Since Armando is rightfully fixated on the filibuster fight, I thought I’d take a shot at critiquing David Brooks’s latest column.

Brooksie starts out by attacking the right-wing blogosphere to establish his bona fides as a centrist voice of reason. He assures the wingnuts that, “(w)hatever might have been the cause of (Newsweek’s) mistakes, liberalism had nothing to do with it.”

Then he sets his eyes on yours truly, and all our comrades on the left:

Meanwhile, the left side of the blogosphere has erupted with fury over the possibility that American interrogators might not have flushed a Koran down the toilet. The Nation and leftish Web sites are in a frenzy to prove that the story is probably true even if Newsweek is retracting it.

This, too, is unhinged. Would it be illegal for more people on the left to actually be happy that a story slurring Americans may turn out to be unproven? Could there be a few more liberals willing to admit that prisoners routinely lie about their treatment? (Do we expect them to say their time in captivity wasn’t so bad?)


Oh, what a clever son of a bitch this Brooks guy is. First, he correctly diagnoses the fury with which many of us have reacted to the Newsweek story. Then he misdiagnoses why we are furious.

Do you think I am angry because of the “possibility that American interrogators might not have flushed a Koran down the toilet”?

I am angry because there is almost no question that American interrogators, military police, and national guardspeople have not only been abusing the Koran, but forcing prisoners to play naked twister, setting dogs on people, and have, by their own admission, tortured at least 26 detainees to death.

I am angry because the anonymous ‘high level Bush administration official’ never denied that he had seen ‘investigative reports’ of Koranic desecration, nor did he even suggest the possibility that it had not occurred.

Am I in a frenzy? Maybe Brooks feels like calling a couple of lawyers and interviewing them independently, and asking them if they had heard reports of Koranic desecration from their clients, is frenzied behavior.

I call it basic reporting. He should try it.

When you talk to a source, David, you can get a sense for whether they are bullshitting you. In my case, the first lawyer I called was afraid to go on the record because they felt that going on the record with reports of abuse would hurt their clients’ best interests. If anything, this whole episode has shown how dangerous it is to release detainees and allow them to talk about how they were treated. If they talk before they are released, there is little chance they’ll be released at all.

Of course some of the detainees are going to make false accusations. Some of them may have even been trained to do this. Do you think 26 of them were also trained to be beaten to death?

Would I be happy to learn that the charges of Koranic desecration were unproven? No. I’d be happy to learn that the people representing the detainees were skeptical of their client’s allegations, that they had heard some scattered allegations, but they seemed concocted…

That is NOT what I heard. I heard that these allegations were rampant, continuous, credible, and that the lawyers put a lot of credence into them. And they explained why they put credence into them, and their explanations were reasonable and rational.

I’ve written in my last two columns about why I consider this so important. So, here I will just say that the problem is not that we are taking our eye off ‘the extremists’, but that too much of what the extremists are saying about us is true. We have become what they, falsely, claimed we were all along. People with no respect for Islam. People with a myopic inability to distinguish a devout Muslim from a raving mad bomb-maker. People who have abandoned due process and human rights treaties, and invade Muslim countries under false pretexts.

I’d love to learn that Abu Ghraib never happened, or that we hadn’t killed 26 prisoners, or that the Koran was not urinated on. But wishing doesn’t make it so, David. And unless we force this administration to stop what they are doing, they are going to continue to make the ‘extremists’ case for them.

That’s the problem. That is what I’m angry about.

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