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Monday, May 16, 2005

Obviously, they got it wrong, right?

Today's headlines:
"Newsweek backs off Quran desecration story" -- CNN

"Newsweek Apologizes for Report of Koran Insult" -- NY Times

"Newsweek Apologizes" -- Washington Post

"Newsweek Issues Apology for Quran Story" -- Fox News

"Newsweek: Regret over errors" -- MSNBC

Actually, if you read the NY Times article, it's a lot less clear than that:
"We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst," Mark Whitaker, Newsweek's editor, wrote in the issue of the magazine that goes on sale at newsstands today. In an accompanying article, the magazine wrote that its reporters had relied on an American government official, whom it has not identified, who had incomplete knowledge of the situation.

But Mr. Whitaker said in an interview later: "We're not retracting anything. We don't know what the ultimate facts are."
Of course, the Bushies are all huffy about the story and the "tepid and qualified" retraction/apology/whatever:
In a statement, Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said: "Newsweek hid behind anonymous sources, which by their own admission do not withstand scrutiny. Unfortunately, they cannot retract the damage they have done to this nation or those that were viciously attacked by those false allegations."
Change the subject to the war on Iraq, and "Newsweek" to "The Bush administration" and the statement becomes much truer.

Given that the original anonymous source was apparently an administration official, and that the article was run by a "senior Pentagon official" before it ran in Newsweek, it sounds like Newsweek may have been set up, Dan Rather style. There is very little free press left in this country; the Bush administration's goal is to eliminate all of it.

Given all the nasty stuff they've done in the past three years, I'd guess that the Koran story is probably true. It is depressing that reaction in Afghanistan and elsewhere to Koran abuse seems stronger than it has for people abuse, but that would be the case in this country as well. Flag-burners are more despised by a large percentage of the population than are muggers, rapists, sadistic cops, or George Bush. Go figure.

PS: Juan Cole has a lot more.