Monday, May 16, 2005

"Newsweek Lied, People Died"

As I have seen on many blogs already, but not from the mainstream media, most notably Newsweek itself, "Newsweek Lied, People Died."

Where is the outrage? Where are the calls for retraction? Where are the LA Times, New York Times, and all other mainstream media agents bringing this atrocious and death-causing story to the awareness of the public?

Paul Marshall makes fine points in "Deadly Mistake":
The shakily sourced May 9 Newsweek report that interrogators had desecrated a Koran at Guantanamo Bay is likely to do more damage to the U.S. than the Abu Ghraib prison scandals. What is also deeply disturbing is that the journalists who put the report out seem somewhat clueless about this reality.

Since the story was published there has been outrage and mayhem in much of the Muslim world. Demonstrations erupted in Pakistan after Imran Khan, a former cricket player and now opposition political figure, read sections from the article at a press conference.

Riots broke out throughout Afghanistan, mobs attacked government and aid-organization offices, and 15 people have died so far. Anti-American demonstrations have taken took place from north Africa to Indonesia.


This weekend, Abdul Fatah Fayeq, the senior judicial figure in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province, read out a statement from 300 Muslim clerics stating that President Bush should hand the culprits over to an Islamic country for punishment or else “we will launch a jihad against America.”

Meanwhile, in the face of Pentagon denials, Newsweek has begun backtracking.
Newsweek seemed to have had doubts about the report from the beginning, since
they ran it not as a straight news story but as a squiblet in the “Periscope” section. Now, in the May 23 issue, editor Mark Whitaker
admits that their sourcing was suspect and stated “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.” In the same issue, Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas is more forthright, asking “How did NEWSWEEK get its facts wrong?”


Even if Newsweek publishes a full retraction, the damage is done. Much of the Muslim world will regard it merely as a cover-up and feel reconfirmed in the view that America is at war with Islam. It will undercut the U.S., including in Afghanistan and Iraq, far more than Abu Ghraib did. “We can understand torturing prisoners, no matter how repulsive” Newsweek quotes one Pakistani saying, “But insulting the Qur’an is like torturing all Muslims.”

It would be charitable to think that if Newsweek had known how explosive the story was it may have held off until it had more confirmation. If this is true, it is an indication that the media’s widespread failure to pay careful attention to the complexities of religion not only misleads us about domestic and international affairs but also gets people killed.

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