Tuesday, May 17, 2005

ScrappleFace: Newsweek Told Koran Flush Story Was 'Slam Dunk'

ScrappleFace: Newsweek Told Koran Flush Story Was 'Slam Dunk': "(2005-05-16) -- An unnamed former top government official told a Newsweek magazine reporter that his story, about a U.S. military guard at Guantanamo prison flushing a Koran down a toilet, was 'a slam dunk,' according to the latest apology from Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker.

The magazine's uncorroborated, single-source, hearsay report of the Koran desecration sparked riots in several Muslim countries, killing at least 15 and injuring perhaps 100."

4 comments:

Andy Nagel said...

Hey Ryan,

Long time reader, first time post-er!

I must note some irony here--wasn't the term "slam dunk" exactly the phrase used by George Tenet (I think) in communication with Bush with regard to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? Considering that Newsweek has now submitted a full retraction, aren't you being a little hard on Newsweek for deaths that--honestly--they could not possibly have foreseen, especially in the light that Bush's actions in response to that previous "slam dunk" intelligence certainly resulted directly in far more deaths?

Why is the use of one wrong "slam dunk" so much more unforgivable than the other? Going to war on problematic "slam dunk" intel seems much worse to me than printing a 10 sentence story.

Also, your Hugh Hewitt post (2 posts previous) lays blame at Newsweek's door, "a huge and grave error." But your subsequent Prager post implies that flushing pages of the Koran is not worthy of a riot, and instead lays blame at the feet of the Muslim rioters. Which is it?

I can't see how you can have these issues both ways. You can't exonerate the Administration for their use of false "slam-dunk" intel and damn Newsweek for theirs. Also, you can't blame both Newsweek and Muslims (can you?) for the riots.

I am trying to be charitable, bro, but I must confess that it looks like you have found an opportunity to bash the MSM and are wildly swinging away, contradicting yourself along the way. Can you clarify?

By the way, sorry to come out of the blue with a critical post, but I've been reading your blog for awhile and have been meaning to post, but never got around to it. Also, you might be surprised at my post considering you know that I supported the war at first. I have to tell you that after awhile, the failure to find WMD and the Administration's refusal to offer anything in the way of a "retraction" or apology or anything (a la evil Newsweek) severely shattered my confidence.

Hope you and your family are well.

McRyanMac said...

Andy,
Great to hear from you, and an excellent challenge. You've called me on my lazy blogging. I usually don't take the time to comment in depth but you raise some interesting objections.

I must note some irony here--wasn't the term "slam dunk" exactly the phrase used by George Tenet (I think) in communication with Bush with regard to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction?

This is exactly right, and exactly the point of the irony.I’ve never seen anyone with a “George Tenet lied, people died” bumper sticker. Yet the President is obligated to take the advice of his CIA director and the bulk of his own intelligence community, not to mention the intelligence agencies of Great Britain, Israel, and probably France and Germany (if they hadn’t been so worried about making money on Oil for Food).

What obligation does Newsweek (or NEWSWEEK) have to take the word of an anonymous government official? If the report is so credible why is there only one source? Why anonymous? We know George Tenet advised the President about WMD’s because he was willing to put his name on it. Newsweek was so jittery about their source that they didn’t even put the story in a column with a byline, opting instead for the gossipy and more anonymous Periscope page. This is shoddy, irresponsible reporting on such an important topic.

Considering that Newsweek has now submitted a full retraction, aren't you being a little hard on Newsweek for deaths that--honestly--they could not possibly have foreseen, especially in the light that Bush's actions in response to that previous "slam dunk" intelligence certainly resulted directly in far more deaths?

First of all, it's interesting to note that "amateur" bloggers are being the hardest on Newsweek. Prager has noted that the MSM doesn't have the honor or courage to substantively criticize its own. What I disagree with is the idea that Newsweek "could not possibly have foreseen" a violent reaction to their story. In an age of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, the murder of Theo Van Gogh, the rioting following Abu Ghraib, honor killings and many other examples of radical Islamist atrocities, if Newsweek didn’t know this could happen it’s because they are ignorant or worse, diabolical. Ignorance makes them bad reporters, but willingly publishing a story that will foment hate of Americans, makes them bad Americans. Take your pick about which you think they are but either way I’m not being too hard on them.

Also, I dispute the claim that Bush’s actions have resulted in “far more deaths”. Certainly there are no more mass graves in Iraq since Coalition forces liberated the country. Don’t we count these as lives saved against those tragically lost in the war. The foreign terrorists that are slaughtering Iraqi’s daily are horrifying but certainly not the doing of George Bush, a fact which Iraqi’s themselves are finally becoming convinced of. What about the lives saved by Libya voluntarily giving up its WMD’s. What about the lives saved by the sweeping of freedom through Lebanon? What about the lives saved by those who have left terrorism because they have seen the defeat of a major terrorist dictator like Saddam Hussein. One of the things the secular left constantly misunderstands is the religious interpretation of events. 9-11 lent itself to the idea that Allah was granting favor to terrorism and Islamist extremism. The defeat of the Taliban and Saddam and the “insurgency” (read terrorists) have taught many that Allah has granted no such favor. Saddam was not an Islamist but he supported them for his own ends making him part of the swamp of terror. The terrorists are in Iraq right now fighting to save face on the idea of radical Islamist theocracy. Can we not give George Bush credit for saving countless lives by consistently defeating the forces of Islamo-fascist terror?

Many lives have been lost, but as in World War II, the alternative was much worse. So in the final analysis I believe fighting and winning World War II saved more lives than were lost. The same is true (so far) of George Bush’s war on radical Islamist terrorism.

As to the issue of blame, there is no contradiction in blaming Newsweek and the rioters. There’s plenty of blame go around. Imagine a negligent warden at a maximum security prison who calls a party for all of his prison guards and creates conditions that allow a notorious mass-murderer to escape. When the murderer begins a new spree of killings, can we not say that the warden was blameworthy? Yes we can, and should. But that doesn’t mean the murderer is innocent. He also is guilty, but there is shared responsibility proportionate to the involvement with the crime.

The same is true of Newsweek and the rioters. Those who rioted and killed are guilty, but Newsweek is also guilty of inciting them, either out of negligence (as noted before) or out of a diabolical desire to make the U.S. and it’s military look bad.

Even if the story were true I think Newsweek would be culpable. This is the main difference in comparing Newsweek and George Bush. What was the greater good served by Newsweek? Gotcha journalism? Protecting a book that the people at Newsweek probably don’t see as any more sacred than the phone book? Or was it the greater good of painting the U.S. and its military as amoral torturers (a la Abu Ghraib). This is what upsets most of us outside of the MSM. It’s not just that Newsweek got it wrong on the facts; it’s that they got it wrong on the military. Even if the story were true, it would be an isolated example of human depravity, not a characteristic example of U.S. military torture tactics.

This is why you have to search and search to find news about Afghanistan until the rioting broke out. Because good news resulting from U.S. military action is not something the MSM believes in. That’s why it takes a blogger like Arthur Chrenkoff to do what the media should be doing: reporting the fact that the U.S. military is made up of generally decent people who do far more good than evil. Until Newsweek (and the rest of the MSM) get this straight, they deserve all the criticism they get from Americans.


I have to tell you that after awhile, the failure to find WMD and the Administration's refusal to offer anything in the way of a "retraction" or apology or anything (a la evil Newsweek) severely shattered my confidence.

Finally, take heart. Though revisionists have tried to say differently, George Bush did not claim that WMD’s were the only reason for the war. They were a good reason for the war (though a false one). But this is truly where the analogy to Newsweek is so ironic. Bush didn’t lie and neither did Newsweek. The difference is that Bush’s objective was to free Iraq and protect America from WMD’s. Newsweek’s objective seems to have been less noble. Bush had multiple public sources telling him Iraq had WMD’s; Newsweek had one anonymous source and one suspected terrorist source. Neither Newsweek nor Bush “lied” but one was far more interested in the truth than the other.

Spreading freedom was just as central a reason given for the war, and that has been an amazing success thus far. Some day soon you might be able to visit a peaceful and democratic Baghdad, just as you can now visit Berlin. It takes the vision of a Reagan or Bush to act and not just talk about freedom. If WMD’s (btw, shouldn’t it be W’sMD?) were the main reason you supported the war, then I understand your dismay. But there were many other good reasons to defeat Saddam and the Iraqi elections are exhibit A.

But I’ve often wondered why no one points out the powerful message that the war sent to terrorist regimes: “if we even think you have WMD’s, we’re going to do whatever we can to put you out of our misery.” That’s why Libya gave up their weapons. That’s why Syria didn’t have the gall to crack down hard on Lebanon and why Syria, Iran, North Korea and even Saudi Arabia should be and probably are nervous. George Bush promised to “drain the swamp of terrorism” and I think he’s doing such a good job that magazines like Newsweek have to publish flimsy reports of Koran flushing.

Also, see if you can find a retraction or an apology from Kofi Annan or those I the U.N. who profited from Saddam’s brutal dictatorship. I can proudly stand with a President who makes defeating people like Saddam his primary political goal. Or how about a retraction or apology from those in the MSM who predicted an Afghan quagmire or the inflammation of the entire Arab street against the U.S. as a result of the Iraqi war. Neither of these happened, in fact it’s been quite the opposite. It’s not that I don’t believe that Bush was wrong about WMD’s in Iraq, he clearly was. But being wrong about not taking a chance with a murderous dictator is not a bad thing.

Andy said...

Ryan

Thanks for the thoughtful response...I know you're busy. I'm still not totally persuaded that a media that is generally critical of the government is necessarily a bad thing...it actually seems important to have a press that uses a "hermeneutic of suspicion" when dealing with governments, armies, etc. Now, that shouldn't be an excuse for sloppy journalism, as you pointed out, but I guess I'm overall less worried about a monolithic, diabolical "MSM". But that's a whole other discussion.

Also, I'm hesitant to get into speculation about potential lives saved. It's so hard to determine which course of action would result in fewest casualities (might there have been a course of action that would have resulted in even fewer deaths? one that was not fully explored because of the concern we all had over (to be grammatically correct) W'sMD? All I'm saying is the hypothetical situations can cut both ways.

Again, thanks for the response, you make many good points. I'll continue to keep up with the blog and post again with more annoying little questions. Until then...

McRyanMac said...

Ahh Andy,

That's where you and I agree. I also think it is very important to have a press that uses a "hermeneutic of suspicion" when dealing with governments, armies, etc.

The problem is that our MSM doesn't have suspicion about most governments and armies, just ours.

How else can Enron be treated as a bigger scandal than the UN Oil-for-food scandal (which monetarily is the biggest corruption scandal in recorded history).

I could multiply examples to fill many blog posts.

The myopic suspicion of the US Government and the US army is very destructive because it gives a pass to far worse.

The MSM defies freedom of speech by being unwilling to be morally consistent in their criticism of government. If the MSM was truly free intellectually and morally you would hear more (any?) criticism of Newsweek in editorial pages; you would hear more criticism of France and Germany and Canada (Have you heard about the corruption happening there and the Canadian Govt. covering it up? Sheesh.) for crying out loud. But the MSM seems to act more like a club than the gang at Augusta National.

Thankfully they don't have the ability control debate anymore. Therefore there will be more honest criticism of Government, US and all others, now that the MSM monolith is minimized.

I love alliteration.

Though it is difficult to say which course of action would result in fewer casualties, it is not difficult to say that the toppling of Saddam has been a tremendous success from a historical perspective. You may disagree but I think this is pretty clear at this point and will become clearer as time goes on.

Also, you made the comparison of "far more deaths". This implies that it was somehow wrong to pursue a course of action that caused these deaths.

Just because something results in more deaths doesn't make it wrong. Our current federal speed limit causes far more deaths than if it was 15 miles per hour. But I don't see any moral outrage or protests about the death toll on our nation’s highways. Maybe we're all enslaved by the corporate interests of Big Speed.

The point of your comparison seemed to be that Bush's actions, leading to deaths, was morally suspect because another course of action would have resulted in less deaths. Yet you said you’re hesitant to speculate about potential lives saved. Which is it?

Btw, I really enjoy your "annoying little questions".

As iron sharpens iron...

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