The Newsweek "Scandal"

It would seem that the Newsweek story was not, ummmm, new. Other papers have been reporting about American interrorgators defiling the Qu'ran (I would normally have gone with "Koran", but since the other spelling annoys righties, I thought, why the hell not?). Why is Newsweek the bad guy? Maybe it's a way to take attention from the British memos that simply confirm what many of us suspected all along: GWB was determined to invade Iraq. No matter what. Ignore the man behind the curtain. And whatever you do, don't let the facts get in your way.

Molly Ivins

"As Riley used to say on an ancient television sitcom, "This is a revoltin' development." There seems to be a bit of a campaign on the right to blame Newsweek for the anti-American riots in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other Islamic countries.

Uh, people, I hate to tell you this, but the story about Americans abusing the Koran in order to enrage prisoners has been out there for quite some time. The first mention I found of it is March 17, 2004, when the Independent of London interviewed the first British citizen released from Guantanamo Bay. The prisoner said he had been physically beaten but did not consider that as bad as the psychological torture, which he described extensively. Jamal al-Harith, a computer programmer from Manchester, said 70 percent of the inmates had gone on a hunger strike after a guard kicked a copy of the Koran. The strike was ended by force-feeding."


What I'm currently gagging on is all of the righteous indignation about how Newsweek "lied."

Even if the Koran allegations turn out to be false, Newsweek didn't "lie" in the dictionary sense of:

Main Entry: lie
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): lied; ly·ing /'lI-i[ng]/
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English lEogan; akin to Old High German liogan to lie, Old Church Slavonic lugati
intransitive senses
1 : to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive
2 : to create a false or misleading impression
transitive senses : to bring about by telling lies.

Source: Merriam-Webster online>.

At the time the Newsweek piece was written, they had a quote from an unnamed defense source who claimed to have seen substantiation of the Koran claim in a specific report. This source has since recanted. But at the time, Newsweek did not believe the charge to be false. Thus, they did not lie.

We can say they used poor sourcing (a single unnamed source) and poor referencing (did not read through report that supposedly had the claim); and at worst, printed something they wanted to hear.

The above paragraph is exactly how the Administration motiviated us to go to Iraq - with poorly sourced claims (think curveball, INC); poor referencing (did not fully confirm allegations with other known data - think aluminum tubes, Niger memo); and only considered what they wanted to hear as credible (rejection of Ritter, Blix, etc).

Anyone who claims that Newsweek "lied", needs to believe that the Administration "lied." Anyone who believes that the Adminstration had the best facts available at the time, should give Newsweek the same benefit of the doubt.

It's certainly true beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Administrations actions in Iraq have killed thousands of more people of more nationalities than Newsweek will ever cause through substandard research.

What's especially galling is the White House demand that Newsweek fix America's> as though our actions since Summer 2002 had absolutely NO EFFECT on world opinion!

Daniel - I understand the analogy your trying to make here. But I take issue

First, quibbling over semantics, lied, mislead, poor -judgement, changes nothing with respect to the consequences of this "non-story". So why belabor? . As for we "righties", the one's jumping up and down about Newsweek's lie, do what others should do, ignore. But equating this issue with the invasion of Iraq, smacks more of politicizing than rationalizing a very sad news story. The truth here is about one man's (Isikoff) fervor to push a knowingly incendiary story upon tenuous sourcing. King George, as some like to call him, had his "story" debated and endorsed by 535 editors in Congress.

Here is an excellent response by John Conyers that addresses those points:

"I write to express my profound disappointment and outrage about comments you made about a matter involving Newsweek magazine, which smacks of political exploitation of the deaths of innocent and a shameless attempt to intimidate reporters from critically investigating your Administration's actions. Your comments are contradicted by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and stand in stark contrast with your actions involving the "Downing Street Memo."

The Raw>

Well you've certainly chosen an impeccable source to support one of my points with Daniel. Politics over truth.

One would think a Conyers staffer could have just easily grabbed a copy of Newsweek while making the morning doughnut run to read editor Mark Whitaker's mea culpa, ...""We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the US soldiers caught in its midst."

Unfortunately some can't leave well, or in this case, sad enough alone.

But there's something bigger here I personally revel in watching. That being the left's call to arms for a bumbling, long-time sympathetic media establishment losing it's relevance. Hell, they just just blew more air into a waning Dan Rather, who still maintains Microsoft Word was around in 1972, with his Peabody today. Jason Blair, AP reporting about Congressional hearings before they happen, NPR confessions of liberal stumping, CNN reporters ignorant or unwilling to disclose the Temple Mount as a holy site for Jews. This is your media, not mine.

So here we have folks like yourself (BTW are you the old EX_Libris, if so you have to fill me in on the RedCard handle) serving as big media apologists. Are the stories true? It doesn't matter. I hear a lot of lamenting around here about Bush and lack of press freedom. Baloney. The only freedom we need to fret over is that of long-toothed media free to do shoddy, tendentious reporting .

The truth here is about one man's (Isikoff) fervor to push a knowingly incendiary story upon tenuous sourcing. King George, as some like to call him, had his "story" debated and endorsed by 535 editors in Congress.

Let's consider your "535 editors" analogy first. The way editing is supposed to work is that a reporter brings a story to his editor. The editor asks to see all the evidence backing a story. An editor is also supposed to ask if there's facts and/or sources that provide counter evidence.

Our "535 editors" never got to see all of the evidence backing the administration's story. Looking through the Senate Intelligence Committee reports, the 9/11 reports, or other reports that have come out since the beginning of the war make it clear that Congress was NEVER fully informed of doubts within the administration and never got to see the full set of evidence. This would be equivilant to a writer, say Jayson Blair, bringing a story to his editor and saying "trust me." Did this happen in Newsweek? I don't know. But it did on Capitol Hill and the consequences have been enormous, deadly for all sides, extremely expensive ($200B+), and has turned Iraq into a breeding ground for terrorists. This is far more damage than Newsweek will EVER cause.

The main difference I see between the Newsweek story and the White House's dash for war is that when confronted with its faulty reporting, Newsweek apologized and retracted. Despite the tens of thousands dead and wounded on all sides in Iraq, we've heard nothing from the Administration except praise and promotions for the lot who did the miserable reporter. And, as RedCard and others have pointed out, our military leaders are on record as saying that the Newsweek article was a minor factor at best in the deadly rioting.

Finally, getting rid of the "Newsweek Lied" meme is vital. I don't recall you or other war supporters being so cavalier about whether the President's charactization of the "Iraqi Threat" was a lie or "misleading or poor-judgement." On the contrary, war-supporters thought it was vital that people understood that the President believed what he was saying at the time. Because poor judgement can be excused (if repented and fixed); but lying is a moral crime.

If this country buys the "Newsweek Lied" propaganda currently being offered by the White House, Fox News, etc; then Americans will assume that any problems about our the Iraq war will simply be the result of media malice. They will ignore the body of published, governmental evidence that shows otherwise.

Having said all that, I think it is appropriate for Newsweek to say that they failed in their responsibility to obtain and read a copy of the report their unnamed source cited for his claim. I still find that different from asserting their knowingly published a falsehood.

Daniel - part of being an elected official is making judgements based upon "available" information. You and I both know that Democrats and Republicans both believed in WMD. Any official with a hint of doubt should have voted NO on the resolution. Now you say that evidence found after the war, or perhaps as a result of the war, shows this was a bad decision.

But back to Fox News, White House and whatever other demons those on the left have in their heads. What do you propose? Censorship.

Daniel - part of being an elected official is making judgements based upon "available" information. You and I both know that Democrats and Republicans both believed in WMD. Any official with a hint of doubt should have voted NO on the resolution. Now you say that evidence found after the war, or perhaps as a result of the war, shows this was a bad decision.

I think you misunderstand me. I'm NOT referring to the results of the various postwar WMD search teams, including Duelfer (sp?) that found nothing. That wouldn't be fair.

What I AM referring to are reports that people in the State Dept, the CIA and other intelligence agencies had significant PREWAR concerns and doubts about INC and other defectors' claims of massive, useable stockpiles. These concerns were dismissed and not shared outside of their agencies. Even when intelligence estimates were provided to Congress, lines that implied doubt were edited to imply certainity.

So, yes, Republicans and Democrats believed in WMDs because that's what the carefully edited reports said and there was no meaningful way to check the conclusions. If ALL the points of view along with reasons for doubt had been carried forward, the vote may have been different.

There's another important issue regarding the resolution. While it was a "use of force" resolution, it was far from a declaration of war. In fact, the Republican leadership marketed it as a tool that President Bush needed to pursue more effective diplomacy. Voting for the resolution was portrayed as a way to lessen the risk of war because the UN and Saddam would see that we were serious. Even with the evidence presented, the vote may have been different if the resolution had explicited say that a yes vote was a vote for invasion. The resolution vote wasn't as black and white as you make it out to be.

But back to Fox News, White House and whatever other demons those on the left have in their heads. What do you propose? Censorship.

I've never proposed censorship. Show me where I have. I do think its important to respond when something is being framed unfairly.


You chose to spell Qu'ran rather than Koran to annoy righties? Do you mean right handed people?

What gives you the impression that people who speak Arabic are not righties? Actually all of my friends who are from the middle east and speak Arabic are Republicans or no party, none of them are Democrats.

While my Arabic is not perfect, my Farsi is much better and it would be ﻥ�ﺭﻘ (thank goodness for charmap) All of my Farsi speaking friends are Republicans, and staunch law and order Republicans at that.

LOL, sorry about that. It was without context, and I should have removed it for this posting. Over on IFFORUM (ALA's Intellectual Freedom Forum), one of the Conservative members had posted an article basically saying that spelling the it with the "Q" was a form of PC.

- Robert L

If you have an issue with Conyer's logic, by all means join the argument. ;)

In fact, some of the Army types, who are in a position to know, claim that the Newsweek article had little influence on events in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

You're right, the Main Stream Media does make mistakes. Sometimes big ones. But you will note, however, that Newsweek attempted to correct their mistake when they realized that one had been made. I think even Rather apologized. If one Texan can apologize, I'm sure the other can as well. If he were willing to.

I decided to consolodate all of my various nicks under one roof (I was EX_libris.. lolol.. now ex-ex_libris). The red card is what the Wobblies called their membership cards. Draw your own conclusions from that. ;)

I agree with you that you've never proposed censorship. But why the angst over Fox News? Is CNN, CBS, or NPR using "lied"? Obviously you're not buying the "lied" business.

Let's see, Wobblies Weeble But They Don't Fall Down. (Silly childhood reference I doubt many will get)

Ironically, the last time I heard the word was when Maggie Thatcher was giving advise to Bush I about invading Iraq.

By "Fox News, etc"; I'm referring to the entire conservative "commentary sphere" (Some Fox News shows, Clear Channel Communications, columnists, bloggers, etc.) Sorry for the implication that I was singling out Fox News.

I think this issue and countering the "Newsweek lied, people died" meme is important because the Administration is asserting that Newsweek caused death and destruction through their careless use of evidence and desire for a story.

This, coming from an Administration which has now caused the death and maiming of tens of thousands (in concert with insurgents) because what I think has been shown to be their careless use of evidence and their desire for an invasion. This, to me, opens new vistas of hypocrisy.

While the White House seems to be confining itself to "Newsweek is sloppy and needs to clean up its act before more people die", the right-wing "commentary sphere" is spinning the media as evil and unpatriotic as in these examples:


But Newsweek couldn't wait a moment to run a story that predictably ginned up Islamic savages into murderous riots in Afghanistan, leaving hundreds injured and 16 dead. Who could have seen that coming? These are people who stone rape victims to death because the family "honor" has been violated and who fly planes into American skyscrapers because — wait, why did they do that again?

Rich Lowry, National>

It is, of course, unfair to blame the magazine for the deadly work of anti-American fanatics abroad. But it can be blamed for its shoddy original work, for its nonapology, and for the media culture of hostility toward the military that makes its mistake so characteristic. That is not to say that any of its reporters or editors harbors personal animosity toward the military. But they work in an industry that has defined its success since the Vietnam War almost exclusively in terms of exposing U.S. wrongdoing. The media collectively want to believe the worst about the military, and in light of Abu Ghraib, they have panted after every possible prison abuse.

Paul Marshall, National>:

Even if Newsweek publishes a full retraction, the damage is done. Much of the Muslim world will regard it merely as a cover-up and feel reconfirmed in the view that America is at war with Islam. It will undercut the U.S., including in Afghanistan and Iraq, far more than Abu Ghraib did. “We can understand torturing prisoners, no matter how repulsive� Newsweek quotes one Pakistani saying, “But insulting the Qur’an is like torturing all Muslims.�

It would be charitable to think that if Newsweek had known how explosive the story was it may have held off until it had more confirmation. If this is true, it is an indication that the media’s widespread failure to pay careful attention to the complexities of religion not only misleads us about domestic and international affairs but also gets people killed.

Bill O'Reilly, Fox>

As "Talking Points" said last night, some in the media magnify every mistake the military makes in order to hammer the Bush administration, and that's the real problem here. 53 front page Abu Ghraib stories by the New York Times (search) do indeed inflame the world, as did the bogus Newsweek Koran story.

So let's place the blame where it belongs, on news agencies that are blinded by ideology, and who make mistakes because of that blindness. How about we report what happens, put it into perspective and put the political fanaticism aside? Is that too much to ask? And that's "The Memo."

Anchoress>, citing Michelle Malkin and others:

Do I think they deliberately lied? No. I think they, like Mary Mapes and Dan Rather, Isikoff and his editors simply wanted to believe the story so badly that rubbed their hands together in glee, to think they “had� something that was “big� and “inflammatory� and well-yes-it-might-put-the-troops-in-harms-way-but- even-more-important-it-can-probably-be-spun-destru ctively-against-Bush-and-the-successful-prosecutio n-of-the-war-and-will-provide-some-international-f odder-as-well and then went ahead and printed it - going with only anonymous sources - and damn the consequences.


Statements like those above seem intended to brand ANY negative stories about our war in Iraq as false at best, seditious at worst. While I think it was appropriate for Newsweek to issue a retraction, I'm not standing for critical coverage to be equated for either hatred of the military or of the country.

Daniel - what I see here is someone uncomfortable with conservatives participating in a free press. Again I ask, what do you fear from this sphere of conservative commentators, wholly comprised of exactly one national TV network, right-wing radio that liberals never tune to, and these incessant bloggers? You watch Fox News. Has the network had any affect on changing your politics?

Have a little faith in your American brethren.