- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 12, 2005

Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s kleptocrat strongman, destroyed a mosque the other day. It was in Hatcliffe Extension, a shantytown on the edge of Harare, razed by the “police.” Mr. Mugabe is an equal-opportunity razer: He also bulldozed a Catholic-run Aids center.

The government destroyed the town to drive the locals into the countryside to live on land stolen from white farmers. Quite how that’s meant to benefit any of those involved or the broader needs of Zimbabwe is beyond me, but then I’m no expert in Afro-Marxist economic theory.

The point is the world’s Muslims seem entirely cool with Infidel Bob razing a mosque. Unlike the fallout over Newsweek’s fraudulent story about the Koran being flushed down a toilet, no excitable young men went bananas in Pakistan; no Western progressives berated Mr. Mugabe for his “cultural insensitivity.” And sadly most of the big-shot Muslim spokespersons were still too busy flaying the Bush administration to whip their subjects into a frenzy over Hatcliffe Extension’s pile of Islamic rubble.

Last week, Ambassador Atta el-Manan Bakhit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference called on Washington to show “no leniency” to the “perpetrators” of “this despicable crime.” “This disgraceful conduct of those soldiers reveal their blatant hatred and disdain for the religion of millions of Muslims all over the world,” said His Excellency. The Egyptian foreign minister was also in a tizzy. “We denounce in the strongest possible terms what the Pentagon confirmed about the desecration of the Qu’ran,” said Ahmed Aboul Gheit, calling for strong measures, heads to roll, etc.

And what was it the Pentagon “confirmed”? That since Gitmo became the global center of U.S. Koran Desecration operations, there have been five verifiable instances of official minor “disrespect” for the holy book, three of them perhaps intentional, which averages out to one incident yearly.

The same report also turned up 15 documented instances of “disrespect” by Muslim detainees. “These included using a Quran as a pillow, ripping pages out of the Quran, attempting to flush a Quran down the toilet and urinating on the Quran.”

When 3 times as many detainees as U.S. guards “desecrate” the Koran, it seems clear the whole Operation Desecration ballyhoo is yet another media crock and the Organization of the Islamic Conference and all the rest are complaining about nothing. Or is Koran desecration one of those things like Jews telling Jewish jokes or gangsta rappers using racial epithets: Are only devout Muslims allowed to desecrate the Koran? No doubt that’s why the Egyptian foreign minister et al. had no comment on the recent suicide bombing at a mosque in Kandahar, which killed 20, wounded more than 50 and presumably desecrated every Koran in the building.

Yet, as is often the case, the Muslim world’s whiney spokespersons have been effortlessly topped by the old hands of the anti-American left. Thus, according to Amnesty International, Gitmo is the “gulag of our time.”

Well then, these are diminished times for gulags. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, some 15 million to 30 million prisoners Russians died in the Soviet gulags. By comparison, Guantanamo at its peak held 750 prisoners; now there are 520. None have died in captivity, and, as I wrote 3 years ago, it has the distinction of being “a camp where the medical staff outnumber the prisoners.” You’ll get swifter, cleaner and more efficient treatment than most Canadians get under socialized health care. Indeed, it’s the only gulag in history where the detainees leave in better health and weighing more than when they arrive. They’re in much better shape when they get back to their hectic schedule of killing infidels: Of the more than 200 who’ve been released, around 5 percent — that’s to say, 12 — have since been recaptured on the battlefield.

Why would a human-rights organization want to trivialize the murder of millions in totalitarian death camps by comparing them with a nondeath camp that flatters every aspect of the inmates’ culture? If Gitmo’s a gulag, what words are left for the systemic rape practiced by the butchers of Darfur? Or is it because they’ve so exhausted the extremes of their vocabulary on Guantanamo that the world’s progressives have so little to say about real horrors like Sudan?

No serious allegation of torture at the camp has been substantiated, and in the al Qaeda training manual found in Manchester, England, a couple of years back Rule 18 couldn’t be more explicit: When held captive by the infidel, members must “complain to the court of mistreatment while in prison” and say “torture was inflicted on them.”

A healthy skepticism would thus seem advisable. Instead, the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman runs around like a hysterical ninny, shrieking that Washington needs to shut down Guantanamo right now — not because of anything that occurred there but because of negative “perceptions” in the overseas press.

And would caving in to those negative perceptions lead to any better press? Nobody got killed in Gitmo, so instead America is being flayed as the planet’s No. 1 torturer for being insufficiently respectful to the holy book of its prisoners, even though the Americans themselves supplied their prisoners with the holy book, even though Americans who fall into the hands of the other side get their heads hacked off, even though the prisoners’ co-religionists themselves blow up more mosques and Korans than the Pentagon ever does, even though the preferred holy book of most Americans is banned in the home country of many prisoners, where respect for other faiths is summed up in the headline, “Seven Christians released in Saudi Arabia on condition they renounce private religious practice.”

That headline ran in the British Catholic newspaper the Universe last week, by the way. Sadly, no U.S. newspaper found room for the story due to pressures of space caused by all the “Al Qaeda press secretary denounces insufficient respect for Koran by Rumsfeld” Page One splashes.

But sure, go ahead, close Gitmo and wait for the rave reviews from the media — right after the complaints it’s culturally insensitive to rebuild the World Trade Center when it’s the burial site of 10 revered Muslim martyrs.

Guantanamo will be remembered not as a byword for torture but for self-torture, a Western fetish the jihad’s spin-doctors understand all too well.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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