Friday, May 20, 2005

Newsweek responsible for anti-American sentiment?

Newsweek has recently come under fire for an article in which they reported that a reliable source uncovered an internal Pentagon document that found that a Qu'ran had been flushed down the toilet during an interrogation at Guantanmo Bay. Shortly after the Newsweek article came out violent protests broke out in Afghanistan and Pakistan that led to the death of 16 people.

After the Pentagon denied the story and the source of the story told Newsweek that he could not confirm his initial statement Newsweek retracted its claim that there was a Pentagon report detailing abuse of the Qu'ran.

By relying on single source that could not corroborate the report Newsweek was guilty of poor journalism and made an error that served in part as a catalyst to set off violent protests.

But the White House has been using this incident to shift the blame for America's damaged reputation to Newsweek when in reality the government has done far more harm to our reputation than the Newsweek story did. And while Newsweek has disavowed their error and apologized for it, the Bush administration has yet to take accountability for any of the things it has done to undermine American's reputation. In essence, Newsweek is being used as a scapegoat and a device to divert criticism away from the administration. Consider:

- Although Newsweek retracted its story that an internal investigation had revealed abuse of the Qu'ran, allegations that Qu'ran has been abused are common and still under open investigation.
"Contrary to White House spin, the allegations of religious desecration at Guantanamo such as those described by Newsweek on 9 May 2005 are common among ex-prisoners and have been widely reported outside the United States. Several former detainees at the Guantanamo and Bagram airbase prisons have reported instances of their handlers sitting or standing on the Koran, throwing or kicking it in toilets, and urinating on it."
- Newsweek has been blamed for the deaths that resulted from the riots in Afghanistan, but General Richard Myers, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, believes that the riots were not necessarily the result of the Newsweek article.
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff says a report from Afghanistan suggests that rioting in Jalalabad on May 11 was not necessarily connected to press reports that the Quran might have been desecrated in the presence of Muslim prisoners held in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Air Force General Richard Myers told reporters at the Pentagon May 12 that he has been told that the Jalalabad, Afghanistan, rioting was related more to the ongoing political reconciliation process in Afghanistan than anything else.
- As pointed out in this article at Slate, things such as the faulty evidence used to justify invading Iraq, the prisoner abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, and the practice of sending prisoners to countries that engage in torture have negatively impacted the reputation of America and have resulted in a significant amount of deaths.

The White House should not be given a pass on its complicity in engendering anti-American sentiment because of Newsweek's poor judgement in presenting a poorly sourced story.

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