Monday, May 16, 2005

NEWSWEEK has retracted the Koran desecration story. The Washington Post (whose parent company, The Washington Post Company, owns Newsweek), repeats all of the same lies, distortions, and half-truths that Scott McClellan has been spewing. They quote Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, McClellan, Whitaker, and Isakoff; but the only dissenting source they quote who is not part of the Bush administration or directly involved with the article is Bob Zelnick, a former Pentagon correspondent who now is the chair of Boston University's journalist department. And Zelnick only speaks to the issue of using anonymous sources -- not to the true significance of this incident: that

  • the Bush administration simply invented a claim that Newsweek printed false information when what they actually did was incorrectly refer to one piece of paper rather than another piece of paper as the source of the information; that
  • the Bush administration has damaged the credibility of the United States a billion times more than Newsweek's reference to a Koran being flushed down a toilet ever could; that the reputation of the United States has been harmed by Abu Ghraib, by Guantanamo, by the C.I.A.'s renditions program, by Fallujah, by tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians dead; that
  • Pres. Bush lied to the American people when he said in July 2002 that he had no plans to invade Iraq; that the Bush administration lied to the American people about every single one of the reasons he gave the American people for invading Iraq; and that, as a result of this administration's lies, people died.

Not once does the Post article question one blessed single word that came out of the mouths of people like Rice, Rumsfeld, and McClellan. Not once. Oh -- except one, very mild, suggestion that it might be hard to do journalism without using anonymous sources.

And then there is Newsweek itself. Words are inadequate to describe how disappointed I am in them. Just a few hours ago, Whitaker said there would be no retraction until the facts were known with certainty. But that didn't last long. He has completely caved to White House pressure -- I know that pressure must have been horrendous, but these are professional journalists; they should be able to take it and, as Kevin Drum said, "buck up."

Perhaps I should give the last word to Condoleezza Rice, because she was absolutely correct when she said she hopes "that everybody will step back and take a look at how they handled this -- everybody."

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