Monday, May 16, 2005

Newsweek: Flushing Credibility Down the Toilet

Prison Life and the War Effort

Well, it's all over the news and the internet. Another news source has proven to be unreliable and quite possibly complicit in creating propaganda for the enemies of the United States. As the story goes, a Quran (Koran) was allegedly torn up and flushed down the toilet by prison guards or interrogators to "humiliate" or otherwise "unsettle" the detainee they were questioning. Newsweek retracts the story saying they now believe that they cannot confirm the story after many riots, death and threats against America.

I'm late to the party, but thought I'd get in a few other licks that I don't see anyone talking about.

General Richard Myers, of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters last week that there were no reports of this technique being used or any desecration except for a log book which indicated that a prisoner had flushed pages of the Koran down the toilet in his cell to stage a protest.

Now, there are many out there that are still skeptical, particularly the loon birds over at Kos and the DU. Of course, we are not expecting people in countries where the press is not free to believe that Newsweek did this of their own accord because they are wrong. But, for those of us with half a brain and a free press, it is important that we use common sense and be able to confront the skeptics in our own country and other "free" states.

Therefore, I intend to elaborate on the information provided by General Richard Myers regarding the "prisoner protest". Not because I have anonymous sources at the prison feeding me information, but because, as I have alluded to many times, my family is in law enforcement and this story is not unusual by any means, in any prison or jail around the United States or any country that provides sinks, toilets and other amenities to their prisoners.

As a matter of fact, if anyone had used a modicum of common sense or read or watched any other investigative reporting on prison systems (and there have been so many), they would have recognized the realty immediately and questioned it, as I did. I did not even need Gen. Myers' comments on the subject.

Prisoners routinely stop up the toilets in their cells. Not just "in protest" though that is fairly common as well. They are locked up and have little other means of getting back at the guards or the system, particularly in the Guantanamo setting or in other maximum security facilities where a prisoner maybe locked up for long hours in their cell.

These "protests" are staged when a prisoner is angry over loss of privileges, like canteen or commisary, taking away their exercise or "yard" privileges or even being confined to their cell for long periods because of some other inappropriate behavior.

Stopping up of toilets is also used to force the guards to extract or remove the prisoner from his cell for various other reasons which include:

  • A prisoner may have been threatened by other prisoners with bodily harm for something that occured between them which might include not paying back "debts", informing on other prisoners, seeming to be too close to the prison guards (ie, risk of informing), etc. This may even inlcude the threat of rape or other sexual misconduct. Prisoners will stop up the toilet with bedding or anything available to them and make it over run so that the guards will be forced to remove them from that cell block. Usually, this behavior also results in the prisoner being placed "in the hole" or "solitary confinement" as punishment. For a prisoner that has no other way to escape the situation, being placed in solitary confinement is a form of protective custody.

  • A prisoner may wish to confront the guards physically and overflowing the toilet and then refusing to come out peacefully, even barricading themselves in with mattresses and anything else they can get their hands on, so that the guards are forced to come into the cell and extract them. As I wrote back in February on the same subject when an AP writer, Paisley Dodd, tried to use a "leaked" report regarding DoD videos of extractions as an indication of something horrible going on at Guantanamo. I pointed out the commonality of the situations to normal prison life then and the problem of extractions:

    Now, the other thing that prisoners do, besides generally refusing to leave their cells, they will barricade themselves inside using their mattresses, blankets (prayer rugs) anything that is handy to create an obstacle or shield. They may also take the most innocuous things and create a "shiv". My cousin, who worked at the county jail before becoming a patrolman, indicates that prisoners will take toothbrushes and heat them, using matches or other heating source, until they are maleable and can be made into a point. [snip]

    Prisoners can and will barricade themselves in their rooms to lure the officers in and then use such devices to stab them.

    Which is sometimes the purpose of overflowing the toilet and flooding the cell.

    If there are electrical outlets, lights or other means of electricity entering the cell, prisoners have improvised metal objects or stripped wires from electrical devices (like lights, radios, TVs, etc), get up on an object that is not touching the water (like a bunk or the sink) and wait for the guards to come to the door where the water is leaking out of before dropping the other end of the device into the water and electrocuting the guard(s).

    Make no mistake, men in this prison are not some shephard who was caught in the middle of something. They are trained fighters who have spent many months, if not years, improvising methods to kill their enemy. To assume that they are any less likely than any prisoner in a civilian setting to make these attempts would be foolish to say the least.

  • Prisoners will flood their cell by overflowing the toilet in order to be removed to protective custody because they do want to inform on other prisoners, pass information, etc. By flooding the toilet, they can force their removal to "the hole" or "solitary confinement" where, in privacy, they can divulge information to the guards without appearing to have cooperated. Thus saving them in the population from retaliation and even keeping them as a viable informant for the officers.

    In a discussion with Don Imus this morning Jonathan Alter of Newsweek said:

    I understand why people are very upset about this, we're upset about it as well, but I think the larger question that people have to ask is, do they want news organizations out there trying to dig or do they want to take all their information from the government?

    I find that utterly ironic, considering that is exactly what Newsweek did. They got some information from an anonymous government official/employee and ran with it. Then he has the guts to say:

    And, we are still you know, pretty determined, very determined, to be out there digging."

    Some advice for Newsweek: If I were you, I'd start digging in my back issues of Newsweek for stories you've done on prison systems and prison life so that you could put your information in context. Something that so many journalists are incapable of doing these days.

    As I wrote about the previous journalist propagating this kind of baloney:

    [snip] you have become the willing transcriber of a propaganda hit piece that is attempting to "inflame" the "Arab street" once again and recruit wannabe jihadists from all over the world in order to kill American Soldiers and Iraqi [ed...Afghani] citizens in the name of avenging some non-existent abuse and humiliation on their Muslim "brothers".

    As Austin Bay points out on Sunday, May 15, 2005:

    The sin of greed always seems to creep into every scandal and it’s certainly lurking in this tragic incident. Newsweek wants market share, and a scoop grabs readers. But profit generated by a frantic “me first” quest isn’t the only motive. The “Vietnam-Watergate” motive’s also in play. That’s a tired and dirty game but for three decades it’s been a successful ploy for the New York-Washington-LA media axis. It’s rules are simple. Presume the government is lying– always make that presumption, particularly when the president is a Republican. Presume the worst about the US military– always make that presumption, even when the president is a Democrat. Add multi-cultural icing– the complaints and allegations of “Third World victims” are given revered status, the statements of US and US-allied nations met with cynical doubt and arrogant contempt. (Yes, the myth of the Noble Savage re-cast.)[snip]

    To a degree Newsweek is operating on a “paper template” where the editors and reporters believe the story they “print” shows up in mailboxes or on a magazine rack. In this “template” a phony press allegation remains “local” or US-bound. But there is no “over there” in our world, not anymore. We live in a world where everyone is – in terms of information– next door. Technological compression is the term I coined to describe the situation. Some slip-ups merely damage reputations– Dan Rather and Eason Jordan come to mind. World War Two vets know “loose lips sink ships.” Today, loose (computer) disks can sink ships, but loosey-goosey allegations can lead to riot and death. [snip]

    What may evolve from this is an awareness on Mr. Isikoff’s part that he, too, is part of a huge global war. That’s a complicated assertion on my part. Of course he’s aware of the war, but this particular story operates as if Newsweek were a “neutral observer” and Al Qaeda and the US are moral equivalents.

    I don't need to add anything after that except that I think I am becoming weary and leary of our news organizations looking for something to discredit us in the middle of a war with our men and women fighting everyday to change the world, to conquer the enemy and stay alive.

    There is a time and place for everything. Right now we should be concentrating on winning the war. Unless I see a report that actually shows someone being electrocuted, beaten, cut, drowned, hung by their hands, thumbs, toes, ankles, thrown to the dogs, experimented on with drugs, dissected alive, gassed in chambers or lined up and shot in a ditch, I would prefer not to hear or read another word about alleged "abuses", particularly of someone's "religious or cultural" beliefs as if we were running a summer camp or day spa and "multi-culturalism" and "sensitivity" should be our first concerns. The fact that the Pentagon now has to spend hundreds of hours of man hours to investigate these "allegations" of "desecration of the Koran" in the middle of the war, is simply ridiculous.

    Apparently, these folks don't get it.

    I'll help them out:

    We're at war.

    We're at war with an enemy who uses Islam and mosques as their motive and modis operendi for attracting recruits. They tell their would be recruits that America wants to destroy Islam and their way of life.

    Every time that you write something which supports their idea, however ludicrous and barely applicable, they use it as propaganda to recruit more people, thus, kill more people.

    Specificaly, our people.

    Journalists like this have blood on their hands and they shouldn't forget it.

    But, I don't reserve my ire for them alone.

    Who are these "anonymous" sources in our government that leak this information? What is their motive? I think we know, but it is almost beyond comprehension that these people would use the blood of our men and women, the blood of innocents in other countries, to get ahead or to try and win their political battles.

    For these "leakers" of confidential information I reserve my utter contempt and deepest anger. They all want to be "deep throat" and none of them even comes close. At the least, they are nobody beaurocrats trying to make a quick buck and gain favors. Or, we've been infiltrated by jihadist sympathizers and somebody should take this very seriously.

    Either way, the war effort continues to be compromised.


    Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

    Not all of our enemies have towels on their heads and pray to Mecca five times a day.

    Peter said...

    Kat, I don't always agree with you, but I always feel you make a strong intellectual point in what you say. This time I agree with you completely.

    Newsweek should hire you.

    Jim said...

    Sometimes I'm shocked by how little these "journalists" seem to know about the real world. I know I shouldn't be, but I am. Apparently anyone with any critical thinking skills or the ability to tie things together in any useful way is in another line of work.

    And I think Catch-22 is far more full of universal truth than either the koran or the bible, but I sure wouldn't riot if somebody flushed it.

    Scott from Oregon said...

    Quite frankly, Newsweek may have done the world a service. It demonstrated the gross hypocrisy and malevolent mind warping caused by religion and a ridiculously over-devout group of adherants. Perhaps some of our own, in-house zealots will take notice of the depravity concurrently running alongside piousness....

    It was a BOOK for criminy's sake.... Printed paper. The bigger, scarier issue is that our world is full of nutjobs....

    Kat said...

    Scott, you're always looking to poke at the hornets' nest. LOL

    Look, you don't see Christians rioting when a church gets burned or a bible torn up or a crucifix is put in urine. We might say something about it because it's offensive to us, but we don't go on a rampage killing people.

    However, I will agree that lack of information and critical thinking included in religion or, as I prefer, faith, can be extremely detrimental to the mental growth of anyone.

    I think, if I was looking at this from a faith perspective, those who are comfortable in their faith might be irritated by something that seems like an attack on it, but they do not see unbelievers as a threat to that faith so much that they must kill for it.

    I don't blame this on "religion" so much as I blame it on the stunted mental capabilities of the areas. Anyone living in tribal areas, including places like Africa or India, etc, still operate on some pretty basic levels of superstition.

    I simply find it amazing that the world is full of technological advances that allow us to view the universe yet some folks still think that an angry God is going to send down a lightening bolt to destroy their enemies.

    That's about the most I'd say on that.

    Jim made the point implicitly. glad you dropped by again and we could find something to agree on. You know what happens when journalists go to school? They take a lot of history classes, rhetoric (debate back in the day), literature, composition and take very few analytical classes (I've seen the curriculum). What little they get is lost in the daily grub of trying to be the next reporter to break "watergate" as Austin Bay points out. They really don't understand "watergate" at all or the amount of work that went into breaking the story, regardless of "deep throat". He only pointed them in the right direction and gave some info. All of it had to be confirmed through other steps.

    These folks have surely lost site of that.

    If they had my job and had to prove something to someone every day with umpteen analysis and back up to the back up, they'd be a lot more capable of "analyzing" info and not going for stories without all their ducks in a row.

    Lack of critical thinking and good analytical skills. Everyone says that's the problem with today's education. Starting to aree emphatically.

    Twosret said...

    As per muslims the miracle of Islam is the holy Koran. For them it is a very holy book. Moderate muslims holds so much respect fo the Koran. They have certain rules and restrictions of how to hold it and handle it and read it.

    It does have very holy symbol to them.

    Jesus is the miracle of Christianity and the Koran is the miracle of Islam.

    Hope this explanation give some of you why there is so much outrage about an event like this one.

    Scott from Oregon said...

    Kat--look at history. Look at Christian history. Same basic crap, same basic sociopathic manifestations. You think 'Christians' are any different? Hell, the Dodo bird was hunted to extinction by Dutch Christians, because they thought it was an 'abomination of God'.... How many indigenous cultures were 'crucified' by piousness and rifles?....

    Thankfully, saner minds have tempered the Christian zealotry and reasonable peace has followed. But come on, 'thou shall not kill', and 'turn the other cheek' are nowhere near the apex of the Christian legacy-- the blood runs red, torrential, and from its beginning until tomorrow.....

    Crazy man. CRAZY!!!!

    Kat said...

    Scott, you're still talking about superstitions and not faith. it has never been simply about Christianity, Islam or great spirits in the sky, it's always been about man's lack of understanding about the world and the universe.

    I mean, how many people did the Aztecs sacrifice to their gods? The bog people of Europe would certainly like to know what Christianity or any other moder religion had to do with them being sacrificed.

    Words in a book only give it shape and some other meaning, it doesn't change the basic platform which is that man with his limited understanding has always placed superstitious value on objects and actions, causing him to do things that will forever stump the modern mind.

    Twosret, I do understand, but see my comments above (both of them). As a person of faith (which Scott keeps poking me about LOL), I can be irritated about things like this, but I put more value in my personal faith then I do on an object or even in the persona or name of Jesus. He is my inspiration and whom I would defend, but I would not kill another for slander against Him or my faith, nor even if they ripped down the churches or burned every bible. I'd certainly think the world had gone crazy at that point, but it wouldn't stop my faith nor cause me to rise up and spill blood.

    That is where there maybe a difference in our societies. So, I do try to understand, but it is difficult to accept what appears to be outrage over an object, holy as it may be considered.

    Maybe it is just our differences in faith. Christianity for most people has moved to the personal and less of the communal idea. Individual freedom with an onslaught of modern information and so many differing ideologies (even in Christianity) it kind of forces you to do that.

    I think that is why we find it incomprehensible.

    Scott from Oregon said...

    " doesn't change the basic platform which is that man with his limited understanding has always placed superstitious value on objects and actions, causing him to do things that will forever stump the modern mind...."


    Ahh, the modern mind knows that so much in the Bible is hogwash, myth, metaphor, allegory and superstition. The modern mind wonders why so many nutjobs adhere to its sentences like they held forth some profound causative clue about the nature of life on earth.....

    The truly modern mind wouldn't mind seeing this relic relegated to the library as a curio for the truly modern mind....

    We can put it right next to the Koran......