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A Study in Abuse

The media ignores the facts about Koran abuse and piles on the Army.

11:30 AM, Jun 6, 2005 • By JOHN HINDERAKER
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WHEN NEWSWEEK REPORTED that a Guantanamo Bay guard had flushed a detainee's Koran down a toilet, the Muslim world erupted in protests, some of which turned violent. Newsweek later retracted the story. More significantly, so did the detainee who made the original allegation--a fact that went largely unreported. Nevertheless, the U.S. military commissioned Brigadier General Jay Hood to look into allegations of Koran mishandling at the Guantanamo facility. General Hood delivered his report on June 3; it can be accessed here. The report, read together with the ensuing press coverage, suggests how far our public discourse has diverged from any realistic understanding of war, prisons, or human behavior.

The Hood report documents an exquisite concern for the religious sensibilities of Guantanamo's detainees. Consider the implications of this incident:

On 18 AUG 03, two detainees complained that the guards had violated the Koran search policy when they touched the surgical masks used to hang detainee Korans from cell walls during a security, safety, and welfare inspection. The incident was recorded in the electronic blotter system. The guards stated in the blotter log that they were not violating Koran search policy because they did not actually touch the Koran when they squeezed and felt for bulges in the surgical masks. The SOP in place at the time of the incident did not address searching the Koran through the masks.

Or this one:

On 5 JAN 03, a translator was called to translate during a search of a cell. The detainee residing in the cell refused to show his Koran during the search. The guards informed the detainee that if he did not show his Koran they would be forced to search it. The detainee did not comply. The MPs put on clean latex gloves and used a clean towel as they conducted the search. During the search, detainees in nearby cells continuously threw water at the MPs. As the translator departed the cell, the detainee spat on him. The translator recorded the incident in a sworn statement.

Or this:

On 18 AUG 03, at 1220 hours, a guard conducted a routine search of a detainee's cell. During the search, the guard accidentally knocked the detainee's Koran out of its holder (a surgical mask) and onto his bunk. The block NCO responded to the cell and explained to the detainee that the incident was an accident. The ICRC asked MG Miller, Commander JTF-GTMO, about the incident during a meeting on 09 OCT 03. MG Miller told the ICRC that he had investigated the incident and determined it to be an accident. A guard recorded the incident in sworn statement.

There can't be a single instance, in all of human history, where the spiritual sensitivities of captured enemy combatants have been so scrupulously regarded. This is borne out by those few cases where "abuse" was actually found; they are, in the words of the often-puzzling cliché, exceptions that prove the rule. Consider what the apology and disciplinary action taken in this instance tell us about the rarity of such events:

On 25 JUL 03, a contract interrogator apologized to a detainee for stepping on the detainee's Koran in an earlier interrogation. The memorandum of the 25 Jul 03, interrogation session shows that the detainee had reported to other detainees that his Koran had been stepped on. The detainee accepted the apology and agreed to inform other detainees of the apology and ask them to cease disruptive behaviors caused by the incident. The interrogator was later terminated for a pattern of unacceptable behavior, an inability to follow direct guidance and poor leadership. We consider this a confirmed incident.

In one widely-reported incident, several copies of the Koran got wet when guards tossed water balloons into the detainees' compound:

On 15 AUG 03, two detainees complained to the swing shift guards (14002200 hrs) that the detainees' Korans were wet because the night shift guards had thrown water balloons on the block. The swing shift guards recorded the complaints in the block blotter log in accordance with normal procedures. We have not determined if the detainees made further complaints or if the Korans were replaced. There is no evidence that this incident was investigated. There is no evidence that the incident, although clearly inappropriate, caused any type of disturbance on the Block. We consider this a confirmed incident.

The Hood report doesn't explain what led up to the water balloon bombardment, but in the murderous context of Islamist terrorism, it's hard to get exercised about "torture" via water balloons.