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Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Koran & Newsweek -- Down the Crapper

The May 9th issue of Newsweek carried this little item by Michael Isikoff and John Barry:
Gitmo: SouthCom Showdown

May 9 issue - Investigators probing interrogation abuses at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay have confirmed some infractions alleged in internal FBI e-mails that surfaced late last year. Among the previously unreported cases, sources tell NEWSWEEK: 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. An Army spokesman confirms that 10 Gitmo interrogators have already been disciplined for mistreating prisoners, including one woman who took off her top, rubbed her finger through a detainee's hair and sat on the detainee's lap. (New details of sexual abuse—including an instance in which a female interrogator allegedly wiped her red-stained hand on a detainee's face, telling him it was her menstrual blood—are also in a new book to be published this week by a former Gitmo translator.)

These findings, expected in an upcoming report by the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, could put former Gitmo commander Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller in the hot seat. Two months ago a more senior general, Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, was placed in charge of the SouthCom probe, in part, so Miller could be questioned. The FBI e-mails indicate that FBI agents quarreled repeatedly with military commanders, including Miller and his predecessor, retired Gen. Michael Dunleavy, over the military's more aggressive techniques. "Both agreed the bureau has their way of doing business and DOD has their marching orders from the SecDef," one e-mail stated, referring to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Sources familiar with the SouthCom probe say investigators didn't find that Miller authorized abusive treatment. But given the complaints that were being raised, sources say, the report will provoke questions about whether Miller should have known what was happening—and acted to try to prevent it. An Army spokesman declined to comment.

Well.... now that the inevitable jihad has been declared, the dead have been interred, the fires put out, the broken glass swept up, the crowds calmed down, the outrage denounced "in the strongest possible terms," the EuroPinkies' faces screwed into the most delicious sneers, the "false but accurate" lies all been attested to, and the spin machines of both US political parties reversed from High Dudgeon to Quick Backpedal modes, it's time to take some stock.

What happened?

First, Newsweek lied, people died. Using unconfirmed (and, in common sense terms, patently specious) sources, they rushed to print something they hoped would be a scoop comparable to Abu Ghraib. Part of their motive was just plain old personal and professional greed--as American as apple pie, but seldom an infallible guide to journalistic probity. Just ask Dan Rather. Oh, and while you're talking to Dan, ask him what his ultimate motives were in broadcasting a story he knew to be false. I bet they were similar to Isikoff's: journalistic flag burning. "Bush Bad. Must hurt bad man Bush by any means. Amerurikkka Bad too. Other peoples Good, even if other peoples are 12th Century, Ghat-stoked, throat-slashing, God-bothering thugs." Anti-Americanism is, of course, a sacrament of the left's secular humanist religion, but it is a peculiarity of this latest brand of moral relativism that it renders its faithful unable to make reasonable moral distinctions. So, to them, the devil they know--Bush in this case--seems worse than any devil they don't know--even a real devil that kills innocent people over a third party's alleged mishandling of a freakin' book. We can't blame Isikoff uniquely, of course--he's rather fair-minded for the circles he works in (he broke the Lewinsky story, for example). His "Showdown" piece is no different in tone and intent than half a hundred others that cross the newswires every day. Here are just a few of this morning's examples (last requires DOD ebird access or WSJ subscription). What these stories report is not much different than what goes on every day in Darfur, the Horn of Africa, on Ceylon, in the Punjab, in the Fergana Valley, in the Philippines, or in any number of other places, particularly those that that abut greater islam. The human toll in these conflicts does not get reported, however, because it does not further the political cause of the left--in fact, such reporting might damage the cause by pointing how islam is really an enemy. The aim of all reporting on Iraq is the same--undermine the war effort in order to undermine Bush; ensure those American heroes who've been killed died in vain, so that we can make political capital (like Soylant Green) from their corpses.

Secondly, the only "desecration" was committed by a muslim inmate. It seems the incident in question was lifted from a prison guard's log and Isikoff used it duplicitously, expecting no one would fact check him:

After the rioting began last week, the Pentagon attempted to determine the veracity of the NEWSWEEK story. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers told reporters that so far no allegations had been proven. He did appear to cryptically refer to two mentions found in the logs of prison guards in Gitmo: a report that a detainee had used pages of the Qur'an to stop up a crude toilet as a form of protest, and a complaint from a detainee that a prison guard had knocked down a Qur'an hanging in a bag in his cell

After all, as Newsweek's Howard Fineman said, Isikoff is no kid trying to break into the business with a scoop. He knew what he was doing; he was just working on an outmoded model of what the media is, thinking that no one would presume to check a major reporter's sources and information. Wrong.

The only other allegations of "Koran abuse" come from Gitmo inmates' lawyers or the likes of Bader Zaman Bader, "a 35-year-old former editor of a [muslim] fundamentalist English-language magazine in Peshawar [Pakistan]." There's an objective voice. BTW....where's the riotous outrage over the muslim detainee who desecrated the holy object at Gitmo? Doesn't Sharia demand his death?

This brings up the final point: What does this incident say about "the religion of peace?" What conclusions can we draw concerning a religion that explicitly endorses the killing of innocent people because of disrespect shown to a book? That this religion values words on a page more highly than human life, perhaps? Those killed weren't even involved in the "desecration." Or perhaps it just shows that muslims don't need much of an excuse to hold anti-US riots--or any other kind of riot, for that matter.

As a Christian, I would be upset if someone trashed a Bible in my presence, but I wouldn't riot...or kill the person who did it. I find it hard to get worked up about someone on the other side of the globe trashing a Bible, sad as it might be. There are a few other copies floating around, after all....

Delving further, what conclusions can we draw about a religion that holds words on a page to be more sacred than human souls? What conclusions about a religion that holds a book with billions of copies printed worldwide to have such totemic significance? In the first case, we can conclude that it is a harsh, inhuman, and arbitrary religion, which would make it a natural adversary to Christianity. In the second case, we can conclude that its representatives should be warned against condemning the "idolatry" of others, and against both real idolatry and real hypocrisy.

Lee Harris puts the underlying issues well:

The Koran does not claim simply to have been inspired by God, the way that Jews and Christians have traditionally interpreted their scripture; rather it is understood as having been quite literally dictated by God, word by word. Or, more precisely, Arabic word by Arabic word.

By this I don't mean that Allah reveals his Word and that this Word is then encoded into Arabic, as it might have been encoded into any other language; I mean that, according to Islam, Allah's Word is itself Arabic. The Koran is co-eternal with Allah; it always existed, and always will exist; and it has always been in Arabic.

This stands in profound contrast to the Christian concept of inspiration as symbolized by the Feast of the Pentecost in The Book of Acts. Here we find an explicit recognition of a God whose Word may be equally well expressed in a multitude of tongues, so that no particular language can be singled out as the language of God Himself. Divine thought transcends all human language, and yet can be articulated in all human languages.

This is a difference between Christianity and Islam that is often overlooked by those who claim that both religions are equally universalist in their scope and aim. For while it is true that both religions have historically claimed a revelation that had universal import, the Christian religion has always been indifferent to the language in which this revelation was expressed. The Holy Spirit, according to Christianity, does not speak to us in his language, but always in ours.

But a God who only speaks Arabic can hardly be universal in the same sense as the Christian God. Yes, it may become universal if everyone forsakes his own native language in order to speak Arabic; but just how universal is a God who is that much entrenched in the ethnocentric particularism of a small sect of nomadic desert tribes? Not to mention the surprising coincidence, that the ruler of the universe should be a native speaker of their language.

And no, ancient Judaism is not guilty of that same ethnocentric particularism. First, Jews were more than happy to share their message in other languages--the best extant text of the Old Testament is still the Septuagent Greek. While the Tetragrammaton was sacred, the rest of the language was just a convenience--at least until some mediaeval Jewish mystics attempted to imbue Hebrew with greater significance. Second, ancient Israel provided a safe mechanism to bring forth a savior and His message--a point that all Old Testament prophecy makes clear.

The message of the One True God is universal and it always will be--and it is not preached by islam...or Newsweek


Update (17 May):
David Frum has the lowdown on how and why the little Newsweek item became a series of deadly riots. Seems it was incited by a self-serving Paki pol who has remade himself from a jet-setting playboy married to a wealthy Jew into Mr Jihad. Who'da thunk it?

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