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. It