Monday, May 23, 2005


Karzai and Myers: Newsweek article had nothing to do with riots

In an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN yesterday, Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai said what General Richard Myers had said on May 12, nearly two weeks earlier: that the Newsweek article, while it was unfortunate, did NOT, repeat, did NOT, cause the rioting and deaths in his country. Here's General Myers' comments from May 12:

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff says a report from Afghanistan suggests that rioting in Jalalabad on May 11 was not necessarily connected to press reports that the Quran might have been desecrated in the presence of Muslim prisoners held in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Air Force General Richard Myers told reporters at the Pentagon May 12 that he has been told that the Jalalabad, Afghanistan, rioting was related more to the ongoing political reconciliation process in Afghanistan than anything else. According to initial reports, the situation in Jalalabad began on May 10 with peaceful student protests reacting to a report in Newsweek magazine that U.S. military interrogators questioning Muslim detainees at the Guantanamo detention center “had placed Quran s on toilets, and in at least one case flushed a holy book.” By the following day the protests in the city had turned violent with reports of several individuals killed, dozens wounded, and widespread looting of government, diplomatic and nongovernmental assets. However, Myers said an after-action report provided by U.S. Army Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, commander of the Combined Forces in Afghanistan, indicated that the political violence was not, in fact, connected to the magazine report.
And here's Karzai's comments (the direct CNN transcript link is here):
BLITZER: How much damage to the U.S. image was done by that "Newsweek" story, that has since been fully retracted, alleging that U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay flushed a Koran down the toilet? KARZAI: It was a very unfortunate story. First of all, a very serious matter: a matter of people's beliefs and feelings. It is reported in a column, in a gossip column. That's very -- well, I don't know what to say about that. That's just not good. We were angry about that. It's a rumor. Let's be wise. Let's be assistive. Let's check if it's true or not true, and then react, and react reasonably. What happened in Afghanistan a week ago was really not something done by the Afghan people. It was actually the violence -- the trouble was directed at the strategic partnership that Afghanistan is talking with the United States. It was directed at the peace process that we have of inviting back the thousands of the Taliban to come back to their country. It was actually against the elections in Afghanistan. So we know what was going on there.
But of course, this won't stop the Bushistas and their right-wing media allies in the blogosphere and beyond from repeating the lie against Newsweek.

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