Hydrodynamics, Plumbing And Religion

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:37 pm

Well, everyone’s abuzz over the recent flap about Newsweek’s article concerning desecration of the Koran by US interrogators at Guantanamo.

I’m not going to pontificate about how incredibly, incredibly stupid Michael Isikoff was to run with a story this explosive without getting coroboration from more than one source. The whole story ain’t out yet—if it ever will be—and there’s already plenty of this sort of chaff choking the blogosphere.

No, I’m writing this entry to posit a single premise, to let you know why I took this story with a grain of salt from the get-go.

I checked with three different online booksellers, getting the info on seven different versions of the Koran, in a multitude of formats and dimensions. The average number of pages among these seven versions was a hair over 582.5.

Would someone like to tell me how interrogators managed to flush a book of this magnitude down a toilet?

What, did they delegate a PFC to stand over a john and tear out page after page and flush them individually? Presuming that a state-of-the-art military toilet refills its tank every 30 seconds, that’s still a bit more than 4.85 hours of continuous flushing. Even assuming this was the case, how did the crapper in question not get terminally stopped up after the first sura? Was this the quick-dissolving kind of holy book, specially constructed for use in marine heads and motor homes? Or do government toilets include some sort of turbocharged “Dispos-All”-type unit, designed to pulverize American waste products into an even-more-indistinguishable mess, in order to prevent toilet-centric espionage?

The story—this portion of it, anyway—has an overly melodramatic feel to it, like someone overreached by just a bit in trying to tart it up for public consumption….and outrage. “And then, and then the guy took a Koran and, he uh, he put it on a toilet! No! No, he flushed it down the toilet!

I can certainly imagine interrogators using tactics and acts considered blasphemous by devout Muslims in order to provoke a response; this certainly isn’t the first time such allegations have surfaced, often from much better sources. (And I’m not quite sure where I stand on that issue, though I tend to lean towards the position that such tactics are acceptable—if they accomplish the objective of getting the prisoner to talk. There is evidence to suggest that they do not.)

But personal suspicions and convictions aside, I simply cannot believe that it is possible to flush a 582.5-page book, sacred or profane, hardbound or paperback, whole or in pieces, down a toilet, unless the Gitmo offers restroom facilities for the use of migrating baleen whales.

4 Responses to “Hydrodynamics, Plumbing And Religion”

  1. Val Says:

    Something I heard on NPR “All Things Considered” on my way home on Monday night was that
    the Newsweek article may have been (erroneously) based on a report of a Gitmo prisoner
    attempting to flush pages from the Koran to stop up the toilet. This was either as some
    sort of jailhouse protest, or an attempt at a disruption for an escape attempt, or just
    a pissed off guy wanting to cause some problems. No details as to whether the prisoner
    in question was Muslim or not–it’s a good bet he was, but I don’t think that ALL those
    incarcerated at Gitmo are Muslim.

    I can easily see something like that happening. In his last few years at my husband’s
    former job he had to supervise the jail. The toilets in the cells were extremely
    specialized pieces of plumbing technology, designed specifically to be used
    in prisons and jails, and were also very, very expensive. The prisoners
    would regularily attempt to flush whatever they had down the toilet to try and stop it
    up either just to be assholes, or because they were bored and looking for a change of
    scene and they knew they’d have to be moved temporarily. Occasionally they were “lonely”
    and looking to shack up in another cell for the night. Either way, it would cause a
    disruption in the routine and they got some entertainment from that. So these toilets
    are designed to prevent such shenanigans, but every once in a while there’s a success.
    Big-boy Levi’s 501s in the hands (and off the ass) of a pissed off aggressive drunk
    usually tend to be a “success” which then results in a call to the jailhouse plumber
    and a new $2500 toilet valve.

    There are actually some things in this world I wish I didn’t know.

  2. Uncle Andrew Says:

    Wow, I learn something new—and scary—every day. 😯

    Thanks for the extra info, though. I can’t believe I missed something on NPR; my ears must have blinked.

  3. gavin Says:

    I agree that the article sounds contrived. The idea that the press is making stuff up for slow news days is hardly shocking. I think the proper response to this would have been, “Fine, I’m ordering another on off Amazon.com, but you’re paying for the shipping!”

    As for the physics, it’s not as far out there as you might think. According to the geneva convention all military personnel are allowed a copy of their version of the scriptures, (let’s not go into who’s military and who’s not at gitmo just now…). As you have pointed out, carrying a 500 page volume around with you isn’t practical, so they make ’em small. Breast pocket small. The Book of Mormon is about 530 pages, (hmm, God seems to be able to sum up His message in about 500 pages. Odd that.). I had a copy in the Army that easily fit in my shirt pocket, and a copy of the Bible only slightly larger. It would possible to tuck one of those down the toilet, how far down the plumbing it might go who knows.

  4. Uncle Andrew Says:

    I never dreamed I had so many friends who could offer seasoned, “ground truth” advice on the practicality of flushing a book down a toilet. I gotta find new friends…. 😀

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