Newsweek, the Koran and a voice of reason

Strange, that at a time when the right wing has gone into over-drive damning Newsweek for printing a story with an erroneous quote (which they ran by the Pentagon first), that one of the few voices of reason is that of my least favorite NYT columnist, David Brooks.

Maybe it won’t be so bad being cut off from the blogosphere. I look around the Web these days and find that Newsweek’s retracted atrocity story has sent everybody into cloud-cuckoo-land. Every faction up and down the political spectrum has used the magazine’s blunder as a chance to open fire on its favorite targets, turning this into a fevered hunting season for the straw men.

Many of my friends on the right have decided that the Newsweek episode exposes the rotten core of the liberal media. Dennis Prager, who is intelligent 99 percent of the time, writes, “Newsweek is directly responsible for the deaths of innocents and for damaging America.” Countless conservatives say the folks at Newsweek were quick to believe the atrocity tales because they share the left-wing, post-Vietnam mentality. On his influential blog, Austin Bay writes that the coastal media “presume the worst about the U.S. military – always make that presumption.”

Excuse me, guys, but this is craziness. I used to write for Newsweek. I know Mike Isikoff and the editors. And I know about liberals in the media. The people who run Newsweek are not a bunch of Noam Chomskys with laptops. Not even close. Whatever might have been the cause of their mistakes, liberalism had nothing to do with it.

Of course, Brooks then throws in the obligatory swipe at the left (“fair and balanced,” ya know?) and decries their obsession with proving the quote was accurate, but reading his column there is no doubt whatever that it’s the Michelle Malkin-Charles Johnson-Glenn Reynolds crows that’s gone off the very deep end.

This is one of the oddest stories in recent journalism, when the far right targets Michael Isikoff and accuses him of participating in a bizarre left-wing conspiracy. (Isikoff, if you recall, was key to the crucifixion of our last real president, serving as a dictating machine for Lucianne Goldberg and Paula Jones). The whole thing is utterly crazy. The Koran story could only have inspired such bloodshed if there was a lot of pent-up rage. That’s the real story — that their hatred of us is so intense that a rumor could ignite a murderous free-for-all, and that maybe Afghanistan is a bit further away from being a peacable democracy than Instpuppy and Dow Jones-funded fraudster Arthur “Good News!” Chrenkoff would have us believe.

This was the right blogosphere at its very ugliest. Michelle Maglalang instantly started to pimp the phrase, “Newsweek lied, people died.” As though Newsweek was maliciously lying. Isikoff’s man in the government gave him the information, Isikoff used it, then after it was out the guy said he couldn’t confirm it. Tragic, that something so stupid can arouse the warbloggers to such frenzy, damning the “MSM” and calling for blood, for punishment.

I remember someone else who lied not so long ago — and I mean really lied — costing more than 1,600 American soldiers’ lives and countless Iraqis’. But to go after him is unpatriotic and treasonous.

The entire thing is warped and incomprehensible.

Update: If you don’t read Fafblog on this topic, it’s your loss. Sample:

The Medium Lobster has learned that while it was spreading lies about Korans at Guantanamo Bay, Newsweek managed to torture hundreds of prisoners at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and Afghanistan, killing dozens of them in the process. And apparently Newsweek has not been content to torture prisoners on its own. It has also kidnapped citizens of other countries and flown them to dictatorships to be tortured! The Medium Lobster has said it before and he will, no doubt, say it again: no blood for mainstream media.

If this were not enough, it has just come to my attention that Newsweek spread discredited rumors and outright lies to goad the United States into invading another country, with no justification and no plan for the occupation, costing tens of thousands of innocent lives. And not only has the lumbering dinosaur of legacy media turned to the callow slaughtering of innocents, but it hasn’t even come up with an exit strategy! You can bet the plucky pajama-clad kids in the blogosphere would have us in and out of a war in a couple of months.

“Heh. Indeed. Read the whole thing.”

The Discussion: 16 Comments

Bush lied, people died. We still re-elected him. Whether he maliciously lied or not is probably an examination akin to whether or not Newsweek did. And if the liberals were gripped by “Post-vietnam” reactions, what do we say about Bush’s “Post Desert Storm” reaction? Probably it’s the case that neither lied, in the sense that you can’t lie if you are convinced of your stance’s truth.

Or maybe I should say, Powell lied, people died.

Blair almost certainly did.

I’m not sure the Whitehouse should be so quick to judge. Or maybe they are, in some weird mis-direction?

May 19, 2005 @ 2:51 pm | Comment

Maybe a better phrase than “lied” in Bush’s case would be “knowingly stretched the truth to an obscene degree.” The fact that before the towers even fell Rumsfeld was talking about invading Iraq tells us how determined they were to use any excuse to attack. Thus the Niger yellowcake saga, the detailed descriptions of nuclear stockpiles and chemical weapons labs. And the stories of Powell shrieking that the Defense Department was trying to get him to include unconfirmed and later proven-false intelligence in his UN speech is legendary. It was certainly way more of a lie than what Isikoff did.

May 19, 2005 @ 3:02 pm | Comment

What McClellan came out and said about Newsweek was really interesting, and kind of ironic, or not, depending on where you fall in the political spectrum. I’m an unabashed liberal but I really try to put myself in other people’s shoes – I tried with this story – see my post at –

I wonder what you think, richard.

May 19, 2005 @ 3:52 pm | Comment

Laowai, that’s one of your best posts yet. I think you know I agree with every word.

May 19, 2005 @ 5:38 pm | Comment


I’m just trying to understand something here.

Are you saying that (in your words) because Bush lied about WMD, it’s okay for Newsweek to have engaged in irresponsible journalism tactics that ended up costing further lives?

“The Koran story could only have inspired such bloodshed if there was a lot of pent-up rage. ”

That’s really not a true statement. I don’t know how much you read about what goes on in the Middle-East outside of the war in Iraq, but Muslims have been known to use such accusations against each other simply because things like this result anytime there is the slightest allegation of desecrating the Koran.

Anyway, it’s not up to the DOD to proof-read Newsweek’s publications. That’s their responsibility, the media isn’t censored in America like it is in China.

BTW, have you ever tried to flush a book down the toilet?

I don’t think you can even manage to pull that off on a Chinese squat toilet.

May 20, 2005 @ 3:33 am | Comment

rom today’s Chincago Tribune:

The International Committee of the Red Cross documented what it called credible information about U.S. personnel disrespecting or mishandling Korans at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and pointed it out to the Pentagon in confidential reports during 2002 and early 2003, an ICRC spokesman said Wednesday.

Representatives of the ICRC, who have played a key role in investigating abuse allegations at the facility in Cuba and other U.S. military prisons, never witnessed such incidents firsthand during on-site visits, said Simon Schorno, an ICRC spokesman in Washington.

But ICRC delegates, who have been granted access to the secretive camp since January 2002, gathered and corroborated enough similar, independent reports from detainees to raise the issue multiple times with Guantanamo commanders and with Pentagon officials, Schorno said in an interview Wednesday.

And running it by the Pentagon was something Newsweek didn’t need to do but wanted to do, and they approved it and were then silent for 11 days. I know a lot about Islam. Not all Moslems are explosive out-of-control idiots waiting to be incited by a rumor to slaughter innocent people. That’s only in Michelloe Malkin’s world. And if they are like that, what the hell are we doing spilling American blood to bring them “freedom,” since animals like that could never live under a civilized democracy.

May 20, 2005 @ 7:47 am | Comment

Not all Moslems but jihadists yes. Will one day people of the Left get that difference?

May 20, 2005 @ 7:55 am | Comment

I understand the difference well. What makes you think people on the “left” don’t understand this? And who are you? Please use a name. As for people on the left not understanding things — more of them understood this would be an unwinnable war and a catastrophe long before those on the right. Thank God the majority of Americans have come to know the truth, and they now say the invasion of Iraq was wrong, a mistake. Oh, those daffy left wingers, saying there’d be a quagmire and denying the troops wold be give flowers and chocolates! What the hell were we thinking??

Keep attacking the left if it makes you feel good. Just don’t deny the one glaring fact that they were right, no matter how much Chrenkoff you stuff down your face.

May 20, 2005 @ 8:08 am | Comment

Oh, and from today’s NY Times, from a US Army report:

Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.

The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

A sketch by Thomas V. Curtis, a former Reserve M.P. sergeant, showing how Dilawar was chained to the ceiling of his cell.

Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Speciialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar’s face.

“Come on, drink!” the interpreter said Speciialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. “Drink!”

At the interrogators’ behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

“Leave him up,” one of the guards quoted Speciialist Claus as saying.

Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.

The story of Mr. Dilawar’s brutal death at the Bagram Collection Point – and that of another detainee, Habibullah, who died there six days earlier in December 2002 – emerge from a nearly 2,000-page confidential file of the Army’s criminal investigation into the case, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

And we wonder why there’s pent-up rage. We wonder whyt they don’t love us. We idiots actually think it’s all because of a few sentences in an American magazine, and if only those words hadn’t appeared it would just be love and kisses.

Yeah, right.

May 20, 2005 @ 8:23 am | Comment

Congradulations Richard!

I nominate you for tool of the year!

Everything you cite comes from the NYT (no bias there).

May 20, 2005 @ 9:46 am | Comment

I used to work for them, Gordon. I know first-hand that for any flaws it may have it is still the world’s best newspaper. One of the most detestable right-wing memes has been the smearing of the “mainstream media” as though it were a monolithic unit of crazed liberals. Only in Maglalang-land. The Times fucked up under Raines, but its track record is literaly unmatched, and I will always quote it more than other papers, as it’s my hometown paper and it’s an organization I know and trust.

May 20, 2005 @ 10:08 am | Comment

Like I said, no bias there.

May 20, 2005 @ 10:13 am | Comment

Oh for god’s sake, Gordon. You can find accounts like that in any number of mainstream media sources, both here and abroad. Why do I have the feeling that if I list them, it will be a waste of time as you will label them all biased? What isn’t biased, in your worldview?

Not wanting something to be true doesn’t make it so, unfortunately.

May 20, 2005 @ 10:26 am | Comment

Gordon, everyone is biased. If I weren’t biased this bglog would have zero readership. I know my biases, however, and I ty to be fair. I also know my sources and their track record. Michelle loves the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Phyllis Schlafly and other loons. I prefer the Washington Post, the New Republic, The Atlantic and other pubs I know very well and have trusted for years. None is perfect, all have a story of poor reporting or cheating or what have you. But I find them to be the best we have, and I am damned particular.

May 20, 2005 @ 10:41 am | Comment

The Times article above, by the way, is based on a government report, from the Army in fact. Of course, Michelle Maglalang and CHarles Johnson and Instapuppy will be silent about it, and instead send readers to discredited Dow Jones-financed liar Arthur Chrenkoff to hear all about the “good news.” Yeck.

May 20, 2005 @ 10:43 am | Comment

The truth is, our government is torturing people as a matter of policy, either directly or by proxy. If this is okay with some folks, they should just come out and admit it. Unfortunately that pretty much eliminates our right to decry such treatment, including when it happens to our own people. But them’s the breaks.

May 20, 2005 @ 11:25 am | Comment

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