercussions, should we tell the world what is going on in this American-made hell on earth?

Here's part of Andrew Sullivan's take on this;

...So when we have reports of an alleged desecration of the Koran, whom are we supposed to find credible? Before this war started, I wouldn't have even considered the possibility that the U.S. was guilty. But, given the enormous evidence of abuse that stares us in the face, doubt is now the only operative position to take. The sad truth is: this administration has forfeited our trust in its management of the military's interrogation processes. They forfeited it not simply because of the evidence of widespread abuse and memos that expanded the range of interrogation techniques, but by the record of accountability. Anyone with real power or influence was let off the hook in the Abu Ghraib fiasco; no serious external inquiry was allowed; Rumsfeld wasn't allowed to resign; Sanchez is in place; Gonzales is rewarded for loyalty; the Republican Congress completely looked the other way; last year, John Kerry cowardly avoided the subject. We couldn't even get a law passed forbidding the CIA from using torture. And what I find remarkable is that interrogatory abuse is now taken for granted, even by defenders of the administration. Here's Jonah Goldberg today:

But what on earth was gained by Newsweek's decision to publish the story — whether it was true or not? Were we unaware that interrogators at Gitmo aren't playing bean bag with detainees?
No we were not unaware. We were just looking the other way. So yesterday's outrage becomes today's world-weary assumption. This is how liberty dies - with scattered, knee-jerk applause.
Molly Ivins weighs in with an essay entitled Don't Blame Newsweek;

...The New York Times reported on May 1 on the same investigation Newsweek was writing about and interviewed a released Kuwaiti, who spoke of three major hunger strikes, one of them touched off by "guards' handling copies of the Koran, which had been tossed into a pile and stomped on. A senior officer delivered an apology over the camp's loudspeaker system, pledging that such abuses would stop. Interpreters, standing outside each prison block, translated the officer's apology. A former interrogator at Guantanamo, in an interview with the Times, confirmed the accounts of the hunger strikes, including the public expression of regret over the treatment of the Korans.

So where does all this leave us? With a story that is not only true, but previously reported numerous times. So let's drop the "Lynch Newsweek" bull. Seventeen people have died in these riots. They didn't die because of anything Newsweek did -- the riots were caused by what our government has done.

Get your minds around it. Our country is guilty of torture. To quote myself once more: "What are you going to do about this? It's your country, your money, your government. You own this country, you run it, you are the board of directors. They are doing this in your name. The people we elected to public office do what you want them to. Perhaps you should get in touch with them."
"They didn't die because of anything Newsweek did -- the riots were caused by what our government has done." There it is, plain and simple.

Now what is bothering me is the quick retraction by Newsweek, and the one-sided reporting this story is getting in the media. Has this administration, with its expanded powers to enforce "security," managed to transform our news sources into puppets on a string?


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