I truly understand the (self-) righteous indignation exhibited by the White House regarding the recent Newsweek retraction.
I agree with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the story is "appalling." Likewise, I concur with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's lamentation that "people lost their lives." And I am certainly in harmony with White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan that "our image abroad has been damaged."
Newsweek retracted its May 9 story citing information from a "knowledgeable government source" that a military report on abuse at Guantanamo Bay found interrogators had flushed at least one copy of the Quran down a toilet in an attempt to make detainees talk.
Newsweek's flawed reporting about the desecration of the Quran is particularly troubling because it is linked to 17 deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Equally troubling is the dubious fraternity that that magazine has now joined.
To say portions of the media have been ethically challenged in the past year is like saying Custer overreached at Little Big Horn.
There is the unsubstantiated reporting by Dan Rather and CBS regarding President Bush's National Guard service. Jayson Blair temporarily transformed The New York Times into the world's largest creative fiction writing establishment.
Several conservative pundits, most notably Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher, wrote in support of administration policies while failing to disclose they were simultaneously feeding from the administration financial trough.
How could we forget the attempts by Sinclair Broadcasting to run a "hit piece" on John Kerry during the final weeks of the election?
Because of our collective desire to live for the moment, we are perhaps titillated by blogs, talk radio and elected officials at the prospects to pile on the latest media faux pas.
Newsweek's journalistic errors are inexcusable. How many journalism classes are required before one is informed of the danger of relying on a single source?
Newsweek's unfortunate journalism has provided needed cover allowing the administration to bemoan what it is unwilling to do. Just as it did with the Terri Schiavo matter, the administration has shrewdly used the Newsweek debacle to keep the focus away from where it should be directed most.
I'm afraid Rice's "appalling" comment is somewhat overly myopic. How quickly she forgets Abu Ghraib and the appalling manner in which this administration handled it.
How many ACLU, Human Watch, Red Cross and Amnesty International reports will be required -- describing our human rights violations at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere -- before we begin to take the extent that torture has played in the war on terror seriously?
Rumsfeld is right that people have lost their lives -- more than 1,600 U.S. troops along with estimated tens of thousands of Iraqis. With regard to the weapons of mass destruction, was it not Rumsfeld who said in the spring of 2003: "We know where they are"?
As people on all sides have lost their lives, there remains the shadow of a smoking gun that no one seems willing to touch. All the vigor to tar and feather Newsweek is sorely missing when it comes to the July 23, 2002, memo that questions the authenticity of the case for war.
Is McClellan serious that "our image abroad has been damaged" as a result of Newsweek? The most strident supporters of the administration's policies would be hard-pressed to make that claim and maintain a straight face.
For all of the criticisms of Newsweek, who in the administration has come forward with a categorical denial that such actions have taken place? How can the administration be more outraged about Newsweek's infractions than the 36 people who have died while interrogated under U.S. watch?
This administration treads lightly when it comes to accountability, historically demonstrating a willingness to hold others to a standard that it is unwilling to hold itself.
Newsweek, for its part, did the only thing it could by admitting its infractions, which is more than can be said for this administration.
Byron Williams writes a weekly political/social commentary at Byronspeaks.com. Byron serves as pastor of the Resurrection Community Church in Oakland, California.
© 2005 Working Assets