I am amused at some people. Even though Newsweek has retracted it’s small story that reported US military personnel flushing a Koran down a toilet at Camp X-Ray, there are people who are defending the story. They are expressing feigned surprise that the Newsweek story has such legs and that people are in a lather over it when everyone knows that allegations of such practices have been coming from released detainees for four years. Well I beg to differ, there is a qualitative difference between accusations of detainees and an unnamed US government source who backs up such accusations. It is a pretty large difference since the unknown source, by being described as a government official who has seen reports on Camp X-Ray, has a higher credibility rating than released prisoners who may have a grudge to settle.
Newsweek chose to run a story based on a single source who, according to one of the authors Ishikoff, now can not remember where they read about the Koran in the toilet incident. That is the big thing, Newsweek had to have known what a big story it would be if they broke it open. Another Abu Ghraib perhaps. Or better yet another Watergate. But instead of trying to find supporting sources, beyond the detainee accounts and their solitary government source, Newsweek let the poison pen flow and published an article that would have been tossed out of a college freshman journalism class. As a result, seventeen people are dead, property damaged, the reputation of the United States and its allies has been damaged, and the job of the US military all over the world has been made harder by the hatred this article has inflamed.
And yet this self-same media chooses to castigate President Bush and his administration over flawed intelligence about Iraq’s WMD program. The double standards are breathtaking. Intelligence services of the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany, to name three, thought Hussein was back on track for WMDs. Another example of a double standard can be found in the Clinton administration; on the basis of some soil samples collected by an agent, President Clinton ordered a cruise missile strike against a pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan because it seemed the plant was making chemical weapons. President Clinton hardly caught any media flack for that attack even though it was based on some inconclusive evidence provided by a single source.
We, the consumers of news products, have to ask ourselves when did news reporters mutate into journalistic hitmen? That is a question we need to ponder and to also ponder how to save journalism from these excesses.