Thursday, May 19, 2005

Truth unveiled

The descecration of a copy of Holy Quran at the hands of US troops in Guantanamo bay has led to a bitter debate about a range of issues. About the veracity of such media reports, about the military ethics of the US and above all the lack of transpiracy in the US administration.

I reproduce here excerpts from the Newyork times edit on 18 may 2005.

A Sudden Taste for Openness

Newsweek is under intense criticism for a report it has now retracted about the American prison in Guantánamo Bay. Since we've weathered a journalistic storm or two, we can only say the best approach is transparency as Newsweek fixes whatever is broken, if anything. There is already a debate about journalistic practices, including the use of anonymous sources, and these things are worth discussing - especially at a time of war, national insecurity and extreme government secrecy, a time when aggressive news reporting is critical. But it is offensive to see the Bush administration use this case for political purposes, and ludicrous for spokesmen for this White House and Defense Department to offer pious declarations about accountability, openness and concern for America's image abroad.

It took Newsweek about two weeks to retract its report. It has been a year since the very real problem behind the article - the systematic abuse and deliberate humiliation of mainly Muslim prisoners - came to light through the Abu Ghraib disaster. And the Bush administration has not come close to either openness or accountability. The White House and the Pentagon have refused to begin any serious examination of the policymaking that led to the abuse, humiliation, torture and even killing of prisoners taken during antiterrorist operations and the invasion of Iraq. Meanwhile, the administration has stonewalled outside efforts to accomplish that task. No senior officer or civilian official has been held accountable for policies that put every American soldier at greater risk. The men who wrote the memos on legalized torture and evading the Geneva Conventions have been promoted.

If the Pentagon is as enthusiastic about accountability in its own house as its spokesman, Lawrence Di Rita, is when it comes to Newsweek, then it should release the Southern Command's report on Guantánamo Bay, on which the magazine report was based. The administration should also release all the other reports on prisoner abuse it has been withholding, including one by the Central Intelligence Agency about its illegal practice of hiding prisoners from the Red Cross. And it should encourage Senator John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to conduct a full investigation of the formation of the policy on prisoners, rather than pressuring him to stop.

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