Friday, May 27, 2005

Credible, redux

A front-page article in the Thursday NYT said that the Guantanamo prisoner who made the Koran-flushing charge had been interviewed by the FBI but “was not able to substantiate the charge.” When I read that, I was going to make fun of it here, asking what sort of proof they were expecting, and then I realized, oh yeah, the smoking gun would be a soaking Koran. So I dropped the matter like, well, a soaking Koran, until I saw some military type on McNeil-Lehrer saying the prisoner had recanted. Gee, he’s being held without the benefit of any legal process in the “gulag of our times,” and he failed to repeat charges against the people who’d be watching over him, possibly for the rest of his life, far away from the eyes of the world. Quel surprise. The Pentagon repeats yet again that it has seen no “credible” allegations of Koran-dumping, and still fails to say what makes the allegations not credible. What I’m asking here is, what is the standard of evidence? A Pentagon spokesmodel quoted in the NYT disparaged the accuser as an “enemy combatant,” not to be believed. By that standard, you could do pretty much anything to an enemy combatant without fear. And indeed, am I right in thinking that the only soldiers convicted of prisoner abuse are the ones stupid enough to have done it while being photographed?

I’ve been enjoying the Pentagon’s flourishing of instructions it issued on the proper handling of the Koran. Reminds me that in the early days of Gulag Guantanamo, a lot of the interrogators were using a scholarly book from the 1970s about Islamic culture, which was used, to the horror of the family of the guy who wrote the book, who had quite liked Muslims, as a guidebook on what things to do to upset Muslims. The instructions no doubt served the same function.

Thursday two separate courts martial, one in the Army, one in the Marines, acquitted men who had killed unarmed Iraqis who had supposedly made threatening moves (in separate incidents). The killings may have been lawful acts of perceived self-defense, let’s assume they were. But the Marine also got away with having pumped 60 bullets into his two corpses and leaving them as an example with a sign saying “No better friend, no worse enemy,” and the Army sgt got away with having planted a gun on the body to make it look more like self-defense.

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