Chronicle Of A Mess Foretold

Every time I think things couldn’t possibly get worse in the laughably named “battle for hearts and minds” along comes a piece of news that makes me reassess human folly. I’m talking, of course, about Newsweek‘s infamous Qur’an story, dated May 9, and filed by Michael Isikoff and John Barry.

The reporters wrote that “interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur’an down a toilet.” Reports of such desecration surfaced earlier this year, but were not widely read. This time, however, when a popular Pakistani cricket star denounced the report, it was instantly publicized and riots broke out soon after, starting in Pakistan and quickly spreading to Afghanistan. So far, 15 people have lost their lives, most of them in Afghanistan, where U.S. occupation is not so popular, what with rising prices, pervasive corruption, and lack of safety.

Contrary to what has initially been reported, Newsweek did not retract the story right away. On its website, the editor merely said that they “don’t know.” Those of us who think news magazines should print what they know were clearly mistaken. It wasn’t until later in the day that editor Mark Whitaker added a note saying “based on what we know now, we are retracting [our story].” So far, no one at the magazine has been reprimanded.

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