Friday, May 20, 2005

A Page for a Page

Newsweek is in big trouble this week, in fact, it's the News of the Week, I guess. Newsweek's editors have retracted a story alleging that U.S. soldiers at Guantanamo Bay have flushed a few copies of the Koran down the toilet, thus causing a massive Islamic obstruction that will require something much bigger than a Political Plunger to fix. After the story ran, anti-American riots broke out in the Islamic world, causing 16 deaths and more than one hundred injuries. Newsweek hastily retracted the unsubstantiated story. However, previous examples of the allegations in the story are popping up all over, including a May 2003 Washington Post report. Now what is the point of the flushing, you're probably wondering? Of the stuff you just shouldn't flush down a toilet, hard-covered reading material has to rank right up there. Well it is apparently all part of our strategy of gaining excellent information from detainees by being really mean to them. We figure once we soften them up with torture, atrocities and ill-advised flushing maneuvers, they will "give in" to us and tell us what we want to know! Which is that any information they had is at least two years old, and was probably changed the moment they were captured. So there! Meanwhile government investigations have declared both abuse and Koran-flushing allegations to be "non-credible" even as certain commanders have apologized for these actions that never occurred. Confusing, isn't it? Maybe that's the point. Perhaps detainees will become so confused they will accidentally give us all their best information, which is STILL two years old and hasn't brought us any closer to ending the war in Iraq. I have to ask, I know stuff like this is an interesting detail, but do we really need to be informed about the alleged Koran Flushing right now while all kinds of Americans are milling around in the Middle East? Couldn't this information wait until the Eventual Book is written by Newsweek columnists? I mean, was this really on our "need to know" list? Nonetheless, what's done is done, what's flushed is flushed, and what was written was retracted. However, what about the fact that the Bible is considered contraband in Saudi Arabia? What of reports that copies of those are run through the shredder after being confiscated? I guess if it's official government policy, it's okay. You have to give the Muslims a certain amount of credit. At least they CARE about their holy book. I can't imagine American Christians turning out for a riot if someone desecrated a copy of the Bible. We would just go to the local bookstore and buy a new one. That is, if we even owned one to begin with. Either way, I don't picture Bible Flushing to inspire the kind of emotions that have been stirred over the alleged Koran Flushing. Which gives me another idea. Couldn't we use these Korans as Literary Shields? You know, tie them to our tanks, or use them as protective body armor? Then these insurgents would be stymied in their attempts to blow things up without pulverizing their very own Korans. Perhaps the war itself could be transformed from the "eye for an eye" concept to a "page for a page" one. Instead of a war of weapons, we could have a War of Words! When we grew tired of calling each other names, we could all go home feeling satisfied and no one would have to be shot at or taken prisoner. Instead of spending billions of dollars on weapons of war, we could instead devote all that funding to improving literacy! After this first step, then maybe we could persuade each other to actually READ our respective holy books. Then, just maybe, we would decide war really didn't make any sense at all. It'll probably be a long time before our reading comprehension gets that good.

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