Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Tangled Webs

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”
                                                                Sir Walter Scott


The White House is going ballistic over Newsweek’s article alleging abuse of the Koran by interrogators in various prisons where terrorist suspects are held.  And it’s not a quiet phone call to the editor, but a full-fledged attack that blames Newsweek for the riots in Afghanistan that have killed a number of people. It’s a mess, but hard to determine if it’s Newsweek’s mess or yet another example of how badly the ‘wars’ in Iraq and Afghanistan have been managed.


There’s probably not anyone who isn’t pretty much sick to death of how the U.S. military runs its prisons.  And so, when Newsweek reports that the Koran has been systematically desecrated, denials don’t have the moral authority one might hope for, as the administration cries foul. Instances of throwing the holy Koran on the ground, kicking it into latrine corners, tearing out its pages and flushing them down toilets began to surface as soon as released prisoners hit the streets.  According to Carol Leonnig’s article in the Washington Post, a former detainee told Russian TV in June, 2004 that “They tore the Koran to pieces in front of us and threw it into the toilet.”


That’s nearly a year ago. The Pentagon issued rules (January 19, 2003) stating that the Koran was not to be placed “on the floor, near the toilet or sink, near the feet, or dirty/wet areas.”


Larry DiRita, a Pentagon spokesman said yesterday that he was not aware of any credible allegations for the military to investigate.  Hard to know what’s ‘credible’ in Pentagon terms anymore when the agency itself is no longer credible.  There were reported hunger strikes over the Koran issue at Guantanamo and one can but wonder why the Pentagon issued rules about what it denies happened, or at least happened credibly.  The whole issue of credibility is at the heart of the Sir Walter Scott quotation and this government, founded on lies and lying on a daily basis, reaps the harvest of that crop.


Newsweek could have done better. It’s a magazine.  This administration could have done better and it’s the number one power in the world.


It isn’t even close to being comparable.