Newsweek retracts what appears to have been a reckless report:

After a drumbeat of criticism from the Bush administration and others, Newsweek magazine yesterday went beyond an apology it issued Sunday and retracted an article published May 1 that stated that American interrogators at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had tried to rattle Muslim detainees by flushing a Koran down a toilet. The original article was blamed for inciting widespread protests and riots in the Muslim world, where desecration of the Koran is viewed as an incendiary act, and where at least 17 people were killed in the ensuing violence. “Based on what we know now, we are retracting our original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered Koran abuse at Guantánamo Bay,” the statement from Newsweek said. The carefully worded retraction came after the White House said the Newsweek article had damaged the image of the United States abroad. It reflected the severity of consequences that even one sentence in a brief news item can have at a time of intense anti-American sentiment overseas and political polarization, as well as extreme distrust of the mainstream media at home. Mark Whitaker, editor of Newsweek, said in an interview that the magazine was retracting the part of the article saying sources told Newsweek that a coming military report would say interrogators had flushed a holy book down the toilet to unnerve detainees. As it turned out, Newsweek now says, there was one source. And Mr. Whitaker said that because that source had “backed away” from his original account, the magazine could “no longer stand by” it. “I did not want to be in the position of splitting hairs,” Mr. Whitaker said, “to look like we were being evasive or not fully forthcoming.”

If Bush and Company could direct some of the ire they reserved for a poorly-sourced report of a desecrated Koran towards those in his Cabinet responsible for the desecrations of the values of every faith tradition which we know took place under our flag, we might see real change in this country’s image in the Middle East.


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