The Red Cross Corroborates Newsweek

From Holden:

Which makes Little Scottie a liar (again). Here he is yesterday.

Q Can you assure us that there have been no instances of desecration of the Koran?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Department of Defense actually addressed that yesterday, and I talked about it, as well.

Q You can assure us of that, there are no cases?

MR. McCLELLAN: You ought to talk to the Department of Defense. They talked about it yesterday. They have found nothing to substantiate any such allegation that was made by the Newsweek report. And Newsweek, itself, retracted the report because they realized it was wrong.

Now people are going to claim Scottie did not lie because he said that Newsweek’s story (that the Pentagon would admit in an official report that U.S. soldiers threw a Koran into a toilet) was wrong. But let’s cut the crap here, the main thrust of the Newsweek piece was that U.S. soldiers had desecrated the Koran. The Pentagon’s omission of that fact from it’s official reporting is an important example of malfeasance, but it’s not what this story is all about.

Today, the ICRC dropped the hammer.

The International Committee of the Red Cross documented what it called credible information about U.S. personnel disrespecting or mishandling Korans at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and pointed it out to the Pentagon in confidential reports during 2002 and early 2003, an ICRC spokesman said Wednesday.


ICRC delegates, who have been granted access to the secretive camp since January 2002, gathered and corroborated enough similar, independent reports from detainees to raise the issue multiple times with Guantanamo commanders and with Pentagon officials, Schorno said in an interview Wednesday.

Following the ICRC’s reports, the Defense Department command in Guantanamo issued almost three pages of detailed, written guidelines for treatment of Korans. Schorno said ICRC representatives did not receive any other complaints or document similar incidents following the issuance of the guidelines on Jan. 19, 2003.


Schorno did say, however, that there were “multiple” instances involved and that the ICRC made confidential reports about such incidents “multiple” times to Guantanamo and Pentagon officials.


Asked about the ICRC’s confidential reports Wednesday night, Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, confirmed their existence but sought to downplay the seriousness of their content. He said they were forwarded “on rare occasions” and called them “detainee allegations which they [the ICRC] could not corroborate.”

But that is not how Schorno, the ICRC spokesman, portrayed the reports.

“All information we received were corroborated allegations,” he said, adding, “We certainly corroborated mentions of the events by detainees themselves.”


Schorno also said: “Obviously, it is not just one person telling us something happened and we just fire up. We take it very seriously, and very carefully, and document everything in our confidential reports.”


Still, Whitman said there was nothing in the ICRC reports that approximated the information published in the story retracted by Newsweek.

“The representations that were made to the United States military at Guantanamo by the ICRC are consistent with the types of things we have found in various [U.S. military] log entries about handling Korans, such as the accidental dropping of a Koran,” he said.


A senior State Department official, speaking only on the condition that he not be named, said Wednesday the issuance of the guidelines followed the ICRC’s reports and that they were “a credit to the fact that we investigate and correct practices and problems.”

Whitman, the Pentagon spokesman, said he was not aware of “any specific precipitating event that caused the command to codify those in a written policy.”

Whitman also said, “The ICRC works very closely with us to help us identify concerns with respect to detainees on a variety of issues, to include religious issues. But I can’t make any direct correlation there” between ICRC concerns on the Koran and the issuance of the 2003 guidelines.