Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Monday, May 16, 2005
When in doubt...
Part of the problem with the Newsweek on-again-off-again Quran desecration story is that the original report was just so damned believable. As the folks at Raw Story point out, the story hits a bit too close to home for former Gitmo detainees who have detailed similar Quoranic defliements among the abuses they say they suffered at the hands of American interrogators, including the books being "thrown in a pile and stepped on," urinated on, and yes, chucked in the loo. Some of the insults reportedly prompted hunger strikes, and in one case, a full-on inquiry and rare U.S. apology. From the Raw Story piece today (emphases added):

The toilet incident was reported in the Washington Post in a 2003 interview with a former detainee from Afghanistan:

"Ehsannullah, 29, said American soldiers who initially questioned him in Kandahar before shipping him to Guantanamo hit him and taunted him by dumping the Koran in a toilet. ‘It was a very bad situation for us,’ said Ehsannullah, who comes from the home region of the Taliban leader, Mohammad Omar. ‘We cried so much and shouted, Please do not do that to the Holy Koran.’ (Marc Kaufman and April Witt, "Out of Legal Limbo, Some Tell of Mistreatment," Washington Post, Mar. 26, 2003.)Also citing the toilet incident is testimony by Asif Iqbal, a former Guatanamo detainee who was released to British custody in Mar. 2004 and subsequently freed without charge:

"The behaviour of the guards towards our religious practices as well as the Koran was also, in my view, designed to cause us as much distress as possible. They would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet and generally disrespect it." (Center for Constitution Rights, Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, (Aug. 4, 2004, deposition available here.)

In fact, the allegations of abuse at Gitmo don't just come from former detainees. One former Gitmo translator, former U.S. Army Sgt. Erik Saar, has even written a book in which he details the ritual humiliation and sexually charged humliation and abuse of prisoners at Camp Delta, including an incident where a female interrogator rubbed what the detainee thought was her menstrual blood on his face... And a group of U.S. servicemen, all former military lawyers, are currently suing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for abuses they say were carried out under his direction:

Former Military Lawyers JoinLawsuit Against Rumsfeld

by Edward Spannaus

"Mr. Rumsfeld's policies have stained our military.... We want to remove that stain," said retired Army Gen. James Cullen, one of two retired military lawyers who are part of the legal team in a newly filed lawsuit against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. [See interview with Gen. Cullen.] The action was filed on March 1 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights First, on behalf of eight former prisoners, four Afghan and four Iraqi citizens, who were tortured and abused at the hands of U.S. military personnel acting under Rumsfeld's direction. [Emphasis added]

Retired Rear Admiral John Hutson, who is also part of the legal team, acknowledged to a packed press conference in Washington on March 1 that, after 28 years in the United States Navy, "this is not an easy thing for me to do." But, Hutson explained, this lawsuit "is about our national defense, now and in the future; it's about the role that the United States has traditionally played on the world stage; it's about our self-respect and self-image; and it's largely about protecting our own soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who are already in harm's way, and who will continue to be so in the future."

Whatever the facts prove to be in this case, there's no disputing the fact that the real U.S. abuses at Guantanamo and Abu-Ghraib set the table for this scandal, because they lowered the bar for American behavior into the basement, along with whatever credibility we had in the Muslim world.

That's why we have so little leg to stand on in denying the story. Worse the Bush administration isn't exactly the most believable outfit on the world stage, and so its denials -- along with the Newsweek mea culpa -- are, predictably falling on deaf ears.

The White House can blame Newsweek for the current fiasco (although to reiterate my earlier post, I have my doubts about the sudden about-face), but it can blame only itself and its incompetant execution of the Iraq occupation for the abysmal state of affairs we face with Islam worldwide.

Bottom line: there was a time when a story such as this simply wouldnot have been believable to people of good will. Thanks to Ricardo Sanchez, Dick Meyers, Don Rumsfeld and the whole Pentagon peanut gallery that allowed ritual prisoner abuse posing as interrogation, suspect "rendering" and other assorted nastiness to take place, and thanks to George W. Bush and his family fued with Saddam Hussein, nobody quite believe us, nor are they likely too for a long, long time.
posted by JReid @ 1:39 PM  
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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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