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May 26, 2005

Koran Abuse

According to this story's headline, "FBI Memos Report Guards Flushed Koran."

After going to the source documents at the ACLU's website, I'm not sure the headline is accurate, or that the allegations should be given any weight.

As a lawyer, I know what proof is. At a minimum, it's enough facts to make the occurrence of an event more likely than not. I'm not sure the collected allegations add up to proof. Let's look at what is alleged about Koran abuse in those released FBI memos.

- Detainee [said] that Military Police "have been. . . kicking the Koran."

- Detainee stat[ed] that "some unknown detainees are not talking in retaliation to an incident where a guard kicked the Koran."

- REDACTED advised he "heard the altercation between the detainee and the guards began when the guards disrespected the Koran."

Looks like a pretty damning allegation, right? Clear evidence of Koran abuse, huh? Well, maybe not.

- "Camp Delta detainee uprising which occurred on or about 19-20 July 2002, was started when one detainee claimed that a guard dropped a Koran. In actuality the detainee dropped the Koran and then blamed the guard. Many other detainees reacted to this claim and this initiated the uprising."

So unless the FBI is covering something up, the Koran kicking allegations are probably bogus. What happened after the lockdown?

- Detainee "reiterated . . . that he would not provide any information until the U.S. Government and interrogators in Camp Delta changed the way it treated the Muslim holy book, the Koran. Moreover . . . an incident in the camp yesterday, which cause some areas of the camp to be locked down, was based on the guard's abuse of the Koran. As a result of this incident and what REDACTED claimed were the resulting beatings and further mishandling of the Koran, he was going to shut down and refuse to talk at all. . . . REDACTED stated that it was an abuse of the Koran for non-believers to handle the Koran."


- When asked for examples when he had personally witnessed the mistreatment of the Koran, Detainee could offer none. Instead REDACTED referred to general examples of claimed abuse, wherein soldiers, who were non-believers, had touched the book when searching it.

Hmmm. Evidently, the myth that a guard kicked the Koran survived the insurrection and debunking, and has been used as the basis for further detainee resistance efforts. And some of the abuse stems from the principle - apparently sui generis to radical Salafis - that if us unbelievers touch the Koran, it's grounds for a Koran abuse charge. Okay. These Islamacist claims aren't looking too good here. Maybe there's something with the ring of truth in the other allegations.

- [Detainee] said it was not right to use the Koran as reward/punishment; doing so is disrespectful of the Koran."

That sounds pretty bad. Then you read this.

- Detainee "complained the guards would take away the Koran as punishment and he believed this punishment was unjust as the Koran is extremely important to Muslim detainees. "

This is getting worse. The military police were taking Korans from the detainees.

- The use of the Koran as a weapon against detainees, REDACTED stated, had failed. Interrogators who had taken the Koran from individual detainees as a reprisal or as an incentive for cooperation had failed to sway the brothers and would continue to fail.

Interrogators were taking Korans away, or giving them back based on whether retainees cooperated. This is looking worse. But then there's this entry:

- Detainee "stated that the treatment of the Koran continued to be the reason for his unwillingness to cooperate. REDACTED was asked how the mistreatment of the Koran had taken place. REDACTED stated that the issue continued to be based on what the detainees perceived as the use of the Koran as a weapon. It was taken from them and returned at will, with little consideration for the value which they placed in the book. REDACTED was asked if he had ever seen the Koran mistreated or intentionally mishandled. He had not. REDACTED was asked if he had ever seen the Koran thrown around, tossed on the ground or mistreated in any way. He had not . . . . REDACTED was informed that his case for the proper treatment of the Koran had been taken to higher levels and presented as a serious issue. The effort had been hurt, however, because it had been found that detainees were hiding things within the pages of the Koran. As a result, the guards were required to look through the Koran for their own safety. REDACTED was asked if he could assure camp officials that none of the detainees would ever hide any objects of any kind in their Korans. He stated he could not.

So much for that dynamite allegation. The detainees were hiding things in their Korans, and the detainees also defined as abuse and sacrilege any guard efforts to search the Korans for contraband. Seems like the guards had a Hobson's choice here - respect the Koran the way the detainees asked, or let them keep shanks in that holy and inviolable book. Next:

- Detainee was informed by FBI agent " that he was able to convince the Commanding General to allow the interviewing agent to return the Koran to REDACTED. In reality, a Department of Defense order from the Secretary of Defense mandated all detainees, regardless of reward level, would have a Koran which could not be taken away. In an effort to use this to his advantage, the interviewing agent made it appear as if he was able to win something back for REDACTED."

Hmmm. There's a pretty clear example of FBI abuse, I guess, providing touching or talking about the Koran is abuse. The detainees reacted pretty reasonably to this, by demanding their captors stop disrespecting Islam:

- Detainee " is presently on a strike regarding talking with interrogators due to an alleged incident involving an interrogator humiliating the Koran during the interrogation of another detainee. REDACTED did not witness the incident and only heard about it through hearsay. . . . the strike would end once the detainees saw something in writing regarding the prohibition of acts that humiliate the Koran and/or Islam."

How exactly should the Gitmo personnel have gone about respecting the Koran? We've found out that there was a Rumsfeld-driven policy prohibiting taking the Koran away from the detainees. Were they asking for authority to vet DOD policy here? It sure looks that way.

- Detainee " commented that. . . the searching of the Koran needs to be looked into. The guards need to be made aware of how they are humiliating the Koran."

Got that? Searching Korans, in which contraband was being stored, was disrespectful to Islam. That's reasonable, as long as you buy the proposition that an unbeliever touching the Koran, is an insult to Islam.

There were two other Koran abuse allegations made in the FBI logs of events at Gitmo:

- The treatment at Guantanamo Bay is unbearable. REDACTED advised it was worse than Hitler's treatment of the Jews. . . . He commented that the older guards are usually very nice and the younger ones cause a lot of the problems. They often disgrace the Koran by throwing it on the cell floor and frequently use profanity which many of the detainees find extremely offensive."

That sound pretty bad - the guards are always throwing the Koran on the floor. I wonder if they're kicking it. Which wouldn't be a shock, since kicking the Koran is worse than Hitler treated the Jews... [Godwin's Law is apparently inoperable on sovereign Cuban territory, otherwise this allegation would be per se non-credible...]

And finally, one lone reference to flushing the Koran.

- They flushed a Koran in the toilet. The guards dance around when the detainees are trying to pray. The guards still do these things."

Got that? Not only did the guards throw the Koran in the toilet one time, but they keep throwing it in the toilet and flushing it down. "The guards still do these things."

Examining this critically, I'd say that the Koran abuse allegations are not particularly credible. It looks more like a game of "telephone" to me, where nobody has actually seen any abuse (except for the two guys to whom it happens all the time); but everybody knows a guy, who knows somebody, who heard about another guy who saw the Koran abuse.

Moreover, in a facility where there was an uprising based on a mere rumor of a guard kicking a Koran, the alleged flushing and stamping and throwing of the Koran is allegedly going on all the time, according to these two later sources, yet there aren't frequent riots or widespread accounts of the flushing. Shouldn't there be some reaction to that?

Um... sorry. On the weight of the evidence, the Koran abuse allegations aren't credible. Have some guards probably treated the Koran insensitively? Probably. Is it anything like the horrors portrayed in the articles and by Michael Isikoff? Highly doubtful.

But don't take my word for it. Read the source documents yourself, and make up your own mind. If you trust the media to give you the straight scoop on this, you are a fool. And if you trust me, well, you're less foolish, but you probably shouldn't. Just go read the allegations yourself.

Posted by Blackavar at May 26, 2005 12:12 AM | TrackBack
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