Blaming the Messenger

Outrage filled the airwaves this week as administration officials took
turns denouncing Newsweek's brief report of alleged desecrations of the
Koran at Guantanamo Bay. But among the many declarations of shock,
shock, shock, among the multiple expressions of self-righteous horror
at the riots the story sparked in Afghanistan, only one reflected any
hint of self-reflection, any sense that this story might be more than
just another mainstream media screw-up. "People need to be very careful
about what they say," said the secretary of defense, " just as they
need to be very careful about what they do."

it is possible that no interrogator at Guantanamo Bay ever flushed
pages of the Koran down the toilet, as the now-retracted Newsweek story
reported -- although several former Guantanamo detainees have alleged
just that. It is also possible that Newsweek reporters relied too much
on an uncertain source, or that the magazine confused the story with
(confirmed) reports that prisoners themselves used Korans to block
toilets as a form of protest.

But surely the larger point is not
the story itself but that it was so eminently plausible, in Pakistan,
Afghanistan and everywhere else. And it was plausible precisely because
interrogation techniques designed to be offensive to Muslims were used
in Iraq and Guantanamo, as administration and military officials have
also confirmed. For example:

· Dogs. Military interrogators
deployed them specifically because they knew Muslims consider dogs
unclean. In a memo signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez in September
2003, and available online, the then-commander in Iraq actually
approved using the technique to "exploit Arab fear of dogs."

Nudity. We know (and the Muslim world knows) from the Abu Ghraib
photographs that nudity has been used to humiliate Muslim men. More
important, we know that nudity was also approved as an interrogation
technique by Donald Rumsfeld himself. He signed off on a November 2002
policy memo, later revised but also available online, that specifically
listed "removal of clothing" as a permissible, "category II"
interrogation technique, along with "removal of facial hair," also a
technique designed to offend Muslims who wear beards.

· Sexual
harassment. The military's investigation of U.S. detention and
interrogation practices, led by Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III, stated
that at Guantanamo there were "two female interrogators who, on their
own initiative, touched and spoke to detainees in a sexually suggestive
manner in order to incur stress based on the detainees' religious
beliefs." Although the report said both had been reprimanded, there is
no doubt, again, that the tactic was designed for men whose religion
prohibits them from having contact with women other than their wives.

Fake menstrual blood. When former detainees began claiming that they
had been smeared with menstrual blood intended to make them "unclean"
and therefore unable to pray, their lawyers initially dismissed the
story as implausible. But the story has been confirmed by Army Sgt.
Erik Saar, a former Guantanamo translator, who told the Associated
Press that in a forthcoming book he will describe a female interrogator
who smeared a prisoner with red ink, claimed it was menstrual blood and
left, saying, "Have a fun night in your cell without any water to clean

There is no question that these were tactics designed
to offend, no question that they were put in place after 2001 and no
question that many considered them justified. Since the Afghan
invasion, public supporters of "exceptional" interrogation methods have
argued that in the special, unusual case of the war on terrorism, we
may have to suspend our fussy legality, ignore our high ideals and
resort to some unpleasant tactics that our military had never used.
Opponents of these methods, among them some of the military's own
interrogation experts, have argued, on the contrary, that "special
methods" are not only ineffective but counterproductive: They might
actually inspire Muslim terrorists instead of helping to defeat them.
They might also make it easier, say, for fanatics in Jalalabad to use
two lines of a magazine article to incite riots.

Blaming the
messenger, even for a bungled message, doesn't get the administration
off the hook. Yes, to paraphrase Rumsfeld, people need to be very
careful, not only about what they say but about what they do. And, yes,
people whose military and diplomatic priorities include the defeat of
Islamic fanaticism and the spread of democratic values in the Muslim
world need to be very, very careful, not only about what they say but
about what they do to the Muslims they hold in captivity.

Syndicated columnist Anne Applebaum is author of Gulag



Don’t Blame Newsweek Publication/Source: AlterNet By: Molly Ivins Date: May 20, 2005

As Riley used to say on an ancient television sitcom, "This is
a revoltin' development." There seems to be a bit of a campaign on the
right to blame Newsweek for the anti-American riots in Afghanistan,
Pakistan and other Islamic countries.

Uh, people, I hate to tell
you this, but the story about Americans abusing the Koran in order to
enrage prisoners has been out there for quite some time. The first
mention I found of it is March 17, 2004, when the Independent of London
interviewed the first British citizen released from Guantanamo Bay. The
prisoner said he had been physically beaten but did not consider that
as bad as the psychological torture, which he described extensively.
Jamal al-Harith, a computer programmer from Manchester, said 70 percent
of the inmates had gone on a hunger strike after a guard kicked a copy
of the Koran. The strike was ended by force-feeding.

Then came
the report, widely covered in American media last December, by the
International Red Cross concerning torture at Gitmo. I wrote at the
time: "In the name of Jesus Christ Almighty, why are people
representing our government, paid by us, writing filth on the Korans of
helpless prisoners? Is this American? Is this Christian? What are our
moral values? Where are the clergymen on this? Speak up, speak out."

reports kept coming: Dec. 30, 2004, "Released Moroccan Guantanamo
Detainee Tells Islamist Paper of His Ordeal," reported the Financial
Times. "They watched you each time you went to the toilet; the American
soldiers used to tear up copies of Koran and throw them in the toilet.
... " said the released prisoner.

On Jan. 9, 2005, Andrew
Sullivan, writing in The Sunday Times of London, said: "We now know a
great deal about what has gone on in U.S. detention facilities under
the Bush administration. Several government and Red Cross reports
detail the way many detainees have been treated. We know for certain
that the United States has tortured five inmates to death. We know that
23 others have died in U.S. custody under suspicious circumstances. We
know that torture has been practiced by almost every branch of the U.S.
military in sites all over the world -- from Abu Ghraib to Tikrit,
Mosul, Basra, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

"We know that no
incidents of abuse have been reported in regular internment facilities
and that hundreds have occurred in prisons geared to getting
intelligence. We know that thousands of men, women and children were
grabbed almost at random from their homes in Baghdad, taken to Saddam's
former torture palace and subjected to abuse, murder, beatings,
semi-crucifixions and rape.

"All of this is detailed in the
official reports. What has been perpetrated in secret prisons to 'ghost
detainees' hidden from Red Cross inspection, we do not know. We may
never know.

"This is America? While White House lawyers were
arguing about what separates torture from legitimate 'coercive
interrogation techniques,' the following was taking place: Prisoners
were hanged for hours or days from bars or doors in semi-crucifixions;
they were repeatedly beaten unconscious, woken and then beaten again
for days on end; they were sodomized; they were urinated on, kicked in
the head, had their ribs broken, and were subjected to electric shocks.

Muslims had pork or alcohol forced down their throats; they had tape
placed over their mouths for reciting the Koran; many Muslims were
forced to be naked in front of each other, members of the opposite sex
and sometimes their own families. It was routine for the abuses to be
photographed in order to threaten the showing of the humiliating
footage to family members."

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."

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