Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Shooting the messenger....again.

Yesterday, Newsweek retracted their story about Koran flushing by U.S. interrogators. Yet, for many on the right and for the White House, this wasn't enough. Further Newsweek bashing and demands for more contrition are coming from all quarters.

Yet, what else can Newsweek do? Are they supposed to give a "big, sloppy wet kiss" to the White House? Are they supposed to grovel for forgiveness? They ran a blurb in "Periscope," which according to former Washington Bureau chief and Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee has long been a place for officials to plant stories, dating back to the 1940's. Somebody inside wanted this story out for one reason or another, and Isikoff doesn't put stuff under his name unless he's sure his source is being genuine. I've met the man. He's very apolitical, and he's a tough, fair reporter. He was the guy at Newsweek who kept the editors from calling it for Gore in 2000, recognizing the trends in the Florida panhandle. It was his editors who killed the initial Lewinsky story, the very story that Matt Drudge used to break the scandal worldwide. He was incredibly tough on Bill Clinton. He's not a flaming liberal, which many right-wing bloggers are calling him.

The point I'm coming to is this. The story was put out for a reason. It could be a genuine conscience, who was upset about this. It could be someone who wanted to screw Newsweek. It could have been a mistake. The fact is that the actual claim has not been denied by the adminstration. No categorical statements that the story was false. It was a Watergate-style denial. And the reason that they did that is that this story has been reported before. Lawyers for the prisoners. Released British citizens. Wire stories last year. It's just that this time, it was released in a vacuum, where there wasn't other news to drown it, and that means it gets exposure, and the Muslims get angry.

So, is Newsweek responsible? No. No. No. Here's why. Abu Ghraib pissed off the Iraqis something awful. Should we not have known about that? Should Americans have been unaware that some soldiers had gone off the reservation (although I have doubts they just did that on their own. I mean, how does a CO not know this is going on?)? Reporting means investigation, and talking to sources. Slapping down the media for reporting a valid story is wrong. It's scary that most Americans seem to want to be in the dark instead of knowing what was going on. When we fall asleep and stop caring is when democracy falters.

I know, many of you will disagree that it was a valid story. Whether the source(s) was/were wrong or not, if interrogators were flushing Korans down the toilet, that is a hideous violation of a religion. How would the Bible Belt feel if Iranian interrogators flushed Bibles down the toilet in front of fervent Christian prisoners? They'd be outraged. They'd want to know about it. Why should America get a pass on this? So, when a reporter hears from a trusted source that Americans are doing this sort of thing, that reporter is right to report on it. People deserve to know what's going on, and ultimately, the death of those 16 people rest with their killers, not with Newsweek.


Blogger jj said...

you are right having the administration say Newsweek has ruined Washingtons image in the Muslim world is absurd. Not the policies that have been adding fuel to the fire but a blurp in a magazine ruined the image of the U.S. anyone that buys that contact me I am selling.

6:47 PM  

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