Brass and Chutzpah

I will give the Bush administration credit: it has more brass and more chutzpah than a pawnbroker in Bombay.

It has now proclaimed that America’s miserably bad image in the Muslim world is entirely the fault of one or two lines that appeared in a Newsweek magazine story. The administration has even more or less demanded that Newsweek fix it.

Now, you gotta admit, that takes brass. No, it’s not years of one-sided support of Israel; it’s not the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq; and it’s not all of the prison scandals, all of the bombing, all of the occupation, all of the administration’s lies and threats and bombast. No, we would be widely loved in the Muslim world if only Newsweek had not printed that one story.

I’m referring, of course, to a story reporting that a military-investigation report would include the fact that a Koran, a very holy book for Muslims, was tossed into a toilet during an interrogation at Guantánamo, where people are being held indefinitely without charges.

That’s not a new story. Several of the former detainees have said the Koran was desecrated as part of the interrogation techniques. The Bush administration, of course, piously proclaims that is false and that it has issued pages of regulations governing how the Koran is to be treated.

Well gosh, fellows, you’re kind of short on credibility. You’ve denied or asserted everything until it was proven to be the opposite of your position. Now, if I don’t believe you, why would you expect some guy in Kabul or Gaza or Pakistan to believe you? And exactly how many subscriptions to Newsweek do you think the desperately poor people in Afghanistan have?

The Bush administration reminds me of a client a lawyer-friend of mine represented. I asked my friend if he had put his client on the stand. “Hell, no,” he said, “he would lie even if it was in his own best interest to tell the truth.”

The Bush administration motto ought to be, “We hide, lie and deny.”

Another example of how it shades the truth is provided in a story by Newsweek about some accidentally declassified report. You’ve all heard these rosy scenarios in Iraq reported by the TV talking heads standing on their hotel balconies, safe and sound. Here’s what the official Defense Department report said:

“The U.S. considers all of Iraq a combat zone.”

You know what that means, don’t you? It means the only part of Iraq we control is the part our soldiers are standing on. The report goes on: “From July 2004 to late March 2005, there were 15,527 attacks against Coalition Forces throughout Iraq. From 1 November 2004 to 12 March 2005 there were 3,306 attacks in the Baghdad area.”

Friends, that’s far worse than Valdosta, Ga., on a Saturday night. It’s even worse than Los Angeles on the weekend. But, gee whiz, we’ve already toppled the dictator, turned over sovereignty, held elections, and installed a new government. I distinctly recall the neocons saying the Iraqis would throw flowers at us, and there would be dancing in the streets. I remember old Paul Wolfowitz, the old deputy SecDef, saying we didn’t need all those troops the Army chief of staff said we needed, and not to worry, folks, Iraqi oil revenues will pay for the occupation and the rebuilding.

Most of you are probably too young to remember the Vietnam War. One thing about that war was there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, the light turned out to be from a Viet Cong explosion. The facts on the ground never matched the words coming out of the mouths of the brass in Saigon and the politicians in Washington.

Of course, the loss of that war was all Walter Cronkite’s fault. If only the CBS news anchor hadn’t been so shaken up by the Tet Offensive, we’d have found the light at the end of that tunnel.

Now, it’s those scoundrels at Newsweek who are causing all of our troubles. Newsweek is denying you the kisses and hugs of 1 billion Muslims by reporting that one of our guys – some of whom don’t hesitate to kill, maim, and humiliate prisoners – dropped a Koran in a toilet. How can anyone believe an American prison guard would do such a thing? Shame on the press.

Author: Charley Reese

Charley Reese is a journalist.