Monday, May 16, 2005

NEWSWEEK WATCH. A couple of valuable posts in trying to figure out what happened.

1. Juan Cole gives Newsweek a pass, writing:

Isikoff's source ... stands by his report of the incident, but is merely tracing it to other paperwork. What difference does that make? Although Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita angrily denounced the source as no longer credible, in the real world you can't just get rid of a witness because the person made a minor mistake with regard to a text citation. It is like saying that we can't be sure someone has really read the Gospels because he said he read about Caiaphas in the Gospel of Mark rather than in the Gospel of John.

Newsweek has, in other words, confirmed that the source did read a US government account of the desecration of the Koran. [Cole's emphasis]

Cole seems to give Newsweek more credit than the magazine gives itself, which sets off some warning signals for me. Still, this is well worth reading. It's a long post with lots of background.

2. At the Daily Kos, Susan Hu digs up some nuggets, the most relevant of which are earlier reports of Koran desecration at Guantánamo.

Meanwhile, here is where the right is going with this: Charles Johnson's Little Green Footballs has a headline that reads "Hizb ut-Tahrir Teams Up With Newsweek," a reference to a radical Islamist group believed to be behind some of last week's riots. And note that Johnson refers to Hizb ut-Tahrir as a "terror gang," even though the very article from which he quotes describes the group as one that "focuses on mass agitation rather than acts of terrorism."

Much as we need to know the truth about Newsweek's reporting, we also need to be on guard against letting the right use this to shut up critics of the Bush administration.

1 comment:

Steve said...

I don't know what qualifies as a reliable source, but if this is correct, Newsweek's source was not only anonymous, but at least second-hand. This wouldn't fill me with confidence if I had to stand behind my story.