Koran abuse: Who really trashed that book?

All the headlines about "Abuse of the Koran at Gitmo" are absolutely accurate.

Brigadier General Jay Hood's internal investigation has uncovered some shocking incidents. On at least six occasions, Korans were ripped up. They were urinated on three times, and attempts were made to flush them down the toilet at least three other times.

Why aren't millions of Muslims rioting in response to these defilements? Because the perpetrators were prisoners, not guards. As John Hinderaker notes on weeklystandard.com, the most serious desecrations of the Koran at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility were committed by the Muslim inmates themselves.

You'd never know this from the news coverage, which pounced on Hood's finding of five confirmed incidents of Koran abuse as proof that Newsweek was on to something with its phony-baloney report about guards flushing a Koran down the toilet.

Far from confirming accusations of American depravity, what the report actually shows is that Guantanamo is the first gulag in history run on the principle that no sensibility of the inmates should be offended, no matter how inadvertently.

All inmates are furnished a Koran at U.S. government expense. Since they're imprisoned because they are suspected of being violent religious extremists, some might object that this adds fuel to the fire. But that's not the view of the "Stalinists" who run the Defense Department. For some nefarious reason, they have issued guidelines that call for the utmost respect for the sacred scripture of their enemies.

At Gitmo, personnel receive instructions: "Do not disrespect the Koran (let it touch the floor, kick it, step on it)." They must "handle the Koran as if it were a fragile piece of delicate art." This means ensuring "that the Koran is not placed in offensive areas such as the floor, near the toilet or sink, near the feet, or dirty/wet area."

Only Muslim chaplains and interpreters are actually supposed to touch a Koran, and then only if wearing clean latex gloves. Moreover, "Two hands will be used at all times when handling the Koran in a manner signaling respect and reverence."

The Hood report suggests that, for the most part, this elaborate etiquette is obeyed. The worst lapse, splashed (so to speak) across front pages around the world, occurred March 25, when a guard urinated outside an air vent and some of his urine blew into a cell and onto an inmate and his Koran. Human rights absolutists should be relieved (sorry, can't help myself) to know that the detainee received a fresh uniform and a new Koran, and the guard was reprimanded and reassigned.

That's the most heinous case of Koran abuse by Gitmo personnel. The four other verified incidents involved an interrogator kicking a Koran, guards accidentally getting a Koran wet with water, an interrogator (subsequently fired) stepping on a Koran, and a "two-word obscenity" mysteriously appearing on the inside cover of a Koran.

Some of the most inflammatory allegations, such as guards flushing a Koran, appear to be the result of unsubstantiated rumors spread by inmates who may have been following Al Qaeda instructions to falsely claim mistreatment. Or maybe they were simply trying to deflect blame for all the Korans they were mutilating on their own.

More serious incidents of Koran abuse by Americans conceivably could come to light, but it is clear that anyone who did so would be acting against orders. Reading the Hood report– which is by one count the 189th (no kidding) Defense Department investigation of how prisoners in the war on terrorism are treated– I couldn't help but think: Too bad Muslims don't show the same exquisite concern for the sensibilities of others.

Too bad Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia, far from handing out Bibles at government expense, make it a crime to possess that holy book. Too bad Islamic fanatics have no compunction about blowing up churches and synagogues and slaughtering Christians and Jews. Too bad the murderous intolerance of Sunni terrorists extends to Shiite "idolaters" as well.

All the bombings of Shiites in Iraq have resulted not only in the deaths of thousands of Muslims but also, I imagine, the destruction of quite a few Korans.

It would be nice if the global Islamic community, the news media, and assorted human rights agitators could display the same level of outrage about the real atrocities perpetrated by our enemies as they do about the imaginary horrors of the American Gulag.

Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is author of the "Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power" (Basic Books, 2002).