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Guantanamo detainees back Koran abuse claims
by reposted
Monday May 16th, 2005 8:49 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 more
Monday May 16th, 2005 12:22 PM
Newsweek Got Gitmo Right
by Calgacus*

Contrary to White House spin, the allegations of religious desecration at Guantanamo published by Newsweek on May 9, 2005, are common among ex-prisoners and have been widely reported outside the United States. Several former detainees at the Guantanamo and Bagram prisons have reported instances of their handlers sitting or standing on the Koran, throwing or kicking it in toilets, and urinating on it. Prior to the Newsweek article, the New York Times reported a Guantanamo insider asserting that the commander of the facility was compelled by prisoner protests to address the problem and issue an apology.

One such incident (during which the Koran was allegedly thrown in a pile and stepped on) prompted a hunger strike among Guantanamo detainees in March 2002. Regarding this, the New York Times in a May 1, 2005, article interviewed a former detainee, Nasser Nijer Naser al-Mutairi, who said the protest ended with a senior officer delivering an apology to the entire camp. And the Times reports: "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." (Neil A. Lewis and Eric Schmitt, "Inquiry Finds Abuses at Guantanamo Bay," New York Times, May 1, 2005.)

The hunger strike and apology story is also confirmed by another former detainee, Shafiq Rasul, interviewed by the UK Guardian in 2003 (James Meek, "The People the Law Forgot," Dec. 3, 2003). It was also confirmed by former prisoner Jamal al-Harith in an interview with the Daily Mirror (Rosa Prince and Gary Jones, "My Hell in Camp X-Ray," Daily Mirror, March 12, 2004).

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, March 26, 2003.)

Also citing the toilet incident is testimony by Asif Iqbal, a former Guantanamo detainee who was released to British custody in March 2004 and subsequently freed without charge:

"The behavior 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 Constitutional Rights [.pdf], Aug. 4, 2004.)

The claim that U.S. troops at Bagram prison in Afghanistan urinated on the Koran was made by former detainee Mohamed Mazouz, a Moroccan, as reported in the Moroccan newspaper, La Gazette du Maroc. (Abdelhak Najib, "Les Américains pissaient sur le Coran et abusaient de nous sexuellement," April 12, 2005.) An English translation is available on the Cage Prisoners site (which describes itself as a "nonsectarian Islamic human rights Web site").

Tarek Derghoul, another of the British detainees, similarly cites instances of Koran desecration in an interview with Cage Prisoners.

Desecration of the Koran was also mentioned by former Guantanamo detainee Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost and reported by the BBC in early May 2005. (Haroon Rashid, "Ex-Inmates Share Guantanamo Ordeal," May 2, 2005.)

*Calgacus has been employed as a researcher in the national security field for 20 years.
by redcat
Sunday May 22nd, 2005 8:21 AM

May 22, 2005
It's All Newsweek's Fault
IN the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Fareed Zakaria wrote a 6,791-word cover story for Newsweek titled "Why Do They Hate Us?" Think how much effort he could have saved if he'd waited a few years. As we learned last week, the question of why they hate us can now be answered in just one word: Newsweek.

"Our United States military personnel go out of their way to make sure that the Holy Koran is treated with care," said the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, as he eagerly made the magazine the scapegoat for lethal anti-American riots in Afghanistan. Indeed, Mr. McClellan was so fixated on destroying Newsweek - and on mouthing his own phony P.C. pieties about the Koran - that by omission he whitewashed the rioters themselves, Islamic extremists who routinely misuse that holy book as a pretext for murder.

That's how absurdly over-the-top the assault on Newsweek has been. The administration has been so successful at bullying the news media in order to cover up its own fictions and failings in Iraq that it now believes it can get away with pinning some 17 deaths on an errant single sentence in a 10-sentence Periscope item that few noticed until days after its publication. Coming just as the latest CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll finds that only 41 percent of Americans think the war in Iraq is "worth fighting" and only 42 percent think it's going well, this smells like desperation. In its war on the press, this hubristic administration may finally have crossed a bridge too far.

Let's stipulate flatly that Newsweek made a serious error. For the sake of argument, let's even posit that the many other similar accounts of Koran desecration (with and without toilets) by American interrogators over the past two years are fantasy - even though they've been given credence by the International Committee of the Red Cross and have turned up repeatedly in legal depositions by torture victims and in newspapers as various as The Denver Post and The Financial Times. Let's also ignore the May 1 New York Times report that a former American interrogator at Guantánamo has corroborated a detainee's account of guards tossing Korans into a pile and stepping on them, thereby prompting a hunger strike. Why don't we just go all the way and erase those photographs of female guards sexually humiliating Muslims (among other heinous crimes) at Abu Ghraib?

Even with all that evidence off the table, there is still an overwhelming record, much of it in government documents, that American interrogators have abused Muslim detainees with methods specifically chosen to hit their religious hot buttons. A Defense Department memo of October 2002 (published in full in Mark Danner's book "Torture and Truth") authorized such Muslim-baiting practices as depriving prisoners of "published religious items or materials" and forcing the removal of beards and clothing. A cable signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez called for interrogators to "exploit Arab fear of dogs." (Muslims view them as unclean.) Even a weak-kneed government investigation of prison abuses (and deaths) in Iraq and Afghanistan issued in March by Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III of the Navy authenticated two cases in which female interrogators "touched and spoke to detainees in a sexually suggestive manner in order to incur stress based on the detainees' religious beliefs."

About the Newsweek matter Donald Rumsfeld had a moral to bequeath the land. "People need to be careful what they say," he said, channeling Ari Fleischer, and added, "just as people need to be careful what they do." How true. If one of his right-hand men, Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, hadn't been barnstorming American churches making internationally publicized pronouncements that his own Christian God is "a real god" and Islam's god is "an idol," maybe anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, at record highs even before the Newsweek incident, would have been a shade less lethal. If higher-ups had been called to account for the abuses of Abu Ghraib, maybe Newsweek might have had as little traction in the Arab world as The Onion.

Then again, even the administration's touchy-feely proactive outreach to Muslims in the Middle East is baloney: Karen Hughes, appointed with great fanfare by the president in March as our latest under secretary of state for public diplomacy (the third since 9/11), runs a shop with no Muslims at the top - or would, if she were there. As The Washington Post reported, she doesn't intend to assume her duties until the fall and the paperwork for her confirmation has yet to be sent to the Senate. Why rush? It's not as if there's a war on.

Given this context, the administration's attempt to pass the entire buck to Newsweek for our ill odor among Muslims, including those Muslims who abhor jihadists committing murder, is laughable. Yet there's something weirdly self-incriminating about the language it uses to do it. Richard Boucher, the State Department spokesman whose previous boss, Colin Powell, delivered a fictional recitation of Saddam Hussein's weapon capabilities before the United Nations Security Council, said it's "shocking" that Newsweek used "facts that have not been substantiated." Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, attacked Newsweek for hiding "behind anonymous sources," yet it was an anonymous source, an Iraqi defector known as Curveball, who fed the fictions that Mr. Powell spouted to gin up America for war. Psychological displacement of this magnitude might give even Freud pause.

The only thing more ridiculous is the spectacle of the White House's various knee-jerk flacks on cable news shoutfests and in the blogosphere characterizing Newsweek as representative of a supposedly anti-American, military-hating "mainstream media." It wasn't long ago that the magazine and the co-author of the Periscope item, Michael Isikoff, were being cheered by the same crowd for their pursuit of Monica Lewinsky and Kathleen Willey.

As for the supposed antimilitary agenda of the so-called mainstream media, the right should look first at itself. In its eagerness to parrot the administration line, it's as ready to sell out the military as any clichéd leftist. For starters, it thought nothing of dismissing the judgment of Gen. Carl Eichenberry, our top commander in Afghanistan, who, according to Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the riots were "not at all tied to the article in the magazine."

The right's rage at Newsweek is all too reminiscent of the contempt it heaped on Specialist Thomas Wilson, the soldier who dared to ask Mr. Rumsfeld at a town hall meeting in Kuwait in December about the shortage of armored vehicles. Mr. Wilson was guilty of "near-insubordination," said Rush Limbaugh; the embedded reporter who helped him frame his question was reviled by bloggers as a traitor. Yet Mr. Wilson's question was legitimate, and Mr. Rumsfeld's answer (that the shortage was only "a matter of production and capability") was a lie. As USA Today reported in March, the Pentagon has known for nearly two years that it didn't have enough armored Humvees but let the problem fester until that insubordinate questioner gave the defense secretary no choice but to act.

It's also because of incompetent Pentagon planning that other troops may now be victims of weapons looted from Saddam's munitions depots after the fall of Baghdad. Yet when The New York Times reported one such looting incident, in Al Qaqaa, before the election, the administration and many in the blogosphere reflexively branded the story fraudulent. But the story was true. It was later corroborated not only by United States Army reservists and national guardsmen who spoke to The Los Angeles Times but also by Iraq's own deputy minister of industry, who told The New York Times two months ago that Al Qaqaa was only one of many such weapon caches hijacked on America's undermanned post-invasion watch.

IT is terrible that Newsweek was wrong, though it's worth noting, as John Donvan of ABC News did, that the Defense Department's claim that its story was "demonstrably" false is also an overreach. Almost nothing that happens in the sealed prison at Guantánamo is as demonstrable as, say, Saddam's underwear. But if something good can come out of something bad, the administration's overkill of Newsweek may focus greater public attention on just how much it is using press-bashing to deflect attention from the fictions spun by its own propaganda machine.

Just since the election, we've witnessed the unmasking of Armstrong Williams and Jeff Gannon. We've learned - thanks to Newsweek's parent publication, The Washington Post - that the Pentagon went so far as to deliberately hide the circumstances of Pat Tillman's friendly-fire death from his own family for weeks, lest the truth mar the P.R. advantages to be reaped from his memorial service. Even as Scott McClellan instructs Newsweek on just what stories it should write to atone for its sins, a professional propagandist sits as chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting: Kenneth Tomlinson, who also runs the board supervising Voice of America and other government-run media outlets. He's been hard at work meddling in the journalism on NPR and PBS.

This steady drip of subterfuge and news manipulation increasingly tells a more compelling story than the old news that Newsweek so egregiously botched.

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by LAT
Sunday May 22nd, 2005 9:35 AM
WASHINGTON — Senior Bush administration officials reacted with outrage to a Newsweek report that U.S. interrogators had desecrated the Koran at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility, and the magazine retracted the story last week. But allegations of disrespectful treatment of Islam's holy book are far from rare.

An examination of hearing transcripts, court records and government documents, as well as interviews with former detainees, their lawyers, civil liberties groups and U.S. military personnel, reveals dozens of accusations involving the Koran, not only at Guantanamo, but also at American-run detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq.

he Pentagon is conducting an internal investigation of reported abuses at the naval base in Cuba, led by Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt. The administration has refused to say what the inquiry, still weeks from completion, has found so far.

But two years ago, amid allegations of desecration and hunger strikes by inmates, the Army instituted elaborate procedures for sensitive treatment of the Koran at the prison camp. Once the new procedures were in place, complaints there stopped, said the International Committee of the Red Cross, which monitors conditions in prisons and detention facilities.

The allegations, both at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, contain detailed descriptions of what Muslim prisoners said was mishandling of the Koran — sometimes in a deliberately provocative manner.

In one instance, an Iraqi detainee alleged that a soldier had a guard dog carry a copy of the Koran in its mouth. In another, guards at Guantanamo were said to have scrawled obscenities inside Korans.

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