David Adesnik of the essential Oxblog steps up to the "Newsweek Lied" debacle and immediately confronts a puzzle:
Until now, I've mostly just read what the WaPo has to say about the story, and its material seems to confirm the conservative story line that reckless American journalists provoked unjustified riots in Afghanistan.
...The standard liberal response to this point is that Gen. Richard Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that our commander in the ground in Afghanistan thought that the rioting "was not at all tied to the reporting in the magazine."
...But Kevin Drum disagrees.
David then picks up the point I noted in my post titled "In Which I Sort Of Agree With Kevin Drum (Until He Disagrees With Himself)" - as Drum noted, it is possible that the good General was engaged in a bit of CYA spinning. Or, Pentagon stalwarts might argue that the General was responding with a "root causes" argument - there were, after all, violent anti-American groups in Afghanistan prior to the release of this Newsweek article.
However, David advances the ball in an unexpected direction - Kevin Drum was never serious in his suggestion that a general might mislead us a bit!
[CORRECTION: I totally missed the fact that Kevin was trying to be sarcastic, something that he informed me of via e-mail. Strange how something Kevin assumed was patently ridiculous made perfect sense to me. After all, the Army really did have every reason to deny that the Koran incident caused the riots until it discovered that the incident was an apparent fabrication.]
Can I trust you to follow the links? Just some snippets:
May 12 WaPo: JALALABAD, Afghanistan, May 11 -- Shouting "Death to America!" more than 1,000 demonstrators rioted and threw stones at a U.S. military convoy Wednesday, as protests spread over a report that interrogators desecrated Islam's holy book at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
...President Hamid Karzai played down the violence, which came as Afghan and U.S. troops are battling a reinvigorated Taliban insurgency.
"It is not the anti-American sentiment, it is a protest over news of the desecration of the holy Koran," Karzai told reporters in Brussels... (emp. added)
CNN debunked the General immediately:
May 13 CNN: ...Reports of the alleged desecration have sparked public outrage in Muslim countries and violent demonstrations in Afghanistan.
..."It's a judgment of our commander in Afghanistan, General (Carl) Eichenberry, that in fact the violence that we saw in Jalalabad was not necessarily the result of the allegations about disrespect for the Quran ... but more tied up in the political process and the reconciliation process that President (Hamid) Karzai and his cabinet is conducting in Afghanistan," Myers said.
"He thought it was not at all tied to the article in the magazine."
However an Associated Press photo from Jalalabad showed a demonstrator holding a sign saying, "We strongly condemn insulting Quran by American army."
In demonstrations in Kabul at least one banner carried by protesters said, "Those who insult the Quran should be brought to justice." And statements made on video by a protester in another city referred specifically to what was included in the Newsweek report.
Who are you going to believe - a General, or your lying eyes?
The May 12 Times has terrific on-the-spot reporting which may help resolve the controversy - one easily supported view is that peaceful demonstrations motivated by the Newsweek article were hijacked by violent groups hoping to cause trouble. In that sense, Newsweek did not "cause" the violence, which may be what General Eichenberry in Afghanistan had in mind. [David Frum describes the hijacking here].
A few days earlier in Pakistan, there was no doubt as to what triggered the demonstrations:
Pakistanis rally against Koran 'desecration' , May 13, ABC News Online (which I think is the Aussie equivalent of the BBC)
Protests over US abuse of Qur’an mount; May 11; Gulf Times
Qazi asks all Islamic movements to observe protest against Koran's desecration; May 13, WebIndia123.
A few simple questions might clarify this:
What role do they suppose the Newwsweek article played, if any, in sparking these demonstrations?
Do our friends on the left think that the WaPo, the NY Times, and CNN owe us retractions for their earlier coverage? Can they explain the grievous breakdown in journalistic standards that led to this global mis-coverage (if that is what it was) - incompetence, bias, what?
Do our friends on the left routinely accept at face value every statement that comes out of the Pentagon, even if it looks a bit self-serving? Will they continue to do so, now that they have learned that sometimes the Pentagon engages in news management?
Congressman John Conyers (Dem) is also hiding behind the general. Hah!
We await the next installment from David, who does a great job setting the record straight on this simmering Darth Vader controversy.
And we eagerly await the next installment from Kevin Drum, who will (I Boldly Predict) next announce that he was kidding when he said he was being sarcastic. Or is wandering off the reservation that uncomfortable?
UPDATE: Maybe its a California thing - the Mans Sans Q laughs at the LA Times for recycling the same "A General said so" argument.