Don’t Let that Book Touch the Ground–Or Else!

Newsweek’s story about a koran being flushed down the toilet at Guantanomo prison is turning into an epic case of damage control gone bad. Today’s NY times has a story about the background of the alleged incident.

“Erik Saar, a co-author of the book “Inside the Wire” and an Arabic language translator at Guantánamo from January to June 2003, said in an interview Monday that while he “never saw anything along the lines of a Koran being flushed down a toilet,” the issue of how guards and interrogators handled the book was a chronic problem. Inmates, they noted, were given copies of the Koran along with a cloth surgical mask, which they used as a kind of sling to suspend the book from the wire mesh walls to ensure it did not touch the floor.

“It was one of the things that kept resurfacing because guards had to inspect the cells occasionally for contraband,” Mr. Saar said. He said that commanders tried to deal with detainees’ sensitivity about the Koran in several ways, including enlisting some of the Muslims working for the military as translators to handle the books during inspections, so that nonbelievers would not touch the books.

But that was not always done, he said, and there was no regular policy. The issue “created friction and problems all the time,” he said.