Newseek has retracted its May 9th story (penned by Michael Isikoff and John Barry) on the abuse of prisoners through desecration of the Koran. The story is purportedly responsible for riots in the Muslim world that resulted in numerous deaths.
Unfortunately, much of this muckraking story remains mired in muck. Even after the apology, I'm still a tad confuzzled regarding the exact object of the magazine's contrition.
There's been a great brouhaha over the fact that the almightly Newsweek published a story on the basis of a single source. Get real folks. The U.S. administration started an entire war without even a single source and never suffered from pangs of conscience. (An excon with an axe to grind, Chalabi, can't really be called a "source" by any measure.) So the paucity of sources clearly can't be the problem.
Did the source lie? This is possible. In this case, the magazine should clearly be penitent. It exercised somewhat poor judgment. Of course, other similar news stories, along with numerous nitwit natter heard among servicemen decrying the Muslim heathen, would give us every reason to believe that such things happen. People shoving baseball bats up teenagers' butts or piling prisoners into naked piles may (just perhaps maybe) lack a certain sensitivity to religious diversity. But rumors, and rumors of rumors, do not a good story make.
Do the Newsweek people still believe their story? This is perhaps the most damning alternative. In this case, they are simply knuckling under because some sensational news--designed to stimulate their sales--may in fact hurt their sales. If this is true, the reporters and editor deserve condemnation from both the left and the right.
Was the Newsweek article the chief cause of rioting and deaths in the Muslim world? Those who believe this need to lay off the Afghan poppies. The Muslim world's distrusts and hatred of the West has long been a-simmering. Those seeking to focus this resentment, transforming thoughts into deeds, grab onto any incident that comes their way as the latest cause cé·lè·bre. Decades of local corruption and Western collusion have created a vast stretch of political oil slicks just waiting for some sparks to ignite them. The Newsweek article is simply the latest spark. There will be more to come.
Vox Popoli: Isikoff's decision to risk inspiring this level of violence over something that may never have happened is irresponsibility of a shocking degree.
Ace of Spades: If Newsweek can shoot from the lip and run a thinly, anonymously sourced story just because it "feels right" to them-- then why the f*** can't I?
Paul Marshall: 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.
Scared Monkeys: I think that Isikoff and Barry should sent over to the areas that are rebelling and see the results of their work. Maybe personal interviews with the families that lost loved ones because they rushed a story.
Emigre with Digital Cluebat: "Newsweek Lied--People Died" is not just a catchy slogan, it's a truism.They did not hold to the basic journalistic standards, and as a result, at least 15 people have DIED, hundreds more have been injured, and international relations have been set back at least a year.
Gateway Pundit: This sloppy news service has spat on the beautiful land that Timothy John Clifford, my Great Grandfather escaped to back in the late nineteenth century from Ireland, so that he wouldn't starve.
The Poor Man: There is little reason to doubt the substance of Newsweek’s story (the US is fine with torturing suspects to death - why wouldn’t they mess with a book?), and Newsweek hasn’t admitted any significant error.
Larry J.: Bush may not be Jewish but the man and his minions have taken Chutzpah to new heights.
The sanest response I came across was that of Cul over on Ratboy's Anvil:
I say to the Muslims who would kill people over such a thing...f*** you, you morons...you're as bad as the xtian monsters who kill abortionists thinking they are doing God a favor. Its a f**king book! Grow up!
And last but not least, there's an article on The Raw Story (via Cut to the Chase) that begins:
Contrary to White House assertions, the allegations of religious desecration at Guantanamo published by Newsweek May 6 are common among ex-prisoners and have been widely reported outside the United States, Raw Story has learned.
Several former detainees at the Guantanamo and Bagram airbase prisons have reported instances of their handlers sitting or standing on the Quran, throwing or kicking it in toilets, and urinating on it.
Where the Newsweek report likely erred was in saying that the U.S. was slated to acknowledge desecrating the Quran in internal investigations, and in relying on a single anonymous source to make grave allegations. But reports of desecration are manifold.
The article ends with numerous links to overseas articles reporting desecration of the Koran.