Saturday, May 21, 2005

Credible and Specific Allegations? We Got Yer Credible and Specific Allegations 

It's on the record:
It wasn't tossed in a toilet, but disrespecting an inmate's Koran got at least one American soldier reprimanded at the Guantanamo prison for terrorists, the Daily News has learned.

A record of the 2003 punishment was discovered by Army Brig. Gen. John Furlow while probing Gitmo misconduct alleged in FBI memos. But it wasn't included in the final report given to the U.S. Southern Command, according to a military official familiar with the investigation . . . .

But two reliable military sources confirmed the previously undisclosed reprimand at the Camp Delta prison - contradicting Bush administration denials of any "credible and specific allegations" about Koran desecration at Gitmo.

"That's true," an ex-Army interrogator at Gitmo said. "I am aware of somebody having their hand slapped."

The source said a soldier on another interrogation team was punished for "trying to be insulting" of a detainee's Koran.
The Red Cross, as you know, collected numerous allegations of Quran desecration at Gitmo, to which he Pentagon responded in January of 2003 by issuing three pages of guidelines for proper handling of the holy book. After that, according to the ICRC, the complaints by detainees stopped:
Red Cross delegates, who have visited Guantanamo regularly since the arrival in January 2002 of the first of about 600 detainees, did not personally witness any instances of disrespect toward the Quran. Instead, Schorno said, they received an unspecified number of reports from detainees that this had occurred.

Schorno told the Chicago Tribune, which first reported the story Thursday, that the delegates gathered and corroborated enough similar, independent reports from detainees to raise the issue on numerous occasions with Guantanamo commanders and Pentagon officials.

"All information we received were corroborated allegations," he told the newspaper. "Obviously, it is not just one person telling us something happened and we just fire up." It was unclear what the Red Cross' corroboration process consisted of . . . .

[Pentagon spokesman Bryan] Whitman, however, declined to provide specifics on the ICRC's complaints. He said the ICRC raised issues on "rare occasion" about the handling of the Quran, and that the military was receptive to the group's concerns.

He refused to specifically say whether the ICRC had raised issues about a Quran being placed in a toilet. The Pentagon has said it has no evidence such an incident ever happened.
Raw Story has a good piece on the camp-wide hunger strike that led to the adoption of the Quran guidelines. The Gitmo strike drew extensive press coverage at the time -- from Knight-Ridder, the AP, and the Washington Post, among others -- but those well-substantiated stories have been largely neglected in post-Newsweek reportage, relegated almost to the status of rumor. "[C]orroborating press work done in 2002 has disappeared—as have the confirming quotes by majors, colonels, and generals—to be replaced by the allegations of detainee lawyers and a besmirched former Muslim chaplain":
[The Pentagon policy] is very specific in directing personnel to handle the Quran in ways that signal care, respect, and reverence. It even specifies that the Quran should not be placed near toilets.

What seems peculiar is that such a specific policy should emerge out the blue a year after detainees began arriving at the camp. And, in fact, it did not emerge out of the blue—-but followed at least one well-documented incident in which a Koran was mishandled.
UPDATE (via our distinguished colleague Joe Wezorek of American Leftist): Several newly-declassified interviews with detainees from Guantanamo and elsewhere, about "the use of tactics intended to degrade their religious beliefs," have been published by Human Rights First. The bit with the dog, described below, is new to us:
[I]n a lawsuit filed by Human Rights First and the ACLU on behalf of eight former detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq, two of the Iraqi former detainees claim that U.S. personnel desecrated copies of the Koran, throwing the holy book on the ground, stepping on it, and having a dog pick it up in its mouth.

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