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Monday, May 16, 2005

Newsweek yells 'fire' in crowded theater

As we all know, free speech has limits. The standard example is, "You can't yell 'fire' in a crowded theater," and few people would disagree. Well that's basically what happened last week. Newsweek reported that U.S. interrogators in Guantanamo Bay flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet in order to break detainees. The predictable result was a firestorm of violence across the Muslim world:
At least nine people were killed yesterday as a wave of anti-American demonstrations swept the Islamic world from the Gaza Strip to the Java Sea, sparked by a single paragraph in a magazine alleging that US military interrogators had desecrated the Koran. As Washington scrambled to calm the outrage, Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, promised an inquiry and punishment for any proven offenders. But at Friday prayers in the Muslim world many preachers demanded vengeance and afterwards thousands took to the streets, burning American flags.
Wow. These accusations must have been pretty convincing. But they were false:
The magazine said Sunday that the Defense Department had found no evidence of such desecration. In an editorial, the magazine said "we regret that we got any part of our story wrong and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst." Newsweek carried its brief original report in the May 9 issue. It also noted that similar reports had circulated for months in the British and Russian press, and on the Arab news channel Al Jazeera.
Michelle Malkin reprints Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker's note. Here's an excerpt:
After several days, newspapers in Pakistan and Afghan-istan began running accounts of our story. At that point, as Evan Thomas, Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai report this week, the riots started and spread across the country, fanned by extremists and unhappiness over the economy.
The economy? Please. Suck it up, Newsweek. Your lies set off riots, and now people are dead. Take responsibility. By the way, Malkin also points toward this report about Palestinian terrorists in the Church of the Nativity:
Even in the Roman Catholic areas of the complex there was evidence of disregard for religious norms. Catholic priests said that some Bibles were torn up for toilet paper, and many valuable sacramental objects were removed. "Palestinians took candelabra, icons and anything that looked like gold," said a Franciscan, the Rev. Nicholas Marquez from Mexico.
I'm surprised they've even advanced to using toilet paper.

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