Archive - May 16, 2005

Oh, Something Got Flushed, All Right

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Memo to Newsweek: YOU AREN'T HELPING.<?p>

Tell you what. Why not just hand the entire fucking magazine over to the administration, wrapped in a pretty little bow. Did you not learn Thing One from CBS and Memogate? Every fuckup is a weapon in their hands, a weapon that allows them to dismiss the essentially true with the specifically false. Yes, Bush was negligent, borderline AWOL in his National Guard service. Anyone looking at the giant pile of evidence came to that conclusion. But since the audience can't be bothered to look at a pile of evidence, CBS got fed a nice, succinct, one-page bit of easily-digested "proof", got sloppy, ran it, got caught, and as a result, Memogate is used to refute the entire case that Bush was a pampered little puss who got the same treatment as all the other rich white sons of the Vietnam era.

And now, Newsweek. A week ago, Newsweek ran a small story about abuses at Guantanamo Bay. Now, anyone with a pair of working eyeballs* knows that there's a giant pile of filthy, filthy stuff happening under United States supervision. Whether it's Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, or a pot of boiling water in Uzbekistan where we happened to send some prisoners, we are up to our fucking necks in what the more evenminded might call "aggressive interrogation techniques".

And one of the abuses, a real barnburner, in the Newsweek story was that interrogators at Gitmo were setting copies of the Qur'an on toilets, and in one case, flushed a copy down the toilet. As an atheist, the closest thing I have to a "holy book" is a beat-up copy of "Billy and the Boingers", so I can't exactly identify with the emotions involved, but I'm told that to many devout Muslims, this is worse than pointing at their genitals with a shit-eating grin on your face.

The Army, who's softpedaled a lot of the abuse allegations, said this was unthinkable, beyond the pale, and would look into it immediately. A horrified people, learning of the news, spilled their anger into the streets. Not here, of course. Here, people barely noticed, becuase nobody gives a shit how we abuse or torture the people around whose necks we've hung "ENEMY" signs. But in Afghanistan, they were mighty pissed. And Newsweek's circulation there is considerably smaller, which gives you a nice benchmark as to how fucking apathetic and lazy we are here.

There wer riots. And deaths. Up to 17 deaths from the riots, in fact. Finally, I thought, our combination of ruthlessness and cultural imperialism had come and bit us on the ass. We'd finally gone far enough that at least SOMEONE in the world noticed and gave a crap, and were making enough noise that at least some of us had to pay attention.

And then Newsweek had to back off its story, and once again, we're fucked. Seems the confidential, reliable source Newsweek relied upon is now backing down from the "they flushed Qur'ans" claim, which means Newsweek is backing down from it's "they flushed Qur'ans" claim, and that means, from now on, every single time someone puts out a story out about Guantanamo abuses, the first fucking thing out of Hannity's mouth, out of Limbaugh's gob, out of Alan Keyes' crazyspout, is gonna be, "Yeah, and they said they were flushing books too, and look what happened with THAT".

It's incredibly, mindbogglingly convenient for them. After nearly four years of the right-wing echo machine's insistence that stories critical of US policy embolden the enemy and endanger our troops, here comes a story critical of US policy that may have caused** rioting, endangers US troops, and kills fifteen Afghan citizens. And mark my words, the caring gap on the right between these seventeen Afghanis and the hundreds of others who've died will make Snake River Canyon look like one square in hopscotch. It's so convenient, in fact, that it stinks of a setup.

And if it IS a setup, then, well, Newsweek doesn't get let off the goddamn hook, because part of the job description is NOT GETTING SET UP. Sources with their own agendas ain't a new phenomenon. It's one of the cardinal booby traps of investigative journalism. So either Newsweek were fools, or were played for fools, and any chance of the tide in this country actually turning against barbarism and torture just took another two steps back. Because Newsweek was dumb. Thanks, guys.

*Some of you are laughing at this, and can fuck right off.

**There's some question about how much of the Afghani anger is actually Newsweek-related, and how much of it is generalized anger at how much things suck, but we all know how it's gonna be presented, don't we?