Salon (annoying ad firewall) hits roughly what I've been thinking about the Newsweek flap:
On the first question, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann makes the point as clearly as anyone: Given everything else that's happened at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, is it really possible that some interrogator hasn't tossed a Quran into a toilet? "Everybody in the prosecution of the so-called 'war on terror' has done something dumb, dating back to the President's worst-possible-word-selection ("crusade") on Sept. 16, 2001," Olbermann writes. "So why wouldn't some mid-level interrogator stuck in Cuba think it would be a good idea to desecrate a holy book?" Seriously, how could anyone think otherwise? Imagine the conversation: "Hmm, we can waterboard these guys. We can put collars around their necks and make them walk like dogs; we can make them wear panties and let them think we're smearing menstrual blood on their faces; we can force them to pretend to masturbate for the camera. But no, flushing the Koran, that's definitely off limits."
You don't want to take detainees at their words, obviously, but there was nothing intrinsically implausible about reports of this sort of stuff when they aired previously. Now it's outrageous that Newsweek ran one more report because their source thinks he might have read about it in this document rather than that one? Give me a fucking break. Olberman also points to this briefing:
GEN. MYERS: It's the—it's a judgment of our commander in Afghanistan, General Eikenberry, that in fact the violence that we saw in Jalalabad was not necessarily the result of the allegations about disrespect for the Koran—and I'll get to that in just a minute—but more tied up in the political process and the reconciliation process that President Karzai and his Cabinet is conducting in Afghanistan. So that's—that was his judgment today in an after-action of that violence. He didn't—he thought it was not at all tied to the article in the magazine.
If I see one more irate toddler whining about how journalists are insufficiently patriotic because they're not willing to be ideological hacks, I'm going to be ill.
Addendum: I should clarify that I don't want to imply Newsweek shouldn't catch flak for shoddy sourcing. What's galling is the speed and enthusiasm with which people want to leap on this in an attempt to shift blame for violence to the media rather than (1) a pattern of actual abuses that make reports like this one highly credible and more inflammatory around the world, and (2) fanatics who think flushing a book is an excuse to kill people become violent.