Monday, May 16, 2005

Newsweek's Fault?

The swivelchair crowd's uproar over Newsweek's "fabrication" that the Koran was flushed down a Gitmo toilet says much about their hypocrisy and desperation. Since when do these stateside battle boys give a shit about Muslim feelings or lives? Or is it merely the negative PR for the US that angers them? Whatever the spur, the sight of them shaking their keyboards at Newsweek reminds us that selective outrage, when it isn't simply feigned, is the swivelchair currency -- counterfeit, but freely dispersed.

Only the willfully idiotic or blindly partisan can truly believe that Newsweek magazine uniquely damaged whatever US credibility remains in the Middle East. Is the concept of Gitmo interrogators defiling Muslim symbols and beliefs impossible to grasp? Come on. And while Newsweek editors are taking a few tepid steps away from their original sidebar, they haven't, as of this writing, completely retracted the charge, originally attributed to a US source. Bottom line, nobody knows how much of this is true or not, but, again, given American conduct at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib (and doubtless places we know nothing about), the idea that captive Muslims are being humiliated in such a fashion is completely believable.

Not so for warbloggers like Roger Simon. To him, Newsweek has blood all over its pages, and I wouldn't be shocked if Simon accused Newsweek editors of committing war crimes. 'Course, the US can slaughter and torture all the Iraqis it likes, and Simon's hat remains on his head. But should Muslims die in riots presumably caused by Newsweek's report, Simon's hat flies off to the sound of steam whistles. Here's a man who'll not stand idly by while the press passes on falsehoods! I'm not a big reader of Simon's blog, but I wonder if he made the same fuss once it was clear that the Bush gang fabricated its WMD evidence, which the elitist media he despises passed on as fact. That state/media falsehood has caused a tremendous amount of death and destruction, far more than what's recently transpired in Afghanistan. Yet I doubt that Simon's hat so much as tipped in that case.

As usual, Juan Cole takes a calmer, deeper look at the present controversy. Particularly of interest is Guantanamo translator Erik Saar's testimony that, indeed, humiliation of Muslims at Gitmo was standard practice. Cole adds:

"As a professional historian, I would say we still do not have enough to be sure that the Koran desecration incident took place. We have enough to consider it plausible. Anyway, the important thing politically is that some Muslims have found it plausible, and their outrage cannot be effectively dealt with by simple denial."

Cole then tells of a former military officer who contacted him to say that the Newsweek story about the Koran is perfectly believable. That in his training, the Bible was trashed in a similar manner. After checking the officer's evidence, Cole surmises:

"This informed former officer has suggested the real reason for which some in the Pentagon are so angry about the Newsweek story. It may well so focus international outrage on Guantanamo that Rumsfeld will lose his little psych lab."

An excellent point. The whole "War on Terror" is an open-air psych/war/weapons lab for the US military and its corporate wing. Whatever the "truth" of Newsweek's report, the overall reality is clear to those willing to see. If Newsweek never pubbed its source's claim about Koran abuse, the war would still rage, torture would continue, as would theft and corruption by multinationals in Iraq. Maybe those specific riots in Afghanistan wouldn't have occurred, but riots elsewhere would, and no doubt will, so long as this madness goes on. So, for the swivelchairs to protest this one minor media burp as the cause of violence and anti-American feeling shows that they're either not bothered by the bigger picture, or are blind to its blazing presence.

And for the Bush White House to lambaste anyone for peddling falsehoods, well, let's just say my ball cap has hit the ceiling.