Her main argument is:
"But surely the larger point is not the story itself but that it was so eminently plausible, in Pakistan, Afghanistan and everywhere else. And it was plausible precisely because interrogation techniques designed to be offensive to Muslims were used in Iraq and Guantanamo, as administration and military officials have also confirmed."
I would counter that any argument made in the government-controlled, ill-educated Middle East that is anti-American or anti-Israel in nature would probably be believed, regardless of its plausibility. Take, for example, the 2002 Al-Riyadh article that accused Jews of using the blood of Christians and Muslims in foods to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim (see here for the MEMRI and World Net Daily review and additional commentary here). This claim is still accepted as fact to many Muslims in the Middle East. Or how about the popular Middle East Arab newspaper claim that 4,000 Jews didn't show up for work on September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center? (For a great list timeline of this conspiracy theory, click here).
Believing crazy conspiracy theories against the US or Israel is not confined merely to the Muslim world. Our French allies bought a good number of copies of Thierry Meyssan's book that argued no Boeing 787 hit the Pentagon and that it was all a US conspiracy on 9/11.
Many of the Chinese believe the US purposely targeted their embassy during the Balkan conflict.
Anne Applebaum concludes:
"Opponents of these methods, among them some of the military's own interrogation experts, have argued, on the contrary, that 'special methods' are not only ineffective but counterproductive: They might actually inspire Muslim terrorists instead of helping to defeat them. They might also make it easier, say, for fanatics in Jalalabad to use two lines of a magazine article to incite riots.
Blaming the messenger, even for a bungled message, doesn't get the administration off the hook. Yes, to paraphrase Rumsfeld, people need to be very careful, not only about what they say but about what they do. And, yes, people whose military and diplomatic priorities include the defeat of Islamic fanaticism and the spread of democratic values in the Muslim world need to be very, very careful, not only about what they say but about what they do to the Muslims they hold in captivity."
Ms. Applebaum is bright and well educated and has done more research than many great historians on prison atrocities, especially the Gulags in Russia. (Her book Gulag is a must read). However, I find it incredible to believe that if the US showed just a bit more compassion and sensitivity in dealing with people who have no qualms about killing even their own Muslim men, women and children (see al-Zarqawi's recent justification of Muslim murder) that passions would not be inflamed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and elsewhere, regardless of a story's plausibility.
Unlike, Ms. Applebaum, I do blame the messenger. I think her defense of Newsweek is not a defense at all, but rather reads as an attack against Sec. Defense Rumsfeld, the Bush Administration, and Pentagon to obfuscate the real culprit that caused almost a score of deaths, the MSM. Knowing her regular writing, this seems hard to believe. It may be her focus and knowledge of state prison abuses that is driving her attack and helps her look past the 17 dead as a result of careless journalism. But in the end, in this obviously sensitive area, the culprit is the reckless, thoughtless story, that Newsweek later confessed was untrue.
Update: Welcome Instapundit readers. If you have found this post of interest, please take a look at Dawn's Early Light's posts on China and India. DEL believes the US is creating an impressive alliance structure in Asia to contain China and promote India. Enjoy.