Sunday, May 22, 2005

HERE IS ANOTHER ONE of the articles about Koran desecration that are springing up like mushrooms after a rain in the wake of the Bush administration's military operation against Newsweek. This one is from the Los Angeles Times.

Senior Bush administration officials reacted with outrage to a Newsweek report that U.S. interrogators had desecrated the Koran at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility, and the magazine retracted the story last week. But allegations of disrespectful treatment of Islam's holy book are far from rare.

An examination of hearing transcripts, court records and government documents, as well as interviews with former detainees, their lawyers, civil liberties groups and U.S. military personnel, reveals dozens of accusations involving the Koran, not only at Guantanamo, but also at American-run detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The allegations, both at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, contain detailed descriptions of what Muslim prisoners said was mishandling of the Koran — sometimes in a deliberately provocative manner.

In one instance, an Iraqi detainee alleged that a soldier had a guard dog carry a copy of the Koran in its mouth. In another, guards at Guantanamo were said to have scrawled obscenities inside Korans.

Other prisoners said Korans were kicked across floors, stomped on and thrown against walls. One said a soldier urinated on his copy, and others said guards ridiculed the religious text, declaring that Allah's words would not save detainees.

Some of the alleged incidents appear to have been inadvertent or to have resulted from U.S. personnel's lack of understanding about how sensitive Muslim detainees might be to mishandling of the Koran. In several cases, for instance, copies were allegedly knocked about during scuffles with prisoners who refused to leave their cells.

In other cases, the allegations seemed to describe instances of deliberate disrespect.

"They tore it and threw it on the floor," former detainee Mohammed Mazouz said of guards at Guantanamo Bay. "They urinated on it. They walked on top of the Koran. They used the Koran like a carpet."

The official administration response, unsurprisingly, continues to be complete denial that any disrespectful treatment of the Koran ever occurred.

As the protests continued over the last two weeks, Bush administration officials sought not only to denounce Newsweek, but also to state that the Pentagon did not deem the allegations credible. At the Pentagon, chief spokesman Lawrence Di Rita repeatedly dismissed them as untruths.

"We anticipate, and have seen, in fact, all manner of statements made by detainees," he said, "many of whom as members of Al Qaeda were trained to allege abuse and torture and all manner of other things."

Of course, it's not just an issue of detainees making wild, unconfirmed accusations. And DiRita's assumption that all the detainees who have described being tortured or seeing the Koran desecrated are Al Qaeda members is itself a wild, unconfirmed assumption. These reports have come from dozens of detainees, in Guantanamo, in Iraq, in Afghanistan. They have come from legal depositions, from official reports by human rights and relief organizations, from investigations done by journalists from all over the country. In some cases, U.S. military personnel formerly stationed in places like Guantanamo have attested to the reality of religious humiliation. Are they all wrong, all these reports from dozens of different sources?

It's a huge stretch, but the Bush administration is full of able gymnasts.

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