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If you want to ensure that the media doesn’t cover an important political story, send out a press release on a Friday, preferably at the end of the day. By the time reporters return on Monday, the story will be old news and will either be buried deep within a newspaper or not covered at all.
That’s what the Pentagon brass is praying for.
At the end of the day Friday, the Pentagon confirmed a pattern of widespread abuse of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, by military personnel dating back two and a half years. Releasing the report when most beat reporters have left for the weekend was a calculated move by White House and Pentagon spin doctors to control media coverage of the explosive report.
Where’s the outrage?
Last month, Bush and his cronies publicly stated that a 10 sentence item in Newsweek detailing that a prison guard flushed a Quran down a toilet sparked an uprising in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia that led to more than a dozen deaths, was flat out wrong. Bush’s mouthpiece, Scott McClellan, hammered away during his daily White House briefings, calling into question the veracity of the story, until Newsweek caved and retracted the item. The magazine’s editor claimed the source who tipped the publication to the news recanted.
But even though more evidence turned up of defacing the Quran, White House and Pentagon senior officials issued warnings to curious reporters who dared to follow up on the Newsweek story. A frightened press corps cowered and the story died.
Then Bush took a trip to Greece May 24 to talk about Social Security and offered up this doozy that explained why he says what he says, damn the facts.
“See, in my line of work, you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda,” Bush said.
Fast forward to the real truth. Friday, June 03, 4:40 p.m. The Pentagon identified more than a half-dozen cases where guards at Guantanamo Bay defaced the Quran, including scribbling obscenities inside one detainee’s holy book, urinating on another, kicking one and tossing water balloons in the direction of others to cite just a few examples.
To understand why defacing the Quran is such a serious matter it’s important to know that for Muslims the Quran is considered to be the literal word of God.
“Muslims believe the entire Quran is the word of God verbatim as dictated by the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad,” said Jamal Badawi, Islamic scholar at St. Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, in a June 2 interview with Knight Ridder News Service. “Muslims believe the Quran has been preserved exactly as it was given to the prophet, so that gives it special status.”
Not one senior official in the Bush administration has ever lost his or her job or been held responsible for the widespread mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay as well as the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq where detainees were beaten, stripped and led around on leashes. Instead, what the public is being fed is a line of BS that the ill-treatment of prisoners is an isolated case involving just a handful of soldiers. Sadly, a majority of Americans are eating that up.
The Bush administration is putting innocent American lives, here and on the frontline of the war in Iraq, in harms way for its constant refusal to hold people like Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his most senior staff accountable for allowing the total breakdown of military prison operations at Guantanamo and in Iraq.
And let’s not forget that in late 2002 Rumsfeld disregarded the advice of his military commanders and ordered military officials to rewrite all of their war plans to capitalize on precision weapons, better intelligence and speedier deployment during the buildup to the war in Iraq. That war plan, which Rumsfeld helped shape, has failed and has led to deep divisions between military commanders and the defense secretary, according to several published news reports.
Despite Rumsfeld’s recent denials that he did not override requests by military brass to deploy more ground troops in Iraq, he told the Times last year that the cornerstone of the war plan against Iraq was to use fewer ground troops, a move that caused concern among seasoned military officers who said that in order to assure a victory in Iraq there would have to be 200,000 more ground troops deployed than what Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz had recommended to President Bush, the New York Times reported in its Oct. 13, 2002 edition.
These officers said they viewed Rumsfeld’s approach as injecting too much risk into war planning and have said it could result in U.S. casualties that might be prevented by amassing larger forces. And so it has.
This latest news about abuse at Guantanamo Bay is just another example in the never ending saga of mistreatment of prisoners that has been reported by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and the Red Cross. Which begs another question: when is someone going to toss Rumsfeld into a cage?
JASON LEOPOLD is the author of the explosive memoir, News Junkie, to be released in early 2006 by Process/Feral House Books. Visit Leopold’s website at www.jasonleopold.com for updates.