Last week, Newsweek published a story claiming U.S. interrogators were desecrating the Quran by tearing it up and flushing it down the toilet.

Predictably, the story sparked protests across the Islamic world. In Afghanistan, at least 17 people died and more than 100 were injured. And this is just the beginning. Muslim clerics, who search for opportunities to fan the flames of hatred toward the United States, leaped on this “gift” from the liberal U.S. media.

It was the worst street violence the country has seen since U.S. troops ousted the Taliban in 2001. Newsweek issued what it called an “apology.” It admitted its source was wrong, and said it regretted putting U.S. troops in harm’s way. It offered its sympathy to the victims.

It makes me wonder. Even if the story were accurate, it would have still caused the same riots. It would still have inevitably put U.S. troops in harm’s way. So would Newsweek still “regret” the results?

The chief spokesman at the Pentagon, Lawrence Di Rita, called the apology “very tepid and qualified.” He told a news conference, “Newsweek reported something that was factually inaccurate on several points. It’s demonstrably wrong, and Newsweek has acknowledged that. But they have not retracted it, and have tried instead to water it down.” Di Rita added, “They printed a story based on an erroneous source or sources that was demonstrably false and that resulted in riots in which people were killed. I don’t know how else to parse it.”

Another Pentagon spokesman, Byran Whitman, issued a statement. In it, he said, “Newsweek hid behind anonymous sources, which by their own admission do not withstand scrutiny. Unfortunately, they cannot retract the damage they have done to this nation or those that were viciously attacked by those false allegations.”

Newsweek explained why they ran the story, saying, “There had been previous reports about the Quran being defiled, but they always seemed to be rumors or allegations made by sources without evidence. The fact that a knowledgeable source within the U.S. government was telling us the government itself had knowledge of this was newsworthy.”

And the fact that the source was wrong is evidently merely inconvenient. Especially after Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker insisted the magazine would not make any retraction.

He said in an interview that no disciplinary action would be considered against the reporters. Whittaker’s extension of sympathies is transparently meaningless public-relations doublespeak. It’s “apology” left readers with the distinct impression that the only thing wrong with the story was that Newsweek couldn’t absolutely prove it, not that it didn’t happen. It sounds like the Dan Rather defense. Except in this story, people died.

All the retractions in the world, even if they are made, will not quench the fires of fanaticism this irresponsible report has ignited. The Muslim street is already predisposed to believe the most outrageous lies about the United States anyway. Now our own media has given them a choice excuse to hate us more.

Whenever a person throws gasoline on a fire that is already threatening people’s lives, we arrest them. Isn’t this exactly what Newsweek has done?

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