Blargh Blog

Thursday, May 12, 2005

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.


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