Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Qur'an in the toilet wasn't the story

Those who have a habit of sleeping during the late night hours may have missed Michael Isikoff on Charlie Rose on Monday night. It was a fascinating interview.

Michael Isikoff is the Newsweek reporter who, along with Defense Department reporter John Barry, wrote a two-paragraph Periscope story in the May 9th issue that started a firestorm domestically, to say nothing of riots in northern Afganistan. The topic of the story was the pending release of the results of a probe of “interrogation abuses” of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Newsweek sources suggested that “interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur’an down a toilet and led a detainee around with a collar and dog leash.” Other abuses included “one woman who took off her top, rubbed her finger through a detainee’s hair and sat on the detainee’s lap” and another instance in which “a female interrogator allegedly wiped her red-stained hand on a detainee’s face, telling him it was menstrual blood.”

[I am going to set aside for the moment how fundamentally bizarre all of this is. I mean, torture has been an area of human subject research for millennia, and this is what we have come to? Dog leashes, lap dancing and menstrual blood? Do they have data that suggests that any of this interrogation technique works? Is the point here to gin up material for Jon Steward, or what?]

The story of the Qur’an in the toilet was the offending line, and apparently was not in the probe report. The administration spokesmen moved swiftly to deny the incident and demand a retraction from Newsweek––which complied and acknowledged having failed to confirm its second source––while their Praetorian Guard took to the airways to rain holy hell on the magazine.

Following Rathergate, the opportunity to expose once again the America-hating agenda of the liberal media was too much to let pass, and during the past few days while driving the high mesa of New Mexico I have been regaled by the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity and Praeger each dancing the Macarena on Newsweek’s corpse. It was notable, however, that until I saw Charlie Rose, I was not aware that Isikoff was the offending scribe. I attributed the preference to jump on Newsweek rather than the reporters by name to the deep sense of obligation that Rush and his running buddies owe to Michael Isikoff, as he, if memory serves, was involved in breaking the story of the semen on Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress that brought Bill Clinton to justice and Rush to the top of the charts.

The fascinating aspect of the Isikoff’s conversation with Charlie Rose is that the Qur’an incident was the last item in the story that Isikoff and Barry thought would raise the administration’s hackles. Rather, it was the second paragraph that led them to seek Pentagon confirmation of the story. The first line of the second paragraph notes that the findings of the pending report “could put former Gitmo commander Major General Geoffrey Miller on the hot seat.”

General Miller was the commander in charge of interrogations at Gitmo, and was subsequently sent to Iraq to lead the effort at Abu Gra’ib. The report allegedly cites FBI e-mails quarreling with Miller over the aggressive interrogation techniques being used at Gitmo, but conceding that Miller had his “marching orders from the Secretary of Defense.” Isikoff was surprised at the Qur’an uproar because he and his colleague expected that the offending aspect of the story was the direct link that the probe report suggested between interrogation abuse in Iraq, the famous memo from then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez exempting the prisoners from the protections of the Geneva Conventions, and the concurrence of the President in the investigation techniques.

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