Monday, May 16, 2005
Newsweek magazine, under fire for publishing a story that led to deadly protests in Afghanistan, said Monday it was retracting its report that a military probe had found evidence of desecration of the Quran by U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay.Justifiably so, much anger has been directed at Newsweek for recklessly publishing this story. In fact, I recall having seen the riots called the "Newsweek Riots" more than once today. But as I pointed out last week, even nonviolent protests over the destruction of a mere book are an ominous indication for freedom in Afghanistan.
Earlier Monday, Bush administration officials had brushed off an apology that Newsweek's editor Mark Whitaker had made in an editor's note and criticized the magazine's handling of the story.
Protests broke out across much of the Muslim world last week after Newsweek reported that U.S. investigators found evidence that interrogators had flushed a copy of Muslim's holy book down a toilet in an attempt to rattle detainees. The violence left about 15 dead and scores injured in Afghanistan.
What of the peaceful protesters? They are, politically speaking, merely exercising free speech, but what are the protests for? Protection of an inanimate object from destruction. I seriously doubt that any of the peaceful protestors would say something like, "They certainly have the right to destroy a Koran, but that book is a powerful symbol to me." The nearest equivalent in America would be a group protesting desecration of our flag. Most Americans would object to such an act, but would agree that it is protected as freedom of speech. Until and unless Afghanis adopt an attitude towards the Koran like that we have for our flag, they will at the very least agitate against freedom of speech.On the violent protestors, T. Bevan of RealClear Politics asks the logical question: "Why has no one condemned them?"
One thing I haven't seen, however, is any condemnation of the rioters themselves. The dismissive tone of most of the press reports I've read convey the impression that the rioting is understandable. Almost as if the alleged affront to the Koran somehow justifies the death of 15 people and the wounding of many more. As un-politically correct as it might be to say, let's stay focused on the truth: Newsweek's story did not kill people. Muslim mobs killed people.Amen. And this builds upon my earlier point: So long as we dismiss Moslem attitudes towards freedom of speech, and the violence endemic to their culture, we are granting our moral sanction to both. This will only encourage more of the same.
What are the Afghanis protesting about? Let's assume a Koran really was damaged. Why was it supposedly destroyed? To get a prisoner to talk. This was not part of a massive program of government censorship by the United States or a round of persecution directed at Moslems. The protests, far from being a cry for justice were instead a demand that the integrity of this particular inanimate object be accorded more importance than the rights of a human being who, by flushing the Koran down a toilet, would have merely been exercising his freedom of speech.
In America, protestors implicitly accept the premise that freedom of speech is sacred by peacefully exercising that right -- to express disagreement with others. In Afghanistan, the nonviolent protestors may be exercising freedom of speech, but even they they are implicitly rejecting the notion that individual rights are sacred. (This goes without saying for the violent ones.) Instead, they would prefer that the inviolability of a book take precedence over these rights. (And this, by the way, is precisely why we should never amend the Constitution to prohibit burning the flag.)
As Robert Tracinski pointed out today in TIA Daily:
The real story is the West's attempt to appease the Islamic fanatics by accepting their demand that the Koran be treated as an untouchable "holy book"--leading the absurd climax of Newsweek reporting damage to a book in an article about the alleged abuse of humans.Is it not damning that the riots started over allegations that a book took a trip down the toilet, rather than over, say, the torture of a human being? And is it not even more damning that the riots caused deaths? And is it not alarming that here in the West, where we should generally know better, we have so easily accepted a premise that directly contradicts one of our most cherished freedoms: speech? One's right to speak -- profanities if that's what he wants -- is more sacred than a bloody book, regardless of whether that book is held sacred by members of a religious faith.
And while I'm on the subject of the sacred, why the hell has everyone apparently forgotten the nearly three thousand souls lost forever back on that terrible eleventh day of September 2001? Is that not why we're in this war? And we're trying to placate a bunch of flea-bitten savages over a freakin' book? Aside from getting to the bottom of the Newsweek story, including charging the (ir)responsible party for treason if that is warranted, our government should have unapologetically stated that it will regard the rights and lives of its own citizens as holier than the Koran. Period.
If flushing a Koran down the commode after using a few pages for toilet paper is what it takes to get some Islamofascist psychopath to start singing like a bird, so be it. For crying out loud, we were attacked without provocation in the name of that book! People died in the name of that book. These reprobates should shut their pieholes, realize that maybe we don't give a damn about their little book, and take solace in the "knowledge" that we'll rot in hell for all eternity after what we have done. (Or are they not so sure about that last part? Maybe that's why they feel the need to mete out punishment in the here and now....) The fact that I, an ordinary citizen, am coming up with this now, rather than having heard it days ago from a government official is an alarming indication of the intellectual bankruptcy of our nation's leaders.
Whose riots are these? Newseek certainly is a major shareholder as are the fanatics who rioted. But our government, for not taking a principled stand for our lives and our rights, also owns some of the blame. Arguably, it holds the majority stake.
The riots incited by Newsweek were not just the most blatant example of the poor coverage of international events by the news media during a time of war: They also reveal that barbarism is endemic in the Moslem world. We may be able to stabilize Afghanistan for a time, making the conditions for its becoming civilized favorable, but until better ideas take root, civilization will not flourish there. And unless we wake up from our cultural amnesia, civilization will die here.
Crossposted to the Egosphere
5-19-05: Added greeting for Cox and Forkum readers.