May 15, 2005

OOPS, NEVERMIND:

Newsweek Apologizes for Quran Story Errors (The Associated Press, May 15, 2005)

"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," Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker wrote in a note to readers.

In an issue dated May 9, the magazine reported that U.S. military investigators had found evidence that interrogators placed copies of Islam's holy book in washrooms and had flushed one down the toilet to get inmates to talk.

Whitaker wrote that the magazine's information came from "a knowledgeable U.S. government source," and before publishing the item, writers Michael Isikoff and John Barry sought comment from two Defense Department officials. One declined to respond, and the other challenged another part of the story but did not dispute the Quran charge, Whitaker said.

But on Friday, a top Pentagon spokesman told the magazine that a review of the military's investigation concluded "it was never meant to look into charges of Quran desecration. The spokesman also said the Pentagon had investigated other desecration charges by detainees and found them 'not credible.'"

Also, Whitaker added, the magazine's original source later said he could not be sure he read about the alleged Quran incident in the report they cited, and that it might have been in another document.


Wouldn't have happened if they only used named sources.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 15, 2005 6:36 PM
Comments

This was kind of like a little kid playing with matches and burning down part of the house. When Isikoff, Thomas and the others at Newsweek went with the original story, they only thought -- or hoped -- it would have an effect on domestic readers, who would look down on the Bush Administration and the Pentagon for this latest Guantanamo incident. They never thought it would have any consequemce outside the United States, and that they would end up being the instagators themselves of more deaths than all those folks at Guantanamo or Abu Ghairb they've been writing about with glee up until now.

Posted by: John at May 15, 2005 7:53 PM

Wouldn't have happened if they'd used the same restraint they use in publishing positive stories coming from Afghanistan and Iraq.In other words, not published it at all.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 15, 2005 8:09 PM

It's a good thing Newsweek has such a deep bench of editors and fact checkers or they might have gotten the story all wrong.

Not that I care if it's true. If flushing their holy book causes prisoners to start talking, what's the harm of doing it?

Posted by: erp at May 15, 2005 8:20 PM

We all know that traditional tort law principles would not support such a cause of action, but that never stopped the John Edwards gang. Why doesn't somebody sue Newsweek for jounalistic malpractice?

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 15, 2005 8:33 PM

Isikoff lied, people died.

Posted by: sam at May 15, 2005 8:48 PM

Good idea, Lou. The relatives of those who died should get a good lawyer.

Posted by: AllenS at May 15, 2005 8:59 PM

Well, if tobacco companies can be held responsibile for "second-hand smoke" supposedly causing cancer, why not start holding journalists responsible for malpractice? Just because you graduate from a so-called "School of Journalism" doesn't make a person a journalist. If anything, there should be licensing and exams and a bonding requirement before one can call oneself a "Certified Licenced and Bonded Journalist."

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 16, 2005 12:18 AM

I will ask you one more time. Have you no sense of decency, Sir?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at May 16, 2005 1:17 AM

Hey, Bush looks bad. America looks bad. The Arab street has erupted, finally, proving what the al-Jazeera-ized MSM has been saying all along.

People are dying and yes, the chickens have come home to roost.

So what's the problem?

Posted by: Barry Meislin at May 16, 2005 3:31 AM

"Not that I care if it's true. If flushing their holy book causes prisoners to start talking, what's the harm of doing it?"

Well, it isn't likely to work in the first place and would make it harder to get cooperation from Muslims in other parts of the world.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at May 16, 2005 6:02 AM

The right is full of suckers, and presumes the country is full of suckers too. The idea that Newsweek "caused" these riots is misdirection for the fact that layers and layers of policy failure is responsible for the riots. Human Rights watch first reported the throwing of Korans into toilets in October of 2004: "Detainees...complained that when the Korans were provided, the guards “would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet and generally disrespect it."

Yes. They hate us because of Newsweek. Great theory.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at May 16, 2005 1:01 PM

Why would you report the story, whether made up or not?

Posted by: oj at May 16, 2005 1:08 PM

As was pointed out elsewhere: did anyone even consider the physical impossibility of flushing a large book down a toilet?

(I assumed it was misreported and involved a latrine, but...)

Posted by: Mike Earl at May 16, 2005 3:37 PM

Rick -

Wow. It was layers and layers of policy failure that created a culture that instantly erupts into murderous riots and calls for holy war because a book may have been destroyed?

Posted by: at May 16, 2005 4:03 PM

Rick -

Wow. It was layers and layers of policy failure that created a culture that instantly erupts into murderous riots and calls for holy war because a book may have been destroyed?

Posted by: Shelton at May 16, 2005 4:04 PM

Funny. I just got through researching a (nearly murderous) riot adjacent to City Hall in New York in May of 1970 because a flag may have been spat on.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at May 16, 2005 4:14 PM

Orrin, just saw your question. The answer is: the only other alternative is to unquestioningly trust the government, and that our founding fathers told us not to do that.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at May 16, 2005 4:19 PM

Rick:

Actually they told us we were the government. Doing things that pointlessly harm it seems a form of self-loathing.

Posted by: oj at May 16, 2005 4:30 PM

The most amusing aspect to this story is that one of the main defenses given by Newsweek and its apologists is that they ran the story by "two Defense Department officials" (unnamed of course), and when neither challenged the story, that was taken to be corroboration (shades of the 60 Minutes Bush NG fiasco). Which seems to rather contradict the notion that the media should certainly not "trust the government", as phrased by Mr. Perlstein, whom we'll take as a suitable proxy for the professional journalistic class.

Posted by: b at May 16, 2005 4:31 PM

Rick:

There's nothing wrong with the riots themselves. It's the reporting that's shameful.

Posted by: oj at May 16, 2005 4:40 PM

I have no interest in defending Michael Isakoff (the guy who took out Clinton, remember--ungrateful bastards, the conservative movement!). But the abuse of Korans has been corroborated by multiple sources, whose interests are at cross-purposes at each other, for a year and a half. Do your homework. Even if Spiky doesn't.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at May 16, 2005 4:44 PM

"Nothing wrong with the riots"? Who wants to be first to step up and criticize Orrin for his endorsement of mob violence?

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at May 16, 2005 5:02 PM

Muslims have a unique relationship with the Koran. Nothing wrong with defending it.

We have a unique one with the flag, nothing wrong with attacking those who disrespect it.

Posted by: oj at May 16, 2005 5:28 PM

Rick:

The sources are the terrorists themselves and pro-terrorist groups, like Human Rights Watch. But what interest is served by reporting it?

Posted by: oj at May 16, 2005 5:30 PM

OJ -

How is killing innocent bystanders (just because they are Christian) in Pakistan defending a unique relationship with the Koran? Hey, if you are stupid enough to piss on a Koran in a crowded street in Islamabad then you deserve whats coming to ya. Same goes for any long-hair who burns old glory in front of a crowd of vets and red-necks. But in this situation the comparison doesn't stand. You can make the comparison when someone burns a flag in DC and a crowd in Sacramento storms San Francisco and razes it to the ground.

Posted by: Shelton at May 16, 2005 7:04 PM

They lie to you and you like it. Richard Meyer just said their review of 25,000 documents reveal that there haven't even been any ALLEGATIONS of Koran abuse.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at May 16, 2005 7:06 PM

But no interest is served in pointing out our public officials lies. So never mind.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at May 16, 2005 7:22 PM

Shelton:

Exactly. That's what should have happened in the flag burning case.

Posted by: oj at May 16, 2005 7:51 PM

Rick:

The question isn't what we're told, but what the press tells our enemies.

Posted by: oj at May 16, 2005 7:54 PM

Shel, that's just for my benefit. Orrin likes to pretend he's a bloodthirsty fascist in order to bait me...

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at May 16, 2005 7:54 PM

And our enemies, being idiots, only know what they read in Newsweek.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at May 16, 2005 8:13 PM

They've certainly no other reason to believe Korans are being flushed down toilets.

Posted by: oj at May 16, 2005 8:47 PM
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