U.S. integrity down the toilet

Forget about Newsweek: The Pentagon reveals more details of Quran desecration at Gitmo (very late on a Friday). No evidence of flushing -- but does splashing urine on the holy book count as abuse?

Published June 4, 2005 12:17AM (EDT)

We're well aware of how the Bush White House feels about the "journalistic standards" at Newsweek Magazine; we wonder what the administration has to say about this:

"The Pentagon on Friday released new details about mishandling of the Quran at the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror suspects," reports the Associated Press, "confirming that a soldier deliberately kicked the Muslim holy book and that an interrogator stepped on a Quran and was later fired for 'a pattern of unacceptable behavior.'

"In other confirmed incidents, water balloons thrown by prison guards caused an unspecified number of Qurans to get wet; a guard's urine came through an air vent and splashed on a detainee and his Quran; and in a confirmed but ambiguous case a two-word obscenity was written in English on the inside cover of a Quran."

The investigation "found no credible evidence that a Quran was ever flushed down a toilet," according to the AP. But given the air vent incident and others detailed here, does that really matter at this point?

Only insofar as any attention regarding Guantanamo remains focused on the Newsweek blunder -- rather than the Bush administration's policies for handling detainees in the war on terrorism. The Pentagon released the findings after normal business hours Friday evening (in the vicinity of 7 p.m. ET, when droves of reporters are dying to stick around and file new stories). But the classic White House tactic of burying the bad news just ahead of the weekend isn't going to erase the fact, increasingly clear, that the allegations of abuse at Gitmo aren't about one poorly sourced story, or the compromise of journalistic integrity. They are about compromised integrity of a different, and far graver kind.

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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