Saturday, May 21, 2005
Muslim anger unleashed
May 21 2005
American-Muslim relations have been under strain for some years, thanks to Israel's concerted campaign since the 1990s to pinpoint Muslims as the enemy after the communist collapse following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It would be a narrow view to judge that the wave of anti-American sentiment that swept through the Muslim World was triggered solely by the Newsweek report.
The Bush administration might want to accept that view in order to keep veiled the realities of the American-Muslim relationship over the years.
For decades, Muslims around the world have been seething with anger over American policies towards Islamic countries, particularly in the Middle East. Then came the firm affirmation in 2000 that the US was dropping all pretences and siding with Israel and seeking to impose an Israeli version of regional peace on the Arabs and Muslims, including acceptance of Israel's claim to Jerusalem, the third holiest shrine in Islam.
Then came the US-led war against Afghanistan. Muslims did not protest much over Afghanistan because the US cited Sept.11 as the reason for that war, and not many Muslims agreed with the way the Taliban were running the country anyway.
(Let no one forget at this juncture that fresh evidence has emerged indicating that there was much more than that met the eye in the Sept.11 attacks and that suspicions have been strengthened that Israeli secret agents played a key role in the assaults that were blamed on Al Qaeda. The Bush administration was a willing victim to be led by the nose into following a course of events that added to the strain in relations with the Muslim World to the benefit of Israel).
The way the Americans treated the prisoners taken in Afghanistan and the scenes from Guantanamo Bay that were beamed around the world showing hooded and handcuffed detainees being paraded around like animals did irreparable damage to the Muslim attitude towards American officialdom.
Add to that the American decision that Geneva Conventions and other international treaties and agreements governing prisoners of war would not be applied to the detainees in Guantanamo; and then the reports that the scenes of humiliation and torture at Abu Ghraib were only a re-enactment of what was going on in Guantanamo.
Muslims heard with gritted teeth the declarations by American government leaders that the Muslims were jealous and hated the American way of life because they could not enjoy the same was behind the Sept.11 attacks.
The Muslims watched in silence as the Americans led the invasion of Iraq and went to work to reshape that troubled country to suit American and Israeli interests. But the US failed to bring peace and calm to the people of Iraq, and, whether Washington realises/accepts it or not, the Muslims hold it responsible for the suffering of the Iraqis today.
Throughout these episodes, the overriding factor is the painful Arab/Muslim awareness that the US-Israeli combine is following a definite script that undermined Arab/Muslim interests and that Arabs/Muslims are unable to do anything about it.
Then came the report that the Holy Quran was desecrated, and the pent-up Muslim anger and frustration exploded.
At least 17 people died and hundreds injured in the protests sparked by the Newsweek report that the Holy Book was desecrated by American soldiers at Guantanamo Bay. Then Newsweek retracted the report saying that it could have got the story wrong.
In the original report, Newsweek investigative reporter Michael Isikoff quoted an unidentified source in the US Defence Department as saying that he had read the account of desecration of the Holy Book in a document being prepared by the US Southern Command (SouthCom) on the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo. Newsweek cited the incident as one among numerous already-reported abuses, including similar toilet-flushing incidents in the past.
The Washington Post recalls that James Yee, a former Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo, who was investigated and cleared of charges of mishandling classified material, had reported that guards' mishandling and mistreatment of detainees' Qurans led the prisoners to launch a hunger strike in March 2002. The strike ended only when military leaders issued an apology to the detainees over the camp loudspeaker, but mishandling of the Holy Book persisted.
"The (guards) tore the Quran to pieces in front of us, threw it into the toilet," former detainee Aryat Vahitov told Russian television in June 2004.
Dozens of detainees -- including four British Muslims -- have said Guantanamo Bay detention officials and military guards engaged in widespread religious and sexual humiliation of detainees. Detainees said the goal was to make them feel impure, shake their faith and try to gain information.
Against these reports, the Newsweek retraction is seen with scepticism by many who believe that the magazine was pressured into issuing it.
In the minds of many, the Newsweek episode is no longer relevant since they are convinced that the US is capable of doing much more than desecrating the Holy Quran and that the source of their anger.
In its retraction statement, the magazine said the unnamed Pentagon source was no longer sure that he had read an investigation report detailing the alleged desecration.
"Based on what we know now, we are retracting our original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered (Holy Quran) abuse at Guantanamo Bay," said Newsweek. It left open the possibility that the Pentagon source had indeed read about the incident in another document.
In any event, the damage was already done, as the Defence Department spokesman, Lawrence DiRita, observed in an explosive remark when told what the source had said: "People are dead because of what this son of a bitch (the unidentified Pentagon source) said. How could he be credible now?"
How many people died? 17. And why? Someone made a "mistake" and saw something in a confidential report that was not there.
American commentators have gone to town with DiRita's comment, but their approach is far sharper than DiRita's.
They point out to emerging evidence that the Bush administration had decided to invade Iraq shortly after the Sept.11 attacks and began fixing intelligence to suit the purpose and to make the American public believe that Saddam Hussein posed a serious threat to the US and its allies. Recently leaked minutes of a July 2002 meeting between Prime Minister Tony Blair and his closest advisers show that the head of the intelligence agency MI6 reported after talks in the US that Bush had decided on war and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
A part of the leaked document -- Secret and Strictly Personnel: UK Eyes only -- says: "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD (weapons of mass destruction). But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC (National Security Council) had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."
Another paragraph says: "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force."
How many people died in the Iraq war and since then in that country? Between 30,000 and 35,000; and dozens more are dying every day.
And why? Someone somewhere lied in order to serve Israel's interests by going to war against Iraq.
Now, what did the White House have to say about the Newsweek episode?
"The report has had serious consequences," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "People have lost their lives. The image of the United States has been damaged abroad."
Well, the one question that McClellan would not like to be asked is:
What is the status of the US image around the world, given the old/fresh revelations that the Bush administration doctored intelligence reports in order to justify the war against Iraq, a war which British Member of Parliament George Galloway rightly described as being based on a "pack of lies?"
Newsweek had the decency to admit that it could have got the story wrong and express regret over its consequences.
Can that be said about the Bush administration over its deception?