The Newsweek Scandal Done Really Well
Sorry I have been gone for so long. My work...I have to tell you...it's no joke right now...It is no joke.
I have to tell you, I'm a huge Hendrik Hertzberg fan.
Huge. Like Gi-normous.
This morning, I read, from this week's New Yorker, this wonderful commentary on the Newsweek scandal.
Here's the fabulous conclusion:
The worst of these horrors are typified by some that came to light just last Friday, in an extraordinary report by Tim Golden, in the Times, about the routine use of torture at the Bagram Collection Point in Afghanistan, in 2002. The most heartrending passages of Golden’s story, which was drawn from a two-thousand-page confidential Army file provided by an anonymous source, describe the death by torture of a slight, shy, illiterate young Afghan villager who was shackled by the wrists to the wire ceiling of his cell for days, struck more than a hundred times in one day for the amusement of captors who found his agonized screams of “Allah!” funny, and beaten on the legs until the tissue, in a coroner’s words, “had basically been pulpified.” By the time he died, most of his interrogators had concluded that he was guiltless. In common with the Abu Ghraib case and others, only a few lower-ranking officers and (especially) enlisted soldiers have been disciplined in connection with this and other abuses at Bagram.
The indulgence of this sort of depravity goes to, and comes from, the top. President Bush pushed aside the Geneva Conventions. A memo prepared on the order of his White House counsel, now Attorney General, suggested limiting the definition of torture to acts that bring on “organ failure.” And his Secretary of Defense personally authorized “interrogation techniques,” such as the use of dogs and forced nudity, that were expressly designed to outrage the religious customs of detainees. It was a short step from that to fake menstrual blood, sexual humiliation, and abuse of the Koran—other instances of which had been reported long before the current one. Nobody in a position of real authority has ever been held accountable for any of it. Against this background, words like “hypocritical” and “cynical” are inadequate to describe the White House campaign to demonize Newsweek. “Nauseating” is more like it.
We have to be respectful of Muslim sensibilities and Muslim beliefs, and the surest way to do that is to be respectful of our own. Otherwise, we’ll do worse than simply forfeit any hope of support from alienated potential allies in the Muslim world, like Imran Khan. We’ll lose sight of what we’re fighting for, and, little by little, become the mirror of what we’re fighting against.