Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): abused; abus·ing
1 : to put to a wrong or improper use <abuse a privilege>
2 obsolete : DECEIVE
3 : to use so as to injure or damage : MALTREAT
4 : to attack in words : REVILE
Will this be the latest tortured semantic distinction by the Pentagon?
VOA news says: Pentagon Officials Says No Credible Evidence of Koran Abuse. The article states:
The commander of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said a military investigation has found no evidence that U.S. guards or interrogators ever flushed the Muslim holy book, the Koran, down a toilet. But Brigadier General Jay Hood identified five incidents in which the Koran was "mishandled" by military personnel at the facility.
So the VOA, despite Merriam Webster, is making a distinction between "abuse" ("to use so as to injure or damage") and "mishandle" ("to treat roughly"), both of which list "maltreat" as synonyms.
ABC News, not seeming like they want to engage in VOA's hairsplitting, says: Five Cases of Koran 'Mishandling' Found. The AP story reads:
Investigators have confirmed five cases in which military personnel mishandled the Qurans of Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay since 2002, but they have found no "credible evidence" that a holy book was flushed in a toilet.
While The Australian isn't buying into the distinction at all, saying: Koran 'abused but not flushed.' The Agence France Presse story reads:
Investigators have found at least five instances in which guards and interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, mishandled the Koran but no "credible evidence" that the Muslim holy book was flushed in a toilet, the US commander at the naval base said yesterday.
Good thing for the Pentagon and the Bush administration that English has more words than nearly all other languages. Larry DiRita didn't tell a lie so much as he issued a prevarication. Or perhaps a fabrication. He didn't tell a lie, but it was certainly a falsehood. A mendacity, if you will. A whopper, an untruth, but certainly not a lie.