Accuracy in Media

“This year is already the deadliest for American soldiers in Afghanistan since the war of 2001, and the violence is likely to intensify before the nation’s legislative elections on Sept. 18.” That was the lead in an August 22 New York Times story by Carlotta Gall. There was another reason why violence has accelerated this year. But the Times didn’t want to mention it. And that is that Newsweek’s false “Koran in the toilet” story unleashed the forces of global terror against our troops.

Some think that General Richard Myers absolved Newsweek of any role in the riots that killed 17 people in Afghanistan and provoked anti-American protests across the Middle East. That is definitely not the case. In fact, in a declaration in an ACLU lawsuit over the release of photos and images of alleged Iraqi prisoner abuse, Myers noted that the remnants of the Taliban “were quick to capitalize” on the protests against the alleged desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay.

He explained, “On April 30, 2005, Newsweek reported that an unnamed U.S. official had seen a government report documenting desecration of the Koran at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On May 16, 2005, Newsweek retracted a statement in the article that the abuse had been uncovered in an ‘internal military investigation’ after its source was unable to confirm where he had seen the purported information..”

Myers noted that the Koran’s alleged desecration, as reported by Newsweek, “was perceived as such an affront to the Islamic faith that massive anti-U.S. demonstrations quickly erupted in the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Sudan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Indonesia. Our intelligence assessments indicate that the volatile public sentiments in these Muslim countries were exploited by organized, anti-American extremists who succeeded in fomenting violent and deadly demonstrations. In Afghanistan, in particular, where over 19,000 U.S. troops are currently serving in Operation Enduring Freedom, violence erupted as a result of the Newsweek report. Demonstrations began in the eastern provinces and spread to the capital, Kabul. The United Nations, as a precautionary measure, withdrew its entire foreign staff from Jalalabad, where two of its guesthouses were attacked, government buildings and shops were targeted, and the offices of two international aid groups were destroyed. At least 17 deaths in Afghanistan were attributed to the reaction to the Koran story.”

We noted that, in a follow-up about the Koran-toilet story, Richard M. Smith, the Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Newsweek, said that “?we got an important story wrong, and honor requires us to admit our mistake and redouble our efforts to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.” But Newsweek staffers didn’t suffer any adverse consequences. How honorable was that, considering that the violence which resulted from the story “may have been related to what we published,” Smith admitted. Smith added, “To the extent that our story played a role in contributing to such violence, we are deeply sorry.” They may all be sorry but they all have their jobs.

Jawed Ludin, a spokesman for Afghan president Hamed Karzai, said, “We can say that Newsweek is responsible for recent violent demonstrations, killing several people and damaging public and private properties.”

Spokesman Ludin did not say whether the Afghan government would sue the magazine or ask for compensation, but AIM noted that the Post Company is a rich corporation, with a market value of $8.5 billion and 2004 operating revenues of $3.3 billion. We urged Newsweek’s parent company, headed by Donald E. Graham, to make a generous offer to compensate the families of the victims of the violence, and pay to rebuild or repair the properties that were damaged or destroyed in the Newsweek-inspired riots.

The Washington Post Company has not made such an offer. And to add insult to injury, the Post pulled out of a Pentagon-sponsored Freedom Walk to commemorate 9/11 and support our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world.

Thanks to the Washington Post Company and its property, Newsweek, the damage has been done. And this is one reason why this year has been so deadly for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The Times didn’t want to draw attention to the blood on the hands of the media. This is the kind of blindness that could facilitate the suicide of the West in the battle with radical Islam.

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