On May 17, Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita told the public “we’ve not seen specific, credible allegations” of Koran mistreatment by U.S. guards or interrogators. Seventeen days later, the Pentagon acknowledged “that soldiers and interrogators kicked the Muslim holy book, got copies wet, stood on a Koran during an interrogation and inadvertently sprayed urine on another copy.” That information was released at 7:15 PM on Friday night, after the evening newscasts, the best time to bury a story. But the specifics of the latest administration deception obscures the larger point: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld specifically authorized religious degradation as an interrogation tactic. That ill-conceived policy has endangered the lives of U.S. soldiers and impeded the progress of peace and democracy in the Middle East.
The White House described the Koran mishandling as “a few isolated incidents by a few individuals.” But religious degradation was an interrogation tactic approved at the highest levels. In December 2002, Donald Rumsfeld “authorized interrogation tactics at Guantanamo Bay that included the removal of religious items, forced grooming such as shaving facial hair, and removal of clothing.” These tactics were “designed to offend Muslims.” An investigation of Guantanamo Bay by Vice Admiral Albert T. Church, “found cases in which a female interrogator ‘touched and spoke to detainees in a sexually suggestive manner in order to incur stress based on the detainees’ religious beliefs.’”