Dadmanly: You Don't Support Us
Dadmanly: You Don't Support Us
I'm asking the following question not to cause trouble, but because I think it needs to be asked.
One of my site's regular [conservative] visitors pointed me to your excellent "You Don't Support Us" post on your blog. It was poignant and very well written and I intend to recommend it to all of my readers.
My question related to this post, then is simply this:
Do you think that US military interrogators in Guantanamo did indeed play toilet tricks with the Koran - or do you think that the Newsweek reporters fabricated the story?
For the record, I don't view dumping the Koran in the toilet as terribly severe treatment of detainees as far as the list of possibilities go. In fact, I feel that the practice of "waterboarding," which is apparently allowed by US law as an interrogation measure is infinitely more obscene and immoral. If I could swap banning waterboarding for giving interrogators the ability to put the Koran in the toilet, I would.
In all of the anger and hurt on display from The Bush Administration to rightwing blogs about the Newsweek story, I've seen a lot of hair-splitting over which official did or didn't claim to read which allegation in which report - and a lot of moral equivalence rhetoric reminding us how bad the terrorists are - but I've seen nobody address the event behind the allegation itself. I've seen accusations that "liberals" want so badly for the story to be true, which is asinine...
What do you think?
Thanks for the kind introduction to and recommendation of the post. Our readers should be aware, that while the Liberal Avenger and I intentionally won't delve into each other's postings to raise disputes (see our ground rules), both of us I think try to make ourselves aware of differing points of view. (Liberal Avenger, I suspect, more than I.)
If we lay aside for a moment any consideration of the truth or accuracy of the story as reported (or if it falls into the category of "fake but accurate"), I want to address the story as written by Newsweek. For it is in this sense I hold them particularly culpable.
I will acknowledge that the section of Newsweek in which this item appeared (Periscope I believe) is somewhat akin to Fox's Grapevine or other features in which a snippet of an idea is briefly mentioned. As such, the heated discussions it has are no doubt somewhat overwhelm the "indiscretion" itself, if I may call it that. That being said, I think Newsweek is held rightly accountable for running with a very thinly sourced story.
I am reminded of the scenes in All the President's Men (I think it was), where Woodward and Bernstein spend untold hours trying to get confirmation of a lead they've been given by an anonymous source. That's classic journalism, at least it was. That's what I understood when I studied journalism, heck, it's what I learned working as an intelligence analyst, confirmation. And that's what Newsweek didn't do, it's what CBS didn't do with the faked Guard memos.
I would think that any editor worth his salt would be on the lookout to block unfounded stories that try to pounce on rumors and planted info and hearsay, in the hopes of getting that next big sexy scoop. That used to be their job. And I think this is an area where the media (by and large) let's their own prejudices color or taint what information they receive. It fits the template they carry around, it fits what they think, so they go with it.
Newsweek was perfectly right to fully retract their story, because that particular story based on their sources was completely unsubstantiated. At that point, you digress from the point at hand if you then make the argument, "yes, but it still could be true." And yes, it might, but that doesn't make this story, this time, any less wrong. Journalism is reduced to fiction if the "essential truth" of something is held in as high regard as the actual truth. So that's my sum and total on Newsweek's violation of journalistic ethics.
I don't think Newsweek "fabricated" the story out of whole cloth, no. There have been numerous accusations and several accounts similar, but, and this is highly significant in my view, many of these accounts appear to derive from Detainees intentionally using their Korans to stuff up toilets. So much for a devout reverence for their Holy Book.
I have seen many accounts recently, and I believe there are books out that emphasize that Al Qaeda and other Jihadists are instructed to make these kinds of allegations and turn the "legal systems of the infidels" against us. This obvious desire and motivation to propagandize should be self-evident, and prompt a supposedly skeptical press to be very wary of any such claims. So far, that has not been the case, and goes a long way to explain the deep suspicion and resentment on the part of military members towards a "neutral press," that seems to bend over backwards to make sure the voice of the opposition (in this case, terrorists and enemy combatants) is heard, no matter how extreme or false. (More on what I consider a gross distortion of the purpose the Fourth Estate in a response to the previous post.)
You may call the focus on the accuracy of this particular story hair-splitting, but I think too much gets published taken as fact and certainty, when in fact it is more supposition, assumption, or deduction.
As one of our commenters pointed out, if the press had reported on Abu Ghraib and other accusations of Detainees in our facilities, noted the ongoing investigations, prosecutions, an opportunity to fully respond, capturing the full context of the security environment, how these individuals were captured, what they were doing, in other words, reported objectively, no reasonable person would find fault. But our New Journalism has long ago traded the hard slow slog of getting the full story into some modern day equivalent of "yellow journalism," where a quick-hit tabloid approach sells and sells well, and that's what they go for.
Okay, having said all that and all that, the really juicy part you want to know. Where there's smoke, is there also fire?
Yes and no. Individual interrogators and guards certainly behaved badly, some violated military standards, others also violated the Geneva Convention or other similar army policies and regulations. Importantly, allegations have and are being investigated, charges brought, convictions won. In some cases, such as at Abu Ghraib, senior leadership (to include leaders 6 levels above the actual illegal acts) has been convicted of poor leadership and negligence in not doing enough to ensure that their prisoners weren't treated humanely or in accordance with procedures, laws, and conventions.
Although we have a detention facility within our area of operation, to which I have Soldiers assigned, I don't have any first hand information about incidents of the type described in Newsweek, the NY Times, and other publications. I do know that the Army has responded aggressively to any perceived abuses and deprivation of prisoners, and Interrogators complain that many of their best tools (sleep deprivation, long interviews, and other non-physical forms of prisoner handling) are ruled off limits of late.
Many of the alleged incidents are exaggerated or exploited by prisoners, or have even been generated by them as a means of dynamically and actively resisting interrogation.
And there are still Soldiers today who think we would achieve more success if we were harsher and more bad-a**. For an Iraq so used to violence, extreme punishment, and terror as they were under Saddam, this is no doubt true. Iraqis do not fear us as they feared Saddam and his police or military.
We were out at a range today with some of our Interrogators, and we got into a discussion about these issues. They are very frank in saying, in the first days of Afghanistan (right after 9/11), and the initial battles in Iraq, tempers and emotions ran very high. There were Soldiers and units that sometimes used excessive force, or treated prisoners more roughly than they would today. We deal with some part-time insurgents (there are such people) whose reluctance to turn themselves in may in part be due to experiences early on that made them expect a rougher and harsher treatment. Still probably not torture in any classic sense, but definitely hard and without respect. And probably not widespread or very common, but out there.
They also express some frustration with what they view as ambivalence or at least a lack of clarity expressed in guidance and directives (or the lack thereof) early on by senior military officials.
I believe a lot of this confusion directly relates to the very unusual nature of our detentions in Guantanamo, of those hostile to the United States who are nevertheless not prisoners of war in any sense recognized by the much misunderstood Geneva Convention. They do not wear uniforms, they do not strive to prevent civilian casualties (in fact they seek them), they violate known and accepted laws of war. They have no state they fight for, there is no one to whom to go to accept their surrender. They are more like spies and saboteurs than Soldiers. They neither accept nor give quarter, nor do they acknowledge Sanctuary, rather they violate it willfully. Terrorists by any definition previously known to civilized countries would be executed on the spot as unlawful combatants. And yet, we hold them prisoner in a limbo state.
But here's a bottom line. Let's say that at times, Korans weren't treated by military personnel with as much reverence or respect as devout Muslims would wish. What would be the point of reporting that? To highlight how culturally insensitive Soldiers can be? (Ask any women in a bar about Combat Soldiers out on the town, now they can tell you stories.) Or that the military is hostile towards Muslims and Islam in general? Which is more likely to be true most often? Can you really distinguish? How perfect would one expect a military to be?
Many of us on the right, and many in the Military, may bristle at accusations like this, but it’s as much because of how the accusations are made, who's making them, and why we believe they are reported so extensively. And we fail to see the value and purpose of these reports, if not to weaken our war effort, or at least diminish its support at home. And we find that disloyal, potentially dangerous, and very disrespectful of the many lives – U.S., Coalition and Iraqi – that have been sacrificed to bring democracy to Iraq.