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Wednesday, June 08, 2005  

News: Quran abuses at Guantánamo proven

'Jaded' doesn't capture it. I'm beyond that. While other people were engaging in "did/didn't" conversations about the first reports of American personnel at our Guantánamo Bay concentration camp abusing the Quran, my response was 'What else is new?" After the revelations about prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, why would anyone doubt that similar things were occurring at an even more secretive facility? Or, just consider human nature. Given the opportunity to wrong others, with little possibility of being penalized themselves, many people will. The shrieks and screams over Newsweek's publication of the original allegations struck me as little more than efforts to drown out thoughtfulness with noise. As for Newsweek's apology, the fit throwers misinterpreted it. The editors said they had published their articles without adequate confirmation. They did not say there was no basis for the stories. Now, we know that the revelations in Newsweek were not all that far afield.

The New York Times reports that the Pentagon has confirmed the Quran has been abused at Guantánamo Bay.

WASHINGTON, June 3 - A military inquiry has found that guards or interrogators at the Guantánamo Bay detention center in Cuba kicked, stepped on and splashed urine on the Koran, in some cases intentionally but in others by accident, the Pentagon said on Friday.

The splashing of urine was among the cases described as inadvertent. It was said to have occurred when a guard urinated near an air vent and the wind blew his urine through the vent into a detainee's cell. The detainee was given a fresh uniform and a new Koran, and the guard was reprimanded and assigned to guard duty that kept him from contact with detainees for the remainder of his time at Guantánamo, according to the military inquiry.

The other examples of damage to Qurans offered in the report fall short of the claim Newsweek reported three weeks ago: that the holy book of Islam has been flushed down a toilet at the prison. There are also efforts to minimize the incidents by referring to them as inadvertent or uncertain. Still, considering the source of this information, the Pentagon, any admission suggests that there is more going on than is being said. Perhaps, eventually, it will be proven that there was contact between a toilet and a Quran. Perhaps not. But, the attitudes of American personnel toward the prisoners at Guantánamo are likely to have led to acts of psychological and physical abuse. Indeed, the prisoners may have been given Qurans so that they would have something to fear loss or abuse of.

Though I generally find Sen. Joseph Biden irritating, an example of spineless leadership by Democrats, I agree with him about the overall remedy for problems at Guantánamo. Close it. Biden's remarks to the Times consider what the Bush administration doesn't in regard to Guantanamo -- international opinion.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A leading Senate Democrat said Sunday the United States needs to move toward shutting down the military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

''This has become the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world. And it is unnecessary to be in that position,'' said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del.

A Pentagon report released Friday detailed incidents in which U.S. guards at Guantanamo desecrated the Quran. Last month, Amnesty International called the detention center for alleged terrorists ''the gulag of our time,'' a charge Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld dismissed as ''reprehensible.''

The purpose for which the prison exists -- to provide a place where people can be detained and interrogated not on U.S. soil -- is, in itself, suspect. It allows the government to avoid the protections the Geneva Conventions give detainees. That flouting of the rules provides ample opportunity for mistreatment to flourish. Most of the more than 500 persons held at Guantánamo, captured in 2001 and 2002, have never even been charged with crimes. It is also unlikely, that they, low level recruits to militant Islamic groups, have any significant information about al Qaida or the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. The main purpose the prison is serving at this point is providing a focal point for anger at the U.S. in Muslim countries. The reasons for closing the increasingly infamous facility far outweigh any for keeping it open.

9:30 PM