Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Newsweek Mistake Least of Things To Be Angry About

It's utterly amazing what we choose to get indignant about.

With Terri Schiavo at rest, Martha Stewart temporarily out of the news -- and perhaps feeling that Americans are growing weary of their Michael Jackson obsession -- the national media and the Right Wing are now turning their attention and wrath on Newsweek for a story published last week.

The weekly newsmagazine published a story saying that a military probe had found evidence of desecration of the Koran by U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay. The story, which reported that interrogators had flushed a copy of the Muslim holy book down a toilet, prompted protests in Afghanistan in which 15 people were killed.

The Bush administration has of course been very vocal in criticizing the magazine's handling of the story.

"It's appalling that this story got out there," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said as she traveled home from Iraq.

"People lost their lives. People are dead," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld huffed. "People need to be very careful about what they say, just as they need to be careful about what they do."

Newsweek retracted the article yesterday.

"Based on what we know now, we are retracting our original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered Koran abuse at Guantanamo Bay," Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker said.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan called Newsweek's retraction "a good first step" but said it could not repair all the damage that had been done. "The report had real consequences," McClellan added. "People have lost their lives. Our image abroad has been damaged."

While I understand the shock and horror Rice, Rumsfeld and McClellan must be feeling over this, the Yellow Dog Blog offers a few things that are far more compelling and deserving of anger:

  • McClellan is right to say that our image aboard has suffered, but he's about two years late with that assertion. Is it any wonder that people throughout the world so readily believe charges of outrageous behavior and ill treatment of prisoners by the United States? Aren't we the same country that hooked up prisoners to electrical wires, led them around on dog leashes, forced them into sexual positions with one another and stacked them naked like so much cordwood – and then took photos to celebrate our actions? Where was your righteous anger then, Scott? It's also important to note that, whether or not the Koran-abuse charges turn out to be true, reports of mistreatment of Guantanamo Bay prisoners have been steadily heard since the facility opened. This also made the Newsweek report seem credible. Indeed, many of us believe these charges may still be proven true.
  • Are we as a nation ready to get angry yet over a President who misled us into war and who now has the blood of over 1,600 American military men and women on his hands?
  • I'd say it's time to get good and upset over the fact that we are now less safe as a nation, having attacked Iraq for no reason – see the 9/11 Commission Report – and killed 100,000 of their people. I guess they have something to be mad about as well.
  • We owe a little bit of outrage on behalf of the soldiers and sailors who have returned maimed and suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome. It won't be easy on their families, either. Let's forget about a story in Newsweek for a minute and get really pissed about that.
  • We've now passed the $170 billion mark for this war that, if you recall, the Bush administration claimed would be paid for by Iraqi oil revenues. Since it looks like that isn't going to come true either – and our children will be shouldering the burden of this folly – can we take a few minutes away from the Michael Jackson trial to write a letter to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue about that?
  • How about Bush seeing fit to give the wealthiest among us major tax breaks while average Americans struggle with multiple jobs and many have no health insurance whatsoever? Feeling a little peeved over that?
For once I agree with this administration: There is much to be angry and indignant about right now.

Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice and the rest of that crew must lay awake at night hoping the American people never figure out what the true offenses are – and who should ultimately be held responsible.