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US Forces Newsweek To Back Down From Its Koran Desecration Story: Reporting the truth
by sources
Monday May 16th, 2005 8:19 AM
We live in a world where the means of communication are so sophisticated and swift that they can stir up violent emotions almost instantly in some of the least advanced countries in the world.
As a result policies are destroyed, buildings are torched, and people killed even before the initial report can be verified.

On 9 May, the US magazine Newsweek printed a paragraph that read: "Investigators probing interrogation abuses at the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay have confirmed some infractions alleged in internal FBI e-mails that surfaced late last year. Among the previously unreported cases, sources tell Newsweek: interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Koran down a toilet and led a detainee around with a collar and dog leash."

The item, with its reference to the mistreatment of the Koran, was spotted by someone on the Arabic-language television news channel al-Jazeera and broadcast as a news report.

Since then, there have been violent riots in at least six areas: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan, the Palestinian territories and Indonesia. A dozen or more people have died.

A spokesman for the Pentagon in Washington put the blame squarely on Newsweek. "People are dying," he said. "They are burning American flags. Our forces are in danger."

Strong accusations

The pressure was on Newsweek to retract its report. The magazine checked with its source - a senior US official - who confirmed that he had come across references to the mistreatment of the Koran in the results of an US investigation into the mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo.

But he was no longer certain that they had come from the specific report he had originally named.

This was immediately greeted in the US as a sign that Newsweek had backed down, though nothing in the Newsweek statement indicated that it had.

These are not even the first allegations that US guards and interrogators have desecrated the Koran in order to frighten prisoners or humiliate them.

On his website the respected US authority on the Middle East, Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, carries a despatch from the Italian news agency Ansa on 18 August 2004. It quotes accusations from former Guantanamo prisoners that a Koran was thrown into a toilet.

Perhaps these specific allegations are true, and perhaps they are not. But people tend to believe them, because there have been so many other allegations of deliberate anti-Islamic acts from Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq - of prisoners being forced against their religious convictions to shave their beards, and even to eat pig-meat.

The shaving clearly happened: there is pictorial evidence for that. As for the forcible feeding of pork and bacon, and the desecration of the Koran itself, these things have not been proven. But such reports are instantly believed across the Islamic world.

So should Newsweek have reported the Koran allegation, given its inflammatory nature? It looks very much as though the magazine's editors had no idea that it would be taken up so widely, or cause so much trouble.

And what about al-Jazeera? Should it have rebroadcast it, knowing how fiercely the allegation would be received by Muslims around the world?

Media under fire

The weakness of the story lies, as the Pentagon spotted immediately, in the vagueness of its sourcing, though Newsweek was perfectly clear that the source was an official who had seen the detail about the Koran in an official report.

With hindsight, perhaps, the magazine would have been more comfortable if it had had more details. But it did not try to deceive its readers about the story.

Yet since this was by no means the first time that allegations of the desecration of the Koran by US guards and interrogators have emerged, Newsweek may not have been as concerned as it might otherwise have been.

What about al-Jazeera's part in the affair? Well, if news broadcasting is about telling people what is of interest to them, then the station was only doing its job - even if that job is something which the UK and US governments often dislike and suspect. (A leading adviser to the White House habitually calls al-Jazeera "the enemy".) All al-Jazeera did was to report what Newsweek was saying.

It is hard to avoid the inference that the people who are really to blame are the men and women who have abused their prisoners, not those who have reported allegations about the ill treatment.

What happened in prisons like Guantanamo, Bagram and Abu Ghraib after 2001 has done serious damage to the United States and its allies: not just the dwindling number who still have troops in Iraq, but the new governments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Do not blame the news media for this. Instead, all the effort needs to go into convincing the world that the abuse has stopped, and will never be allowed to start again.

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan were skeptical after a U.S. magazine backed away from a report that U.S. interrogators desecrated copies of the Quran while questioning prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

The account in Newsweek magazine's May 9 issue has been blamed for sparking deadly riots in Afghanistan and other parts of the Muslim world.

On Sunday, Newsweek backed away from the report and offered its sympathies "to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst." (Full story)

But Muslims said they suspected that pressure from Washington was behind the magazine's climbdown, Reuters reported Monday.

"We will not be deceived by this," Islamic cleric Mullah Sadullah Abu Aman told Reuters in the northern Afghan province of Badakhshan.

"This is a decision by America to save itself. It comes because of American pressure. Even an ordinary illiterate peasant understands this and won't accept it."

On Sunday, a group of clerics led by Aman vowed to call for a jihad, or holy war, against the United States in three days unless it handed over the interrogators reported to have desecrated the Quran.

He said the call for a holy war still stood. In the May 9 story, Newsweek cited sources as saying investigators looking into abuses at the military prison found interrogators "had placed Qurans on toilets, and in at least one case flushed a holy book down the toilet."

CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen said "desecrating the Quran is a death-penalty offense" in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.

The Pentagon said last week it was unable to corroborate any case in which interrogators at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, defiled the Muslim holy book, as Newsweek reported.

At least 15 people were killed and dozens injured last week when thousands of demonstrators marched in Afghanistan and other parts of the Muslim world, officials and eyewitnesses said.

"Top administration officials have promised to continue looking into the charges, and so will we," Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker wrote in the magazine's May 23 issue, out Sunday.

"But we regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst."

Some Afghans, however, were unconvinced.

"It's not acceptable now that the magazine says it's made a mistake," Reuters quoted 42-year-old writer and journalist Hafizullah Torab as saying. "No one will accept it."

Sayed Elyas Sedaqat, who heads a cultural group in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, where the protests began last Tuesday, said: "Possibly, the American government put pressure on the magazine to issue the retraction to avoid the anger of Muslims."

In neighboring Pakistan, a religious party said it was going ahead with a call for protests on May 27.

"Newsweek is backtracking, but it's not just their report," said Ghaffar Aziz, a top official of the Jamaat-e-Islami party. "All innocent people released from U.S. custody have said on the record that there was desecration of the Koran."
by Juan Cole (reposted)
Monday May 16th, 2005 8:24 AM

Guantanamo Controversies
The Bible and the Koran

The report in Newsweek that the US military desecrated the Koran as part of an attempt to break the Muslim prisoners there with humiliation techniques has provoked demonstrations, angry sermons, riots, and over a dozen deaths in Afghanistan, with demonstrations also in Gaza, Pakistan, Indonesia, and now Yemen. Both the chief Sunni Muslim cleric in Lebanon and its Shiite Grand Ayatollah, Muhammad Husain Fadlallah have now condemned it. The former threatened jihad or holy war. The latter said, "The desecration of the holy Koran in the terrifying Guantanamo detention center that America created under the title of fighting terrorism against the Muslims who have been arbitrarily rounded up there, is one of the American methods of torture . . . This is not an isolated act carried out by an American soldier but is part of an American program...of contempt for Islam, to disfigure its image in the minds of American." Shaikh Muhammad Sayyid al-Tantawi, the rector of al-Azhar seminary and the chief Sunni authority in Egypt, called the desecration of the Koran "a great crime." But he dismissed it as the work of "a bunch of kids, criminals . . ."

The Pentagon has claimed that the incident did not occur. Although the corporate media are now reporting that Newsweek had "backed off" the report, that isn't true.

Newsweek explains that in response to Pentagon queries,

"On Saturday, Isikoff spoke to his original source, the senior government official, who said that he clearly recalled reading investigative reports about mishandling the Qur'an, including a toilet incident. But the official, still speaking anonymously, could no longer be sure that these concerns had surfaced in the SouthCom report."

Isikoff's source, in other words, stands by his report of the incident, but is merely tracing it to other paperwork. What difference does that make? Although Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita angrily denounced the source as no longer credible, in the real world you can't just get rid of a witness because the person made a minor mistake with regard to a text citation. It is like saying that we can't be sure someone has really read the Gospels because he said he read about Caiaphas in the Gospel of Mark rather than in the Gospel of John.

Newsweek has, in other words, confirmed that the source did read a US government account of the desecration of the Koran.

Nor is this the first such indication of this sort of incident. On August 18, 2004, ANSA, the Italian news agency, wrote of the families of detainees from Bahrain at Guantanamo:

"The families' anxiety grew after the publication of a report by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), which contained information about tortures and maltreatment of prisoners. The report, based on testimony by three former Guantanamo prisoners,
Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmad, defines as brutal the methods of the U.S. jailers. According to the report, prisoners were brutally beaten and compelled to watch other prisoners sodomising each other by force. The 150-page document says reptiles were taken to the cells in an attempt to force prisoner confessions, while the Koran was thrown into the toilets before the eyes of the detained."

This diary and discussion at Daily Kos gives a number of other newspaper and other citations for the practice of Koran desecration.

Of course, one can hardly take the word of jihadis reporting on the United States, which they hate and would be happy to defame. But Newsweek had an independent source for the incident, a US government official, who continues to maintain that he saw documentation of it.

Moreover, Guantanamo translator Erik Saar, in his co-authored Inside the Wire indicates that techniques of religious humiliation were used at Guantanamo. The Christian Science Monitor reports:

'In his book, Saar describes a tumultuous atmosphere made more intense than usual because of religious tensions. US personnel, he wrote, routinely tempted detainees to look at pornographic magazines and videos, which Islam forbids. Female interrogators, sometimes dressed provocatively, violated Islamic strictures by rubbing against detainees and even leading one to believe he was being wiped with menstrual blood. "Had someone come to me before I left for Gitmo and told me we would use women to sexually torment detainees to try to sever their relationships with God, I probably would have thought that sounded fine," writes Saar. "But I hated myself when I walked out of that room.... We lost the high road.... There wasn't enough hot water in all of Cuba to make me feel clean." The Army, which cleared Saar's book for publication, says the policy is to treat detainees humanely, and an investigation into his allegations is under way. '

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. That is why I say that Bush should just come out and say we can't be sure that it happened, but if it did it was an excess, and he apologizes if it did happen, and will make sure it doesn't happen again (if it did).

The controversy, however, seems to me to have focused on all the wrong things. The question is why all those prisoners are still being held at Guantanamo. Saar makes clear that the majority of them just had the misfortune to be dragooned onto the battlefield by the Taliban, and aren't dangerous terrorists. There are very bad characters among them, who should be tried and kept behind bars.

A reader with military experience in this area wrote me his own experience, with the Bible being trashed in a similar way. I was able to google this reader in such a way as to compare autobiographical statements and dates (stripped from the below) to the Web record, and they all check out. Even the history of attitudes, as revealed in letters to the editor, are confirmatory. So I'm sure of the authenticity of these comments.

"I'm a former US [military officer], and had the 'pleasure' of attending SERE school--Search, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape.

The course I attended . . . [had] a mock POW camp, where we had a chance to be prisoners for 2-3 days. The camp is also used as a training tool for CI [counter-intelligence], interrogators, etc for those running the camp.

One of the most memorable parts of the camp experience was when one of the camp leaders trashed a Bible on the ground, kicking it around, etc. It was a crushing blow, even though this was just a school.

I have no doubt the stories about trashing the Koran are true.

I'm sure you must also realize that Gitmo must be being used as a "laboratory" for all these psychological manipulation techniques by the CI guys. Absolutely sickening . . .

1. My gut feeling tells me that the SERE camps were 'laboratories' and part of the training program for military counter-intelligence and interrogator personnel. I heard this anecdotally as far as the training goes, but have not dug into it. This is pretty much common sense.

2. Looking at Gitmo in the 'big picture', you have to wonder why it is still in operation though they know so many are innocent of major charges. A look through history at the various 'experimentation' programs of the DOD gives a ready answer. The camp provides a major opportunity to expose a population to various psychological control techniques. Look at some of the stuff that has become public, and this becomes even more apparent. Especially the sensory deprivation--not only sleep, but there are the photos of inmates in gas masks or sight/hearing/smell deprivation setups. There has already been voluminous research into sensory deprivation, and it seems this is another good opportunity for more. One note is that sensory deprivation is used to some degree in military basic training and to a greater sense in the advanced training courses--Rangers, SEALS, etc. All part of the 'breakdown' process before recruits are 'remade'.

3. This incident with the bible trashing. Camp was [in the late 1990s]. It was towards the end of the camp experience, which was 2-3 days of captivity. We were penned in concrete cell blocks about 4' x 4' x 4'--told to kneel, but allowed to squat or sit. There was no door, just a flap that could be let down if it was too cold outside (which it was--actually light snow fell). Each trainee was interrogated to some extent, all experienced some physical interrogation such as pushing, shoving, getting slammed against a wall (usually a large metal sheet set up so that it would not seriously injure trainees) with some actually water-boarded (not me).

The bible trashing was done by one of the top-ranked leaders of the camp, who was always giving us speeches--sort of 'making it real' so to speak, because it is a pretty contrived environment. But by the end it almost seemed real. Guards spoke English with a Russian accent, wore Russian-looking uniforms. So the bible trashing happened when this guy had us all in the courtyard sitting for one of his speeches. They were tempting us with a big pot of soup that was boiling--we were all starving from a few days of chow deprivation. He brought out the bible and started going off on it verbally--how it was worthless, we were forsaken by this God, etc. Then he threw it on the ground and kicked it around. It was definitely the climax of his speech. Then he kicked over the soup pot, and threw us back in the cells. Big climax. And psychologically it was crushing and heartbreaking, and then we were left isolated to contemplate this.

And all of these moods and thoughts were created in this fake camp--just imagine how it is for these guys at Gitmo.

So many have tried to commit now they all must have some serious psychological problems. This is without a doubt torture. Premeditated, planned....a fine lot of criminals we have in charge of the USA these days. Gitmo is so Orwellian--so Room 101. They are playing on the deepest feelings and fears."

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.

posted by Juan @ 5/16/2005 06:25:00 AM   

by more
Monday May 16th, 2005 8:52 AM
British former detainees at Guantanamo Bay have backed disputed claims that US interrogators abused the Koran in a "systematic and horrific assault on Islam".

Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi, Jamal al Harith and Tarek Dergoul allege that jailers defiled the Muslim holy book at US military bases in Cuba and Afghanistan.

A report said a hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay was prompted after a guard allegedly stamped on the Koran, and includes details on how the sacred tome was put in toilet buckets, stamped on, shredded and belittled.

Newsweek magazine has apologised for errors in a story earlier this month alleging desecration by interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, saying it would re-examine the accusations, which sparked outrage and deadly protests in Afghanistan.

'Koran torn up'

But in his testimony to Islamic human rights website, Mr Begg, from Birmingham, who was among the final group of five UK nationals released from the military base earlier this year, said it was "widely known" that a US Marine had torn up a copy of the Koran and thrown it into a toilet bucket in Kandahar.

He adds: "In Bagram, that same year (2002), I saw incidents that provoked fury, including the placing of Qurans (Korans) in an area used as a latrine.

"As cells were entered and searched I witnessed an occasion when a Quran (Koran) was snatched from a captive's hands and thrown to the ground.

"When distributing the Qurans (Korans) to detainees, I remember clearly that one guard went around shoving them through the cages, singing out in a newspaper-boy style, 'Extra, Extra! Come get your Quran (Koran) - your holiest of Holy Books. Learn how to kill Americans!'."

Newsweek magazine has backpedalled on the story "and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the US soldiers caught in its midst".

But Mr Begg told the Press Association: "If they (Newsweek) are retracting it, it is really silly. So many people are saying exactly the same thing. What is odd to me is that the story came out now, even though it has been detailed well before."

A statement from fellow former detainee Mr Abbasi, from Croydon, tells of inmates having Korans taken from them and described an interpreter slapping the book, saying "Why do you want to pass this s*** around?"

He adds: "I swear by Allah! I witnessed this clearly, not 10 metres away from me, with my own eyes and ears."

And Mr al Harith, a father of three from Manchester, who has previously claimed religious men were humiliated by prostitutes and accused the military of psychological torture, stated "the US has desecrated the Koran on a number of occasions" and "numerous" hunger strikes in Camp Delta were sparked by a guard who threw the Koran into the toilet.

He adds: "When searching our cages the guards would sometimes throw the Quran (Koran) on to the floor.

"During interrogation, an interrogator jumped up and down on the Quran (Koran) and taunted a prisoner.

"In Afghanistan, in the American concentration camps, a Quran (Koran) was thrown in a waste bucket by a guard.

"They don't just desecrate the Quran (Koran) but act arrogant with it."

'Detainees could not have colluded'

The document, Report Into The Systematic And Institutionalised US Desecration Of The Quran (Koran) And Other Islamic Rituals, also contains claims that Muslim rituals were derided. spokesman Dr Adnan Siddiqui said: "It should be clear to any thinking person that all these detainees could not have colluded, especially since some were in solitary confinement for their duration in Guantanamo Bay; and the US is guilty of a systematic and horrific assault on Islam and the religious beliefs and practices of a fifth of humanity in their so-called 'war on terror'.

"The prolonged period of the abuse, from the beginning to the end of their detention, clearly shows that it is institutionalised and authorised by the chain of command headed by Donald Rumsfeld and George W Bush."

Islamic groups in at least five countries in Asia, the Middle East and Europe will hold rallies later this month to protest at the alleged desecration in Guantanamo Bay.

Mr Begg and Mr Abbasi, alongside Martin Mubanga from Wembley, north-west London, and Richard Belmar, from St John's Wood, north-west London, were released without charge in January this year, having been returned to the UK after up to three years in Guantanamo Bay.

Mr al Harith and Mr Dergoul, a former care worker from Bethnal Green, east London, were released without charge last year after landing back in Britain, together with Asif Iqbal, Shafiq Rasul and Ruhal Ahmed.
by RWF
(restes60 [at] Monday May 16th, 2005 10:11 AM
Koran desecreation a common tactic of incarceration at Gitmo:
heavy-handed US tactics, house searches, interrogations, random seizures of people
by Joel
Wednesday May 18th, 2005 5:12 AM
I realize you don't believe a word I write, but I can look out my window and see more of the situation than you can.
Did you know there was a second protest in Jbad? The mullahs gave the protesters a rash of shit for making the first one violent and toned down the second one. The second protest was over the firing of district officials. The Afghans, for the most part don't want anyore fighting, cooperate with ISAF and US forces and want a better life. What they hate is the corruption that is endemic here and they want stuff to move faster. Out of all the money pumped into this country, only a trickle is getting to where it needs. That trickle still makes abig difference, but bloated cows like the UN could do a hell of a lot more if they stopped lining their pockets.

All of the above applies mostly to the north. The southeast is the really hot area and no one but the US works there. That's the area of the searches you speak of. I can only tell you that it's hard to be polite when the possibility of violent death is near, and the taliban and Al Qaieda are here for sure. The locals will inform on them in most parts of the country. Add poppy cultivation to this mix and it gets interesting. You do know the Afghan Police goes out to cut the poppies and gets US support in this mission. US civilians are taking casualties helping in this work because the poppie owners ambush/snipe/mine to protect their opium.

We went over this stuff on Iraq. You critique but never seem to have an answer other than just saying"Fuck it" and having us quit. What's your answer to the Taliban? What's your answer to Al Qaeda? This is where they are and there is no oil here, no WMD scandal, nothing of value here at all. So apart from pissing and moaning about things, what's your contribution?
by aaron
Wednesday May 18th, 2005 11:11 AM
Taking *anything* Joel says at face value is bad for your mental health. He's a Dynacorp mercenary (apparently) now stationed in Afghanistan. While his customary stance is one of sanctimonious concern, he's also known to brag about how much he's been paid ("Here is one thing that should really bother you, my pay was $15k a month"--from an earlier thread) and launch into incoherent reactionary rants.
by thanks for the heads up on Joel
Wednesday May 18th, 2005 11:33 AM
I have to question anyone who is willing to do that kind of work, no matter what the pay---and much of what they say---puts the distorted sense of 'morality' and lack of willingness to question or be critical of U.S. foreign policy into perspective----how could anyone truly delve into an analysis, when to do so would be risking having to re-evaluate their identity and career?? I'm sure that is much to scary for this guy.
by Blaming the Messenger
Wednesday May 18th, 2005 11:56 AM
Blaming the Messenger

By Anne Applebaum

Wednesday, May 18, 2005; Page A17

"It's appalling that this story got out there," said the secretary of state. "Shaky from the very get-go," thundered the White House spokesman. "We've not found any wrongdoing on the part of U.S. servicemembers," declared the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. 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."

Now, 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 yourself."

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.
by more
Wednesday May 18th, 2005 3:57 PM
The row over a retracted Newsweek story that US interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated the Quran is overshadowing genuine incidents of religious humiliation, according to Human Rights Watch.

"Around the world, the United States has been humiliating Muslim detainees by offending their religious beliefs," said Reed Brody, special counsel for the New York-based watchdog on Wednesday.

Newsweek on Monday retracted an article quoting an unidentified US official as saying that a probe into allegations of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo found that interrogators had thrown a Quran into a toilet to rattle Muslim prisoners.

The weekly magazine said the sole anonymous source had "backed away" from the account.

Brody said condemnation of the Newsweek article, which sparked anti-US protests in Afghanistan and other countries that left at least 14 dead, had been so vocal as to drown out documented complaints of similar mistreatment.

Wrong investigation?

He said Human Rights Watch (HRW) had heard allegations that US interrogators disrespected the Quran from several former detainees, including three Briton and a Russian.

And Erik Saar, a former Army translator at Guantanamo, has said that guards routinely tossed the Quran on the ground, Brody said. Saar also described a female interrogator wiping a detainee with what the prisoner was made to believe was menstrual blood.

HRW argued that the Newsweek story would not have resonated had it not been for "extensive" US abuse of Muslim detainees and the government's failure to fully investigate all of those implicated.

"If the United States is to repair the public relations damage caused by its mistreatment of detainees, it needs to investigate those who ordered or condoned this abuse, not attack those who have tried to report on it," said Brody.
by Sefarad
Wednesday May 18th, 2005 4:01 PM
Their religious feelings are so touchy that they cannot stand Christians praying or reading the Bible at their own homes, so they enjailed and whip them, which is Ok. Those Christians are devils. How do they dare to do such things? They have no consideration to Muslims' religious beliefs and feelings. It's so outrageus.
LONDON - Several Britons who had been held at US military prisons in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba alleged Monday that they had seen their US guards desecrate the Koran.

Former prisoners Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi and Jamal al-Harith alleged on the Islamic human rights website that the Muslim holy book had been profaned.

Their statements appeared after clashes erupted in Muslim countries over a Newsweek magazine report that US interrogators at Guantanamo had defiled copies of the Koran by leaving them in toilet cubicles and flushing one down a toilet.

Newsweek, while acknowledging parts of its May 2 article could be wrong, has not issued a retraction.

On the website, Begg said "I saw incidents that provoked fury, including the placing of Qurans (Korans) in an area used as a latrine" during his detention in Bagram, Afghanistan in 2002.

"As cells were entered and searched I witnessed an occasion when a (Koran) was snatched from a captive's hands and thrown to the ground," said Begg who was freed without charge from Guantanamo in January.

Begg told Britain's Press Association "If (Newsweek) are retracting it, it is really silly. So many people are saying exactly the same thing."

Abassi meanwhile told of inmates having Korans taken from them and described an interpreter slapping the book, saying "Why do you want to pass this s around?"

He added: "I swear by Allah! I witnessed this clearly, not 10 metres away from me, with my own eyes and ears."

None of the prisoners said they actually witnessed Korans thrown into toilets at Guantanamo, though they said it had happened.

Harith alleged that the "US has desecrated the Koran on a number of occasions" and "numerous" hunger strikes in Guantanamo's Camp Delta were sparked by a guard who threw a Koran into the toilet.

"When searching our cages the guards would sometimes throw the (Koran) onto the floor," said Harith who was freed without charge from Guantanamo last year. "During interrogation, an interrogator jumped up and down on the Quran (Koran) and taunted a prisoner."

He added that in "Afghanistan, in the American concentration camps, a (Koran) was thrown in a waste bucket by a guard." spokesman Adnan Siddiqui said "it should be clear to any thinking person that all these detainees could not have colluded, especially since some were in solitary confinement for their duration in Guantanamo Bay."

He added that "the US is guilty of a systematic and horrific assault on Islam and the religious beliefs and practices of a fifth of humanity in their so-called 'war on terror'.
by duct taped
Wednesday May 18th, 2005 4:11 PM
The Associated Press had this yesterday about the Newsweek fiasco:

"It's puzzling that while Newsweek now acknowledges that they got the facts wrong, they refused to retract the story," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters. "I think there's a certain journalistic standard that should be met and in this instance it was not...The report has had serious consequences. People have lost their lives. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged."

The irony of this White House "outrage" in light of all the lies about Iraq the Bush administration has fed America is really incredible. A reader sent me a good response to this latest Bush administration rhetoric:

"It's puzzling that while the White House now acknowledged that they haven't found WMD or a link between Al Queda and Iraq, they have refused to retract their claims. I think there's a certain standard of governing that should be met and in this instance has not. The claims the administration used to send this nation to war has had serious consequences. People have lost their lives. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged."
by bible for toilet pape
Wednesday May 18th, 2005 4:23 PM
to "Sefarad"---the problem is that they didn't use your face for it. Do you believe that the things you say apply to all Muslims across the board? And if you do believe this, simply because you read it some propaganda piece somewhere, does it still justify people being tortured/humiliated/incarcerated (many for indefinite periods of time w/out access to attorneys, ect.) who haven't even been convicted of a crime---what if it was you?
by red herring
Wednesday May 18th, 2005 4:26 PM
The White House has gone ballistic over the retracted statement in the May 9 Newsweek that "investigators probing abuses at Guantanamo Bay have confirmed" that "interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, placed Qur'ans on toilets and, in at least one case, flushed a holy book down the toilet." White House spokesman Scott McClellan flat-out said Newsweek was responsible for causing the rioting in Afghanistan that led to at least 17 deaths. Newsweek editors appear to have accepted that responsibility. They shouldn't have; the White House is simply changing the subject from abuse at Guantanamo to Newsweek's journalism. It would have been prudent, and more responsible, for Newsweek to have confirmed the story with a second source; that failure gave the White House the opening it has now seized to such good effect. Newsweek then compounded the error by going only halfway in its first correction.

Newsweek used as a source a "senior government official," normally a Cabinet secretary or someone fairly close to that rank, who had previously been a reliable source. It then showed the report to two Pentagon officials before publication. One declined comment and one corrected another aspect of the story. Neither challenged the Qur'an-in-the-toilet statement.

Only after the report had been printed did the original source back away from his assertion that he had seen the confirmation in a military report on abuse at Guantanamo. On reflection, he thought perhaps he saw it in other reports or drafts; but he did see it.

As for this short Newsweek item causing the rioting and deaths in Afghanistan, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan told Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers that the violence was "not at all" tied to Newsweek, but was an insurgency seeking to prevent the national reconciliation that President Hamid Karzai is trying to promote. Before the Newsweek item was even published, both the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse reported a new surge of Taliban-led violence.

Besides, the White House itself committed much more egregious errors in the way it so casually used dubious intelligence to make a case for going to war in Iraq. As the blog Daily Kos pointed out Tuesday, McClellan seems to have a double standard. In his discussion with reporters on July 17, 2003, he was asked: Bush is "president of the United States. This thing he told the country on the verge of taking the nation to war has turned out to be, by your own account, not reliable. That's his fault, isn't it?"

McClellan responded: "No."

The accusations concerning Qur'ans in toilets have been published repeatedly over the past three years in a number of media, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, a number of other American newspapers, the BBC and a Moroccan Islamic newspaper. The only thing Newsweek added was a claim of "official confirmation." While not a small thing, that supposed confirmation did not break this story; it is old news. And one source's faulty memory over where he saw information about it does not prove that the accusations of Qur'an abuse are untrue. Indeed, they still deserve further investigation.

The White House response fits a pattern of trying to intimidate the press from exploring issues the administration doesn't want explored. Compare it, for example, to the Dan Rather report on President Bush's military service. To this day, we don't know if what Rather reported was accurate or not, or to what degree it may have been accurate. Nor do we know whether the documents he cited were genuine. All we know is that CBS can't verify that they were genuine.

Yet the hullabaloo caused by that incident appears to have intimidated other journalists from trying to pin down the full truth about Bush's military service. And now there will probably be less enterprise reporting on prisoner abuse or anything else that might embarrass this administration. It also fits neatly in with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's effort to muzzle public television and radio. This behavior seems so Nixonian, except that the current crew is much better at the press-intimidation game than William Safire and Vice President Spiro Agnew were. For Newsweek and other media that come in for this treatment, we have one word: Resist.
by Re:
Wednesday May 18th, 2005 5:01 PM
Funny how quickly right-wingers jump from denouncing the center-right magazine Newsweek as a traitor to defending the very thing that Newsweek mentioned. Either you dont think the allegations are that bad or you are appalled by the allegations and are appaled by Newsweek having reported the incident without enough proof (although it was a sidebar and it was mentioned in single sentence that mentioned that it was a claim from a government source). While the worse incidents of torture and growing unrest in Afghanistan are real stories the more important story in this case is the attack by the White House on a media source for merely mentioning something they disliked and the willingness for much of the corporate media (and public radio and television) to jump on the bandwaggon and treat what Newsweek reported as a crime (despite the fact that it was factually true in terms of having actually been told to them by a government official and was probably factually true in that it fit a pattern of how interrogations took place at Gitmo). The statements by the White House and DOD that the media has to now watch what they say is chilling but the willingness for almost all the corporate media to follow the White House's lead is even more chilling.
by Joel
Wednesday May 18th, 2005 6:14 PM
According to the muslim faith jews and christians are people of the book and deserve a little understanding. We all beleive in the same god, muslims just believe they have the final word.
Racism/tribalism and power are what fuel some of the ill will in the muslim world. Explain the friction between Sunni and Shiite. Wahabiism is also one of the causes of our problems. Al Qaeda is a Wahabi group. Saudi Arabia is amajor exporter of this brand of Sunni islam.

I do security work. I get paid well for it. I do admit to bragging about my pay to tweak an individual that was showing their ass in an ealier post. I do get to go places you normally don't and see things first hand. My choice to do this work stems from economics, not from a desire to whack people. If you can pay off my credit card debt, fix my house and set up a college fund for my kids, I'll be out of here tonight. Some of the projects here are poppy eradification, police training and bodyguard work. None of that strikes me as being evil. The family seperation and the possibilty of death or dismemberment are the only downsides I see.

One thing I do get to see that you don't is the local attitude. There is always more to the story than gets reported, by any side.

But if you want to be a hater because of what I do, then ignore the message.

One last thing, ever wonder how spontaneous demonstrations get so big so fast?

Did you know that most of this country can't read? That girls are allowed to go to school, but have seperate classrooms, that they get the short end when it comes to education?

So in a country where most can't read, who gives out the information? Just something to think about.

by more
Thursday May 19th, 2005 12:44 PM
Red Cross documents claim abuse of Qurans

Chicago Tribune
Published Thursday, May 19, 2005

WASHINGTON - The International Committee of the Red Cross documented what it called credible information about U.S. personnel disrespecting or mishandling Qurans at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and pointed it out to the Pentagon in confidential reports during 2002 and early 2003, an ICRC spokesman said yesterday.

Representatives of the ICRC, who have played a key role in investigating abuse allegations at the facility in Cuba and other U.S. military prisons, never witnessed such incidents firsthand during on-site visits, said Simon Schorno, an ICRC spokesman in Washington.

But ICRC delegates, who have been granted access to the secretive camp since January 2002, gathered and corroborated enough similar, independent reports from detainees to raise the issue multiple times with Guantanamo commanders and with Pentagon officials, Schorno said yesterday in an interview.
by comments being deleted--why?
Friday May 20th, 2005 11:52 AM
comments being deleted--why?
some of them were completely innocuous--2 days worth of debate---gone???
by Human Rights Watch
Friday May 20th, 2005 5:40 PM
(New York, May 19, 2005)-U.S. interrogators have repeatedly sought to offend the religious beliefs of Muslim detainees as part of their interrogation strategy, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch said that the dispute over the retracted allegations in Newsweek that U.S. interrogators had desecrated a Koran at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has overshadowed the fact that religious humiliation of detainees at Guantánamo and elsewhere has been widespread.

"In detention centers around the world, the United States has been humiliating Muslim prisoners by offending their religious beliefs," said Reed Brody, special counsel for Human Rights Watch.

On December 2, 2002, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld authorized a list of techniques for interrogation of prisoners at Guantánamo, which included "removal of all comfort items (including religious items)," "forced grooming (shaving of facial hair, etc.)," and "removal of clothing." Each of these practices is considered offensive to many Muslims. These techniques were later applied in Afghanistan and Iraq as well.

The purpose of these techniques, Human Rights Watch said, is to inflict humiliation on detainees, which is strictly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.

Several former detainees have said that U.S. interrogators disrespected the Koran. Three Britons released from Guantánamo have alleged that the Koran was kicked and thrown in the toilet. A former Russian detainee, Aryat Vahitov, has reportedly made the same claim. A former Kuwaiti detainee, Nasser Nijer Naser al-Mutairi, has said that the throwing of a Koran on the floor led to a hunger strike at Guantánamo that ended only after a senior officer expressed regret over the camp's loudspeaker. Human Rights Watch also interviewed detainees who described a protest at a U.S. detention site at Kandahar airbase in Afghanistan in early 2002 that was set off by a guard's alleged desecration of the Koran.

Erik Saar, a former Army translator at Guantánamo, has described a female interrogator wiping a detainee with what the prisoner was made to believe was menstrual blood.

U.S. personnel have also used dogs as part of the interrogation process, which-in addition to inducing fear-many Muslims consider to be unclean. In December 2002, Secretary Rumsfeld approved "using detainees' individual phobias (such as fear of dogs) to induce stress" at Guantánamo. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, then the top U.S. commander in Iraq, authorized Abu Ghraib interrogators in September 2003 to "exploit Arab fear of dogs. " The interrogators then used dogs on detainees in a manner that was captured in the Abu Ghraib photographs.

On Tuesday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan, referring to the "serious consequences" and "lasting damage" to the U.S. image, called on Newsweek to "help repair some of the damage" that was done by its report. But Human Rights Watch said that it was U.S. policies that had inflicted the greatest amount of damage.

Newsweek was not to blame for the damage inflicted in the riots, Human Rights Watch said.

"The damage in the riots was directly caused by violent protestors and poorly disciplined Pakistani police and troops, not by Newsweek's editors," said Brody.

Human Rights Watch noted that the Newsweek story would not have resonated had it not been for the United States' extensive abuse of Muslim detainees.

"If the U.S. government wants to repair the public relations damage caused by its mistreatment of detainees, it needs to investigate those who ordered or condoned this abuse, not attack those who have reported on it," said Brody.

Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions, which sets out minimum requirements for the treatment of persons in armed conflicts, requires detainees to be treated humanely without adverse distinction based on religion or faith. Outrages upon personal dignity are prohibited, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.

by weibing
Friday May 20th, 2005 9:12 PM
I cant have much sympathy for people who are more upset over how a physical book is treated then how the contents of that book is treated. Its worth rioting and killing when told the koren was flushed down the toilet (btw, i:ve been in gitmo, the water pressure is so bad that you can:t flush crap down that shitter) but not even worth speaking up when the contents of the koran is twisted to justify car bombs in market places - and I feel just as strongly about the same with the bible.

The pictures of Sadam are the same. Outrage over a dictator in undies but no outrage over pics of an innocent person having his head chopped off.

BTW, I don:t think the US should abuse prisoners or mistreat books of any type but the real serious criminals are those inciting riot and death over these claims
by results of U.S. aggression
Friday May 20th, 2005 9:17 PM
these things wouldn't have happened--certainly not nearly in the large scope, with out a variety of terrible actions committed within the framework of disasterous U.S. foreign policy
by Juan Cole (reposted)
Friday May 20th, 2005 9:58 PM

Why Jacoby is Wrong

Jeff Jacoby argues that there is something peculiar about the reaction of Muslims to the allegations that the Koran was disrespected at Guantanamo prison by US military interrogators.

Jacoby's position is pure bigotry. We have to be clear about this. Anti-muslimism is a form of racial prejudice no different from any other. If Jacoby said, "What is wrong with those people of African descent, that they are so violent all the time when nobody else is?" he'd probably be fired. It is not all right for him to do the same thing to Muslims. While Muslims are a religious group, in the contemporary United States they most often are racialized. It comes to the same thing.

Jacoby mentions that 17 persons were killed in disturbances in Afghanistan over this issue. But here's what is wrong with his argument to begin with. There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. Most Muslims were not upset by the news or took no action about it. Pakistani politician and ex-cricketer Imran Khan couldn't get out more than a couple hundred people in Lahore, Pakistan, for a peaceful demonstration. Nobody much cared. Even in Afghanistan, go back and read the reports. A lot of the people killed were not killed by rioters. They were demonstrators shot by local Afghan police, police who may have been over-reacting in some cases, and who had been installed in power by the United States. For this, you blame the Muslim religion per se and the whole Muslim world?

Jacoby gives several incidents which he said might have provoked Catholic, Jewish or Buddhist crowds to violence but did not.

Jacoby is so wrong that I hardly know where to begin. All religions produce fanatics at the same rate. It is a constant.

The problem is only in the way that the American press writes about religious fanaticism, and in what the journalists notice.

For instance, those gentle Buddhist monks of Mandalay are perfectly capable of rioting, arson, and killing innocent people over a stone thrown into a monastery, as happened in Burma in October of 2002. Poor minority Muslims were beaten up and killed because of alleged disrespect to the sacred monastery:

"Earlier, in mid-October, religious unrest broke out in Kyauk-se, a town in central Burma, which is located not far away from Mandalay. The unrest spread to the city of Mandalay and then to the capital Rangoon. Burma’s junta confirmed that there had been sporadic clashes between people professing different faiths and slapped a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the areas where the religious unrest was rampant.

According to reports, the religious unrest broke out with a minor dispute, as someone threw a stone into a Buddhist monastery compound and it sparked the anger of the Buddhist monks, who mistakenly believed that the occupants of a nearby mosque were responsible for the alleged stone throw.

Subsequently, number of Muslims were attacked and injured in the religious riot that ensued, while others fearing for their lives sought shelter in the homes of the neighbouring Buddhist families.

According to local populace, many Buddhist monks in Mandalay rushed to Kyauk-se, caused tension thus sparking riots and arson, which left a dozen people dead, including a pregnant woman."

As for Judaism, please. Thousands of Palestinians have lost their homes, been harassed, oppressed, and killed by fanatical Jewish extremists in the West Bank and Gaza. When Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin tried to make peace, the Jewish far right killed him. When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced he would withdraw from Gaza, 80,000 Jewish extremists demonstrated, and some threatened to kill Sharon because he was violating their sacred principles. The former chief rabbi of Israel even blamed the tsunami on world support for the withdrawal from Gaza. When Arab Israelis demonstrated against Israeli policies in the West Bank, there was "Jewish intifada" against them, with riots, demonstrations, and neighborhood invasions. The Jewish right gets a pass in the US press for these crimes. Google Gedud Ha'Ivry or Gush Emunim.

As for Christianity, we've seen the Christian identity movement blow up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, we've seen abortion doctors shot down in cold blood, we've seen decades of religious violence in places like Northern Ireland. Has he ever read Ian Paisely?

What world does Jacoby live in? It is a world where it is all right to generalize about a large group of people. Again, there is a word for that. Bigotry.

posted by Juan @ 5/20/2005 02:54:00 PM   

by more
Saturday May 21st, 2005 6:44 PM
KABUL: Afghan president Hamid Karzai said on Saturday he was shocked by a US army report on abuse of detainees in Afghanistan, saying his government wanted custody of all Afghan prisoners and control over US military

The abuse described in the report, including details of the deaths of two inmates at an Afghan detention center, happened in 2002 and emerged from a nearly 2,000-page file of US army investigators, the New York Times reported on Friday.

"It has shocked me thoroughly and we condemn it,"Karzai said. "We want the US government to take very, very strong action, to take away people like that."

Karzai, a staunch ally in the US-led war against terror, is due to leave on a US trip later on Saturday. He will meet president Bush for talks next week.
Karzai wants to forge a long-term partnership with the US, but he said he would also reiterate a request for the return of Afghan prisoners and control over US military operations.

The US commands a force in Afghanistan of about 18,300, most of them American.