Unconfirmed sources report that Newsweek magazine’s careless reporting of the facts surrounding torture at Guantanamo Bay has wrecked American Arab relations. Last week Newsweek magazine broke and later retracted a story about American servicemen defacing a Quran while torturing Iraqi detainees. The Bush administration tried to contain the damage caused by the story, but its efforts have been in vain. The trust between George W. Bush and the Arab street has been irrevocably broken.
“This is a real tragedy” said White House spokesman Ben Lion. “Newsweek magazine has crippled American Arab relations by falsely stating that American torturers defaced a Quran while beating Iraq detainees. It’s shocking that a ‘respected’ news source like Newsweek would mislead the American public on such an important issue. The world needs to know the truth. American torturers don’t deface the Quran while beating Iraqi detainees.”
“I’m really disappointed in Newsweek” said Juan Cole of the respected website Informed Comment. “Relations between the Arab street and George Bush had just reached a new level of mutual trust and understanding when this story broke. Now I know many people think this could be the end of the Bush administrations careful dialogue of peace with the average Arab, but I don’t believe that. I don’t think this one isolated event will crush the good feelings Arabs have towards The President.”
“The average Arab on the street understands what The President it trying to do and they respect him for it. They can see that while he is not a Muslim, he is still a fundamentalist like themselves, and they respect him for that. There is a deep reservoir of trust there. Cool headed Arabs won’t let this little incident negatively effect their view of Mr. Bush’s pro-Arab policies. Arabs will view the President’s entire record and respond to this incident in its proper context.” Concluded Mr. Cole
Other Middle East watchers are not as optimistic as Juan Cole. “This is the straw that broke the camels back.” Said news personality Andrew Sullivan. “I mean, it’s not like the Arab street ever really trusted us. Juan Cole has got it all wrong. I think that the fantastic relations between Bush and the Arab world was a fragile shell not a ‘deep reservoir of trust’. Sure it looked great from the outside, lots of trust and dialogue, but on inside the bond was brittle. All it took was one swift blow and the whole thing collapsed. And its’ all Newsweek’s fault. I think the war in Iraq could go badly now and I lay the blame at Newsweek’s feet.”
The administration has launched an all out truth offensive to set the record straight on the issue with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice taking point.
“The United States is a country that believes deeply in religious freedom and the equality of all to practice religion as they see it,” Rice said, “and we would certainly never condone anything that would be a desecration of the holy book of one of the world’s great religions.”
Rice said detainees at Guantanamo were given prayer mats and directed toward Mecca so that they could pray appropriately before and after torture sessions.
“I just hope that through steady discussion now with the Muslim community – and our people in the field are trying to do it – they understand the real story of how the United States has tried to deal with this question of religious practice at Guantanamo,” she said.