MEA MAXIMA MAXIMA MAXIMA CULPA….Newsweek’s editor-in-chief, Richard Smith, engages today in yet another public mea culpa over the Koran desecration story: “Trust is hard won and easily lost,” he writes anxiously, “and to our readers, we pledge to earn their renewed confidence.” And make no mistake: procedures will be changed to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

This is like watching Darkness at Noon in real life. Newsweek made a small error in a 300-word blurb a couple of weeks ago, and since then the right-wing media hate machine, like a jackal sensing a rare opportunity for blood, has somehow managed to convince them they bear responsibility for riots in Afghanistan that were staged by extremists who obviously used the Newsweek article as nothing more than pretext.

This is really pissing me off. For the record, let’s recap what we’ve learned over the past year or so:

Pictures from Abu Ghraib showed naked prisoners being stacked like cordwood and mocked by female guards ? and there’s worse stuff in Pentagon files that Congress has decided not to allow out of its locked vaults. There have been confirmed reports from Guantanamo of beatings, shacklings, and lighted cigarettes being stuck in prisoners’ ears. 36 prisoners have died during interrogations. The Red Cross wrote detailed reports documenting abusive conduct in Iraq and was laughed off. The officers reponsible for overseeing abusive interrogations weren’t punished, they were lauded for their work and transferred to other prisons. Hardened FBI agents wrote emails expressing their disgust at what they had seen. Innocent men have been tortured to death in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The White House counsel wrote memoranda justifying torture as an inherent right of the president. Rendition of suspects to other countries that have long histories of torturing prisoners is routine. Reports of Koran desecration have been circulating for a long time, and recent investigations have confirmed that mockery of religious symbols is common. The Red Cross warned the Pentagon about this years ago.

Needless to say, this isn’t exhaustive. In the light of this, Newsweek’s offense, which was pretty minor to begin with, is about the equivalent of jaywalking across a busy city street.

Newsweek and the rest of the media need to get up off their knees and start fighting back. They’ve done enough apologizing.

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