Monday, May 16, 2005

Newsweek Admits Error, Damage Done

Someone needs to fall.

Newsweek magazine, under fire for publishing a story that led to deadly protests in Afghanistan, said Monday it was retracting its report that a military probe had found evidence of desecration of the Quran by U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay.

Newsweek Retracts Story on Quran Abuse

"It's appalling that this story got out there," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said as she traveled home from Iraq.

"People lost their lives. People are dead," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Capitol Hill. "People need to be very careful about what they say, just as they need to be careful about what they do."

White House press secretary Scott McClellan called Newsweek's retraction "a good first step" but said it could not repair all the damage that had been done.

"The report had real consequences," McClellan said. "People have lost their lives. Our image abroad has been damaged. There are some who are opposed to the United States and what we stand for who have sought to exploit this allegation."

The spokesman also said the Pentagon had looked into other charges by detainees that the Quran had been desecrated and found them to be "not credible."

And below is more of the fallout as Muslim leaders take advantage of the situation.

Arshad and the provincial police chief said the scholars met in Faizabad, 310 miles northeast of the capital, Kabul, and demanded a "reaction" from U.S. authorities within three days.

Lebanon's most senior Shiite Muslim cleric on Sunday said the reported desecration of the Quran is part of an American campaign aimed at disrespecting and smearing Islam.

In a statement faxed to The Associated Press, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah called the alleged desecration a "brutal" form of torture and urged Muslims and international human rights organizations "to raise their voices loudly against the American behavior."

On Saturday, Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, both allies of Washington, demanded an investigation and punishment for those behind the reported desecration of the Quran.

The 22-nation Arab League issued a statement saying if the allegations panned out, Washington should apologize to Muslims.

My guess is that these Muslim leaders and clerics will not take ‘it wasn’t true’ for an answer. Thus begins the long process of trying to limit the damage. I am eager to see if there are any reasonable Muslim leaders that will see the truth for what it is. The realist in me says no. Seeing the truth and reacting to it are not the same. An American magazine’s indictment is proof enough. Retractions, apologies and denials will do little to placate them, as they will see any attempt to change the story as part of the American conspiracy. Always a conspiracy as far as America is concerned. Just when the chips were down for Al Qaeda, Newsweek tossed them lifeline.

My only solace in this matter is that Newsweek had their ‘Abu Gharab’ snatched from them. They are now exposed as anti American tabloid hacks. It will be interesting to see if any heads roll at Newsweek. I wouldn’t bet on it.

In addition to the immediate damage, most accounts seem to be ignoring the damage done to the media. Newsweek has given the non-believers among us more reason than ever to turn away, not that they needed it. We need a responsible media, especially in times of war. Where does one turn to for accurate reporting? I can’t answer that. Perhaps Al Jazeera is finally on an even plane with the US Press, and not because their standards have improved.