Blargh Blog

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Read hilzoy

... on how the military could be like the Catholic Church and how the component of the right wing that rails against the liberal media is as far over the edge as the componenet of the left wing that thinks that It's All About Oil. Her excellent post is based on a similarly excellent, though less concise, post by John Cole.


Monday, May 16, 2005

Good news, bad news

Good news! Guantanamo Bay interrogators might not have defiled the Koran. Newsweek's evidence for this claim turns out to be sketchy. If the Koran was never flushed down the toilet, then the truth surpasses even my dejected hope that the Koran flushing was an isolated incident that the government was already dealing with responsibly.

The bad news, of course, is that the rumor is already out. Riots have happened, people have died. Given the absence of trust for the United States in much of the Muslim world, the rumor may continue to have a life of its own, just as the rumors about pig and cow oil did a century and a half ago when India did not trust Britain.

The other bad news is that all sorts of other "inappropriate interrogation tactics" are more than rumors. Terrible things have happened, some of which were an affront to the detainees' religion (like that bizarre one about the fake menstruation blood). I don't want to get into the futile task of debating how the desecration of the Holy Book compares to other "interrogation tactics" in its wrongness, but it does appear to have a particularly strong power to move people.

Speaking personally, it always sucks when a story that gets to you turns out to be an unsubstantiated rumor.

Here's a brief history of the story:

A "senior U.S. government official" told Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff that a draft of a report by the U.S. Southern Command in Miami mentioned cases of Koran flushing. Newsweek mentioned this claim in one sentence of an article. Before publishing the article, they vetted it with "a senior Pentagon official" who did not comment on that claim. Several days after the Newsweek article was published, it was translated into Arabic. Although rumors of Koran flushing had been around before, this report from a credible source sparked a variety of troubling incidents, including riots in Afghanistan which led to deaths. Since the riots, the Pentagon has denied the charge of Koran defiling and then the original source has indicated that he may have misremembered where he read about the allegations of Koran desecration. Newsweek has apologized.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

Fray Tormenta

In lighter, more heartwarming news, here's the story of a Mexican preist who wrestled professionally under the name Fray Tormenta in order to have enough money to take care of 80 kids at the orphanage he founded (picture of him in his wrestling mask here).

A chance encounter with a street urchin, sleeping rough under a bridge in Veracruz, moved Father Sergio to ask his superiors' permission to found an orphanage. It was denied. So he left the Scholastic Order and joined the diocese of Texcoco, where the bishop and villagers of Teotihuacan raised funds for Father Sergio's home.

But money was always running out. No child was ever turned away, even when Father Sergio had no idea where the next meal would come from.

"I became a professional wrestler because I had a cause. If it weren't for my children, there would have been no reason to fight," he explains.


It was easy to conceal his true identity. Mexico, he says, is a country of masks. "Whether out of fear or self-protection, we rarely present our true face to the world. Mexicans are secretive by nature. Our formality is a shield against scrutiny. We use masks all the time."

Via Liz Goss.


Oh God

[UPDATE: Newsweek has backed off of their report. There is no confirmed evidence that Gitmo interrogators ever flushed the Koran down the toilet.]

Out of all of the terrible things that I read about (there is a war going on, and domestic abuses continue), only a few of them bother me so much that I find myself unable to keep sitting there and reading them. This is one of them. Juan Cole writes:
The Guardian reports that news (from Newsweek) that US soldiers desecrated the Koran--and at one point flushed pages of it down the toilet as a technique for humiliating and breaking detainees at Guantanamo--has provoked a second day of protests and then rioting in Jalalabad [Afghanistan], this time with loss of life. On Tuesday, 2000 students had demonstrated. On Wednesday, 5,000 to 10,000 university, medical and K-12 students came out, and then they went on the attack, including against US troops. Four died and 70 were injured.
Flushing pages of the Koran down the toilet as a way of breaking down detainees.

Flushing the Koran down the toilet.

I don't know how to channel anger into blog posts, so I gave it time to dissipate before writing this. I'll just share a few of the associations that I had to the news.

One, it puts all of that bullshit that we've been hearing about "people of faith" into relief. This is an attack on the detainees' religion. Not letting people put a statue of their religion's document up in the courthouse is not an attack. Can't everyone in America unite to condemn these sorts of "interrogation tactics"?

Two, it brings to mind the rebellion against the British in India that was sparked by rumors that gun cartridges were greased with pig and cow fat. This is how you set people against you. Except the Koran-flushing is worse because the religious offense was intentional. I can only hope that the Army saw this "interrogation tactic" as an awful abuse to be punished and quashed, before the publicity.

Three, it makes the claims that we shouldn't care about anti-Americanism stand out as absurd. No, it's not just a popularity contest. No, they don't just hate us for our freedoms, or because we're the superpower. America is giving people with sincere and reasonable religious beliefs reason to join anti-American riots. That should not be happening.

Hilzoy has more to say. She's taking this much more calmly, with that ironic detachment that I can usually maintain.


Thursday, May 05, 2005


"5-5-5? That can't be a real day!"