Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Newsweek Riots

Over a dozen have died in riots since the Middle-Eastern media got hold of a small Newsweek report that claimed that a Guantanamo Bay guard flushed the Koran down the toilet in order to psychologically break a prisoner there. The story was based on a single, anonymous source who later retracted the story to the original journalist. While Newsweek has now retracted the story, the damage to our country’s reputation in that region at such a crucial time is far from repaired. Considering how cynical hate-mongers view all American institutions, including the press, I doubt that they will view Newsweek retraction as anything more than a pressure from the government to hide the truth.

There seems little evidence that the original story is true. Even it is true, it seems clear that it was the product of an overzealous interrogation officer desperately trying to gain critical intelligence. In either case, I do not think this disaster should be pinned on the Bush Administration. Still, this does not mean that the White House should be satisfied just pressuring Newsweek to “do more.” Despite the fact that Bush has expressed sincere respect for Islam in the past, he should go in front of the camera, make sure Al Jeezera is covering his speech, and say how much both he and America care about being respectful to the world’s second largest religion. He should say how if he ever has reason to believe any government official really acted in such a way, he would investigate the matter fully and severely punish the person responsible.

For many in the Muslim world, this will do little to address their anger. But even if such a speech does not achieve this goal fully, the hope for a partial victory should be enough to motivate Bush here. Many will respect the fact that he takes the issue seriously enough to speak personally on it. He should do this sooner, rather than later. Every passing moment will lessen the maximum effect such a move would cause.

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