Kathleen Parker

Even the most liberal-bashing, war-mongering, beef-eating American surely struggled to keep a straight face as the Bush administration expressed moral indignation about a Newsweek story that went belly-up on account of bad intelligence.

If anyone on God's green earth should understand that sometimes information is flawed, that one would be President George W. Bush, whose arguments in favor of invading Iraq proved to be similarly false.

Not lies, as I've stubbornly argued despite the risk of assault by audiences armed with cream pies and salad dressing. But bad info. Widely held beliefs that turned out not to be true. Incorrect data from formerly reliable sources who didn't get it right this time.

As was the case with the two Newsweek reporters who filed a "Periscope" item claiming that a Pentagon investigation had found evidence of Koran desecration at Guantanamo Bay.

The blurb, as everyone now knows, was later retracted, but not before it had provided unemployed Afghan radicals an excuse to riot, leading to more than a dozen deaths. And not before the world exploded in outrage and recrimination. I've already written about this so won't belabor the topic.

But after several days of being slapped around by the Irony Fairy, I can't ignore the absurdity of the White House's new role as institutional victim. My eyes have rolled so many times, my sockets are sore.

Apparently borrowing a page from the administration's critics, the White House condemned the reporters for making assertions on thin evidence, while press secretary Scott McClellan urged Newsweek to help repair the damage inflicted on America's image abroad.

". There is lasting damage to our image because of this report, and we would encourage Newsweek to do all that they can to help repair the damage that has been done, particularly in the region," he said.

McClellan suggested that Newsweek write about what happened - how it got the story wrong - and shine a light instead on how the U.S. military goes out of its way to be sensitive about issues related to Islam and the Koran.

I'm all for showing our best face, especially the military's, and have noted the media's disproportionately negative coverage during our time in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, come on, Scottie. One small news item about Koran desecration (not the first) hurt our image abroad?

Our image as infidels was, and has been, abysmal among those who would riot and who, time permitting, happily would exterminate us. Islamic extremists didn't even need Abu Ghraib to hate us more. Our image as Satan is tattooed on the radical-Muslim psyche and won't be erased until those rioting have a job, a paycheck and hope for some future this side of 72 virgins.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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