This Will Cause Quite The Stir…

The Instapundit:

ANDREW SULLIVAN seems to think that I should be blogging more about Abu Ghraib, and less about the Newsweek scandal. Well, I think he should be blogging more (er, at least some) about the worse-than-Tiananmen massacre in Uzbekistan, and perhaps a bit less about gay marriage. But so what? What people blog about is none of my business. Andrew seems to feel differently, and beyond that seems to have endorsed the “fake but accurate” defense of Newsweek’s reporting.

I do confess that I think that winning the war is much more important than Abu Ghraib, and that viewing the entire war — and the entire American military — through the prism of Abu Ghraib is as unfair as judging all Muslims by the acts of terrorists. Andrew has chosen the role of emoter-in-chief on these subjects, and he’s welcome to it, though he would be more convincing in that part if he didn’t count wrapping people in the Israeli flag as torture…

As Mickey Kaus has noted, Andrew can be excitable. A while back he apologized to me for some of his criticisms during the election, and more recently he has apologized to his readers for his waffling and defeatism on the war last spring. Perhaps he’ll apologize for this at some point in the future. But, I confess, I find the question of what Andrew thinks less pressing than I used to.

Is it possible to agree with both of them? Let me see if I can thread that needle.

I think the Newsweek deal, as unfortunate as it is, is overblown, and in the grand scheme of cosmic relevance, not that big of a deal. Seriously- a media institution was a little loose in its fact-checking when attempting to play gotcha politics with a President that everyone in the media feels is fair game? Count me as underwhelmed. You people have heard of Bill Clinton, haven’t you?

I also think that anyone who excuses any subsequent riots, violence, and general thuggish anti-western behavior as Newsweek’s fault is being played the fool. The protests, the violence, the *whatever*, has been going on a long time, and they have been doing it without verification of these rumors and for far less provacation. As such, it is just an excuse- not a cause of the behavior. They did, after all, kill 3,000 people just for being American on 9/11.

However, it is probably necessary to add that what Newsweek did was/is inexcusable, and as such, that is why Newseek apologized and retracted the story. It is also why no one on the left is trying to excuse Newsweek’s behavior, and instead they are writing post after post attacking the Instapundit- for attacking Newsweek. And the blogosphere circle-jerk continues unabated.

Likewise, anyone who really thinks that Zarqawi and his crew of terrorists in charge are really doing what they are doing because of Abu Ghraib similarly needs their head examined. There is, however, a big distinction.

Unlike the fake Newsweek story about Koran-flushing, Abu Ghraib happened. We did torture people, and it wasn’t just wrapping them up in Israeli flags (which I find amusing as a torture method- If I had an Israeli flag, I would hang it below my American flag outside my apartment). Because of this, Zarqawi and his merry band of hucksters now can tap into a legitimate vein of anti-American sentiment, and I believe Abu Ghraib did damage the occupation seriously. My first thought when the Abu Ghraib story broke was:

Do these soldiers understand how many of their brothers-in-arms they have just executed?

Do they understand how many Improved Explosive Devices they just built?

Do the recognize how many random grenade attacks they have just initiated?

And on a simply human level- Have they no sense of fundamental decency?

I think that there is clear evidence of institutional rot in place, throughout the military, and definitely throughout the intelligence community. I think it is a joke that only a few low level soldiers are being punished. If they punish one, they should punish every soldier there, because I guarantee you every soldier in that place knew what was going on, although I don’t think the individual soldiers shojld receive that much punishment at all- their leadership should.

I was in the confined quarters of a deployed army unit- I know how it works. A Private in first platoon knows when a Specialist in 4th platoon is struggling to pay his phone bills home. Everyone knows everything that is going on- and I bet you damned near every soldier in that unit saw those pictures and knew what was going on in there.

Why? Because I am convinced they were told to do this stuff by intelligence officers and those in the chain of command.

At any rate, to bring this rambling post to a close, the Newsweek story is a tempest in a teapot. Abu Ghraib was much, much, worse, and an actual stain on our honor and dignity. The Newsweek story is an excuse for bad behavior, Abu Ghraib is a legitmate reason for bad behqvior- which do you think is worse, in the grand scheme of things?

Should all of this have been reported? I agree with Glenn that reporters should have some understanding of the consequences of their story, if for no other reason than to ensure good fact-checking, but I have to agree with Andrew that this statement from Lashawn Barber is just idiotic and, well, fascistic:

Let me clear up one thing. Whether Americans flushed the Koran down the toilet is irrelevant. Newsweek should not have reported it, even if true. Its common sense, people. Those journalists knew how Muslims would react! Why would you hurt your own country and risk more deaths just to report this fact? To what end???

America-hating morons media!

If you don’t want reporters reporting bad things about you, don’t do bad things. That is how you co-exist with an open and free press.

40 replies
  1. 1
    Rick says:

    Why? Because I am convinced they were told to do this stuff by intelligence officers and those in the chain of command.

    Huh. Why would the O’s steer Spec. England into the mix? She wasn’t one of the guards, and those guards already included women.

    Nice try at threading the needle, or at least avoiding Sullivan’s lugubrious hysterics.

    I think Barber is making something of the same point I have: a Koranic swirlie is NOT NEWS. Unless it is a result of policy. So Newsweek showed poor news judgement, and obliviousness to common sense.

    But we know that can get you far in the “profession” of “journalism.”


  2. 2
    LB says:

    I’m a bit taken aback by your “idiotic” comment. But to each his own expression. Remember the “open and free press” meme the next time you read a news report about a crime, but the reporter fails to tell us the race of the criminal if he/she’s black, a very important detail if the crook is still on the loose.

    Why, I wonder, do they fail to report the race? Because of misguided notions of political correctness. When it suits their agenda, journalists can be surprising discerning about what is and isn’t newsworthy, can’t they?

  3. 3
    Rick Moran says:

    Is the war over? Did we win or lose?

    I gotta stop taking these long naps. I missed the fact that reporting on the humiliation or mental anguish suffered by terrorist thugs is absolutely of vital importance to the American people.

    Did we desecrate the Koran? I’m sure we did. And since the media and the lefty blogs have redoubled their efforts to find evidence to that effect I have no doubt we’ll hear about real desecration stories shortly. My point is big deal.

    The terrorists, as you pointed out, don’t need an excuse to fly a plane into a building. As for the rest of Islam, I say it’s time to move on. The 10th century ended 1000 years ago. When the benighted 10th century peasant savages who rioted in the streets because a book was abused start demonstrating peacefully because their brethren would like nothing more than to kill millions of Americans, that’s when I’ll have some sympathy for them.

  4. 4
    Adam says:

    It’s not a question of sympathy, and whether it’s right or wrong to be flushing Korans down the toilet is a matter that can be discussed seperately from this. What LaShawn is calling for here is a press who refuses to report news that would reflect negatively on the US because it would inflame opinion against us, and that’s just not cool.

  5. 5
    Kimmitt says:

    The terrorists, as you pointed out, don’t need an excuse to fly a plane into a building.

    No, but it would be nice if we’d stop printing their recruiting posters for them.

  6. 6
    Rick Moran says:

    The terrorists, as you pointed out, don’t need an excuse to fly a plane into a building.

    No, but it would be nice if we’d stop printing their recruiting posters for them.

    And they don’t need Abu Ghraib to recruit more terrorists. I would argue that their biggest recruiting success was 9/11. After all, are you going to get more recuits after a wildly successful attack or after your boys get the snot bombed out of them in Afghanistan?

    The Newsweek story caused no riot and neither did the desecration of the Koran. The riot was egged on and carried out by people who like to kill.

    No mystery…and nothing we do will make it better or worse.

  7. 7
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    I would argue the opposite. Extremists need losses and persecution to breed success. Success gives way to complancency, while loss breeds hunger for victory.

    Think about it, did America rise up in arms until we took a serious loss? Or could have terrorists groups continued to plink us from the sides.

    Would the pro-choice portion of American be so boringly quiet if it was fighting to change things, rather than fighting for the status quo, and vice-versai?

    Your “ally” succeeds in his mission, Huzzah, now back to work. Your “ally” gets a bloody mission, time to pitch in and help.

    That’s why shoving them hard, marginalizing them is not going to work in the short term. It’ll take generations, I think three is the generally accepted term, long enough that the children were not around for the fighting to learn it from the knees of the adults, of peace for assimilation to occur.

    That’s why we need to look hard, and stomp harder on these activities, because they set back the motion of peace.

  8. 8
    RW says:

    Interesting that you give Newsweek less culpability than the theocrats that around every corner, causing impending violence on a whim.

    Depends on how the wind is blowing (and where the traffic is coming from), eh?

  9. 9
    John Cole says:

    Ricky- Newsweek is responsible for publishing a false story. The thugs who used this as an excuse to riot and kill are responsible for those acts. The theocrats who want to legally marginalize everyone whose lifestyle they do not approve of, seize control of my life, and who practice a divisive and nasty politics, are responsible for their behavior.

    That isn’t so hard, now, is it?

  10. 10
    Stormy70 says:

    Personally, I don’t think America needs to wear a hairshirt over Abu Garib, when Islamic terrorists are doing much worse to us. Sorry, but I am not going to respect a sexually repressive, violent offshoot of the Islamic religion. I don’t care about Abu Garib any more. I quit caring the day Nick Berg was beheaded. Why that isn’t a bigger deal to Sullivan, I don’t know, but it is one of many reasons I stopped reading his blog.

  11. 11
    Kimmitt says:

    I don’t use the actions of barbarous thugs as a guide for how we should act.

  12. 12
    Aaron says:

    I think the Pentagon should release the photos of the Abu Ghraib crowd having sex.

    The intel officer does not tell you to have sex with another person.

    The intel officer does not tell you to marry Amber and not Lyndie.

    The intel officer could magically pick Lyndie’s birthday to take the really bad photos I guess…. 1/365 for tahat.

    Oh, and yeah, if I was the intel officer, I would demand that people took real photos and then allowed them to keep those.

    It’s beyond belief. I think you watch too much TV where every action has to be a conspiracy.

  13. 13
    Anderson says:

    Was I the only one who wanted to barf when Scott McClellan got up there & said that Newsweek had DAMAGED AMERICA’S IMAGE?

    After the WMD’s, Gitmo, and Abu Ghraib, we have an image left?

  14. 14
    M. Scott Eiland says:

    Slamming Newsweek for printing a story without adequate fact-checking that helped the evil trigger riots among the deeply stupid is–as I’ve noted elsewhere–pretty much the same as slamming Maxine Waters for cleverly holding a press conference just after the Rodney King verdicts in 1992 and–at a moment when the streets of LA were a powderkeg ready to go off–started screeching “NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE!!!” into a microphone on live TV. Of course, Maxine could at least point to the verdict without fear of contradiction–Newsweek lacks that little figleaf. Saying “the rioters are to blame for the riots” is true, but it doesn’t exonerate Newsweek for their role in triggering them, any more than–to use a historical example–a white woman in 1935 would have been morally off the hook for a false rape accusation of a black man that led to that man being lynched just because she never touched the rope.

  15. 15
    DecidedFenceSitter says:


    I respectfully refer you to:
    and a slightly weaker case could be also made for:

  16. 16
    AWJ says:

    Oh, dear. Mr. Cole has gone and used the F-word in reference to a fellow righty blogger. Let the howls of outrage begin.

    In the blog of the charming Lashawn Barber, I found a link to a most interesting article:

    I have been known to jest about some of the more fervent warbloggers (such as “Emperor” Misha, or my country’s own Adam Yoshida) that when they watch Star Wars they probably root for the Empire, but I had no idea how close to the mark I really was.

  17. 17
    Birkel says:

    Did you not hear of (former General) Colonel Janet Karpinsky?

    She was no private. She was busted for a lack of institutional control.

  18. 18
    Lee says:

    Andrew sullivan’s blog is focused primarily around 1)pushing the gay agenda and 2)abu ghraib. I believe this is what (the much more level headed) Glenn Reynolds was ultimately pointing out. No harm no foul. Just the facts. Mr. Sullivan’s post is riddled with references to abu ghraib. He is infatuated with it (utlimately, with his point being made months ago) I cannot figure out why.

  19. 19
    RW says:

    John, it’s not hard at all. Mainly because it’s the argument that I made here about a month ago when you were arguing the exact opposite & were willing to place partial blame on the theorcrats (today’s swirving definition) for some of their rhetoric while I was in the comments asking (to no answer) if you were sure about that since it would leave places with opinions, like Balloon-Juice, open for discussion if some sort of violence occurred.

    Tell me you’re not going to deny that.

  20. 20
    John Cole says:

    Ricky- I am not being evasive (well, maybe I am, but I am not trying to be).

    Explain to me what you are getting at, because I am missing it.

  21. 21
    RW says:

    On March 31st you said this in the comments (link below):

    Jay- Guy tried to get a gun to rescue Terri, guy solicited to kill the judges involved, lunatics calling for the shooting of police, and now Delay is ramping up his rhetoric. I don’t think that 99% of the people protesting the withdrawal of the feeding tube would do anything violent, but I do think that the irresponsible rhetoric will inspire some lunatic to do something unfortunate.

    I responded:

    [shiver] Careful, John, that sounds a lot like when Clinton blamed Rush Limbaugh for Tim McVeigh’s bombing attack in OK City.
    You, me, and many other people, have put forth our opinions and sometimes they have a large bit of passion and vilification, and I certainly don’t want you or I to get any blame should some lunatic decide that the targets of our condemnation deserve violent retribution. Emphasis on “lunatics”.
    It would be the lunatic’s fault, John, not yours or mine. Or Hannity’s. Simply pointing out when he gets out of line is sufficient, and you’ve done a tremendous job of that. Laying the foundation that his words would somehow be a part of some hideous act by a madman is sorta pushing the slippery slope, don’t you think?
    Heavens, what would happen to many of us should something untowards befall kos or atrios (Oliver’s digging his own grave by himself, so that doesn’t count)? How much blame do we get for our words?

    I never got a reply.

    Now, you’re (rightly) saying that the people responsible for violence are the people who commit the violence and saying that Newsweek has no culpability, while on March 31st you were quite adamant that some folks could be persuaded by the “inspiration” from the theocrats seeking to keep Terri Shiavo alive.

    Hopefully, those contradictory and mutualy exclusive statements have nothing to do with the notion that muslim extremists who are killing people are getting the benefit of the doubt while the Christian wackos marching to the pied piper himself, Tom Delay, are succeptable to “inspiration”…enough to do something unfortunate.

  22. 22
    RW says:

    BTW, if you’ll read further in your own comments of that link, you may like this diddy you put forth:

    “I don;t think there are going to be widesscale riots, but it did take a couple of years for Oklahoma City to occur after Waco and Ruby Ridge.”

    Now, read your section pertaining to Newsweek, again, and see if it doesn’t make you scratch your head.

  23. 23
    John Cole says:

    Ricky- The Newsweek piece wasn;t a call to action.

    The rhetoric of Randall Terry and those like him was.

  24. 24
    RW says:

    So, as I stated, it depends on how the wind is blowing (which means whose ox is being gored) as to if responsibility is at the feet of the person committing the violence or if it lies partially within the rhetoric of others.

    That isn’t so hard, now, is it?

    I think you and the guy who wrote this post would have a good debate.

  25. 25
    sidereal says:

    It’s kind of rude to ignore what he just wrote and state your case closed. There’s a qualitative difference between printing a fact that might piss some people off (leaving aside for a moment the question of whether the fact is true or not) and rhetortically whipping up pissed off people into action. If you demand a righty-lefty equivalent example, it’s the difference between printing details on global warming and standing up on a pedestal and calling people ecological terrorists and encouraging people to spike trees.

    Honestly, it’s very straightforward.

  26. 26
    RW says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb and state that some pissed off people were whipped into action, sidereal.

    You guys can play the “it depends on the meaning of is” all you want, it’s still just spin.

  27. 27
    John Cole says:


    Newsweek printed a story. Radical mullahs used it to whip their crowds into violence. Some committed acts of violence.

    Ny Times printed something about Schiavo. I feared Randall Terry and others would whip people into violence. Some attempted to commit acts of violence.

    I am not being inconsistent. The only differences are that the reports on the Schiavo affair were accurate, the NEwsweek story was not- although many of the other reports of abuse are, and that, as we all know, our religious extremists, on their worst day, are not anywhere near the same as the fanatics overseas.

    I am not being inconsistent here, and you are misrepresenting my arguments in order to refute them. There is a word for that…

  28. 28
    sidereal says:

    You’ve got the ignoring thing down, RW. I admit it’s effective in a tedious sort of way, since nobody can meaningfully debate you. It’s not going to win you any admirers, though.

  29. 29
    TJ Jackson says:

    So if the wardens at the prison are responsible for the deaths of American troops Newsweek is not? Actually the more the American public hears the fake but accurate mem the more the MSM and its defenders lose credibility.

    Thank you Newsweek. The Taliban thanks you. Bin Laden thnaks you.
    The Jihaddie fundraisers and recruiters thank you.

  30. 30
    RW says:

    If all you can do is sit at your computer and hurl ad hominem attacks: f*ck off. Folks like that are a dime a dozen. John and I are friends and discussing things at an elevated level can actually occur without pissants deciding that they’re the arbitors of what is acceptable. If I want admirers I can stop wasting my time with folks like you and play with my kids. Trust me, I won’t go somewhere and ARGUE WITH THE FREAKING HOST OF THE SITE if my goal is to garner admirers.

    John, they’re your words. I presented them IN CONTEXT. Your argument that they’re consistent is duly noted. In similar news, your newfound comrade Sullivan swears that he’s been consistent, as well. :)

  31. 31
    Birkel says:

    So I guess a former general who got busted down really was a nobody.

    Thanks for ignoring that point.

  32. 32
    John Cole says:

    Birkel- You talking to me? There are 400 comments a day here, and I try to keep up.

    RW- YOu are using by exact words but misrepresenting the argument. I find Newsweek culpable for a false story. I find the blame for the rioters with the riots and those who whip them up. Likewise, I find the blame with Randall Terry and those who would whip up domestic problems.

    Sidreal- ’tis true. Ricky and I go bvack to when both our sites had ten visitors a day, and I counted for 5 of his and he 5 of mine. Henry Hanks was the other five for both of us.

  33. 33
    RW says:

    Oh, man, do I ever miss Henry!

    John, I’m not arguing that Newsweek is at fault. Nor am I arging that Randall Terry and those other vultures are anything other than human excrement. I’m arguing that the words of those fools are not responsible for the violent actions of boobs. Now, I’m not saying that people can’t incite violence (reference back to the vigilante days & lynchings) I’m saying that you’re pulling the trigger on your accusations (selectively, I might add) a few miles before the train pulls into the station. I’m a Christian and it galls me to tell myself that I’m not supposed to HATE Randall Terry, but the guy incited no violence…..he mouthed his normal idiocy.

    The Newsweek story actually led to violence, btw.

    Like I said from the get-go, if political rhetoric is now to be responsible for the actions of crazies, a lot of us may be in trouble. Heaven forbid if something would’ve happend to hesiod a while back, using your criteria, huh?

  34. 34
    Libertine says:

    As far as I am concerned the Newsweek “scandal” is just a tempest in a teapot. Newsweek screwed-up, they gave an apology and retracted the story. What are they supposed to do? Kill 15 of their own as a penalty for screwing up the story? Countless thousands have died all across the region in the past couple years between the war and the violence between the Israelis and Palestinians…and we are focusing on 15??

    That IS a tempest in a teapot!!!

  35. 35
    sidereal says:

    RW, nice rant, but kind of wandering. I’m not sure what your longstanding and mutually satisfying relationship with John has to do with anything we’re talking about.

    I apologize for my earlier snark, but it wasn’t unearned. Twice one or more people spent the time to come up with an explanation for why they thought you were wrong, and twice you blew it off and declared yourself right without even bothering with their arguments. I found it kind of irritating.

  36. 36
    RW says:

    RW, nice rant, but kind of wandering.

    Scanning back over the commentary, I still don’t find the part where you’ve been appointed arbitor of commentary.

    Why am I supposed to give a whit, again?

  37. 37
    RW says:

    RW, nice rant, but kind of wandering.

    Scanning back over the commentary, I still don’t find the part where you’ve been appointed arbitor of commentary.

    Why am I supposed to give a whit, again?

  38. 38
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    RW, from your article:


    Once again, look up the fallacy of the complex cause. And tell me where it says in the Newsweek article, “Because the US destroyed the Koran, Muslims should revolt.”

    Basic definition of incite: To provoke and urge on.

    From what I’ve read and understood, this has been published before in newspapers and never gained traction which disproved that the information incited the riots. Instead, it would be the USE of that information, which Newsweek is not cupable for, which incited the riots.

    Otherwise, to bring in a general conservative sacred goat,(so I’m not accusing you of this anywhere, but just making a comparison for the viewers at home)gunmakers are responsible for the deaths that their guns cause.

  39. 39
    RW says:

    And tell me where it says in the Newsweek article, “Because the US destroyed the Koran, Muslims should revolt.”

    Tell me where Randall Terry (or some other POS) said: “Because of Terry Shiavo, I want you to go out there and kill me some judges.”

    I mean, come on. Talk about building strawmen! I. Did. Not. Say. There. Was. A. Direct. Cause. And. Effect.

    Instead, it would be the USE of that information, which Newsweek is not cupable for, which incited the riots.

    That is my argument, DFS (hope you don’t mind the acronym but the name is sorta long). Nowhere do I argue otherwise. The people rioting are to blame for the riots. That Newsweek provided the instrument used to foment the rage that led to the violence is another topic that I alluded to, but my emphasis is that the criminals are responsible and I’m questioning ********why that standard is so aribitrary****** because it has been applied differently.

  40. 40
    Birkel says:

    John Cole wrote this in his earlier post

    “I think it is a joke that only a few low level soldiers are being punished.”

    And I asked about former general, now colonel, Janet Karpinsky and whether she was just some low level soldier. Given the former star on her shoulder I’ll venture the opinion that she was a bit above low level.

    And yeah, I was talking to you John Cole.

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