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Obama VERY Wrong, Prison Abuse Photos Should Be Made Public

May 13, 2009

I take no pleasure in the fact that this nation, under the Presidency of George Bush, used methods and practices of torture that ran counter to international law, and the ethics and underpinnings of our nation.  There are not enough words to be found in the dictionary to excoriate his administration for these past crimes.  But there is a process that this nation, and the indeed the world, needs to go through in order to get past what the United States did.  It is important that we hold ourselves fully accountable for the past, and let the world understand  that we ‘get it’, and fully appreciate the gravity of these practices, and the impact it has on international relations.

Part of that accountability process was to have been the releases of more photographic evidence of the torture committed by Americans.  The Obama White House had stated that the evidence would be released.  However today there was a reverse direction given, and as CNN reports those pictures will not be released.

President Obama said Wednesday that he told government lawyers to object to a court-ordered release of additional images showing alleged abuse of detainees because the release could affect the safety of U.S. troops and “inflame anti-American opinion.”

The Defense Department was set to release hundreds of photographs showing alleged abuse of prisoners in detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the images we remember from Abu Ghraib,” the president said on the South Lawn of the White House. “But they do represent conduct that didn’t conform with the Army manual.”

Obama said the publication of the photos would not add any additional benefit to investigations being carried out into detainee abuse — and could put future inquires at risk.

I find this argument weak, and unacceptable.  I think there will need to be further pushing to get the pictures released.  There is no justification for hiding the facts.  None!  To cave in to those on the right who bluster about the potential harm that these photos would ignite is rich, considering it was the very policies of the conservatives that have placed our nation at this moment in time.  Showing the world what happens when neo-conservatives rule is not harmful, but educational.  If we do not see and know the truth we are bound to repeat it.

Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU, said the president’s decision “makes a mockery” of his promise of transparency and accountability.

“Essentially, by withholding these photographs from public view, the Obama administration is making itself complicit in the Bush administration’s torture policies,” Singh said. “The release of these photos is absolutely essential for ensuring that justice was done … for ensuring that the public could hold its government accountable, and for ensuring that torture is not conducted in the future in the name of the American people.”

Singh said his organization is prepared to “do whatever it takes” in order to have the photos released.

20 Comments
  1. Joe permalink
    May 13, 2009 8:17 PM

    He is not supporting Bush’s policies. He actually banned waterboarding, which would be a reversal of Bush’s policies. He is not promoting abuse of detainees by withholding these photos. How you came to that reactionary conclusion is, frankly, quite beyond me.

    Politicians make promises, but rarely keep all of them. They simply can’t – it’s the name of the game. They make promises to get elected, and they break them because they want to stay elected. It’s nothing new, so this shouldn’t be a tremendous disappointment to you given the facts of our screwed up political system.

    Now, whether the official who wants to stay elected wants it for power or if he actually wants to do good for America or if it’s a mix of both, that’s up to you. Only time will tell if Obama is really a man of the people or someone who wants power, power, power. Time and his actions, that is.

    But, this aside, can you honestly tell me that he’s a power-monger given everything he’s done so far? Look beyond the party system and you’ll see that his actions speak highly of his character. With that whole picture in mind, I don’t see how a single reversal of his transparency policy based on careful consideration from multiple viewpoints warrants “tremendous disappointment”

  2. Joe permalink
    May 13, 2009 8:09 PM

    Or it makes the new administration look like one that actually listens to other’s points of view and takes them into consideration, unlike the old administration. Rather than fixate on a dogmatic, narrow-minded point of view, this administration considers all angles.

    The habit of distrusting government because it is hiding something is one that is born out of the old administration, rightfully so; we are so used to anti-government sentiment because, frankly, those in charge of the government were selfish, greedy and incompetent. It’s a different story now, but old habits are hard to let go of.

    Either Obama is a thinking man, or he is a greedy, self-centered politician who wants nothing more than to withhold information from the american people and fuck with their minds. Which is why he’s pushing so hard for health care reform that benefits the common people. Obviously.

  3. May 13, 2009 7:51 PM

    Barack Obama has completely lost my trust with moves like this, supporting the worst of Bush’s policies.

    The Democrats have a veto proof majority in Congress, and they’ve got the presidency to boot. They have no more excuses left – except that they want to hold on to power, and they’ll do whatever it takes to do that. Obama’s promise has turned into a tremendous disappointment.

  4. Sailingwindward permalink
    May 13, 2009 6:58 PM

    I believe that Not releasing the photos now after saying they would only shows the US has more to hide, I don’t think it would incite any more hatred toward the US if anything it would show the drastic change in administration and actually help our position overseas, hiding the facts only makes the new administration more like the old.

  5. Joe permalink
    May 13, 2009 6:52 PM

    Mal,

    You make a good point about the troops being televised. You’re right: without showing these atrocities to people both on our shores and off, America would be viewed a lot more negatively than it is. Invaders as opposed to non-invaders.

    But everyone has already seen the photos from Abu Ghraib. Everyone, both on our shores and off, knows these atrocities were committed. It’s not disputed. Practically, all the release of these photos would do is give us more evidence that this happened. But we don’t need more evidence. What I’m saying is that all the release of these photos will really do is anger a bunch of people when they’re already plenty angry. And many people, both on our shores and off, can’t separate anger from their actions, which leads down many bad roads, especially when large groups of people are involved.

    And yes, let’s do try and rationalize. Without rational thought, all we have are emotions and instinct. I’m not saying emotion and instinct are bad, but when they’re all that guide our actions, then we can do things that might hurt people. Rational thought is what keeps us and our decisions in check. And when our decisions can effect the lives of so many people, as Obama’s decisions can, he needs to be rational. And when criticizing his actions, we too should be rational. Otherwise, how are we different from those who cannot separate anger from their actions?

    I’m also curious as to why withholding intelligence information for national and military security reasons (however valid they may be) is considered displacing democracy? The government is not bound by law to either release or withhold the photos – it’s pretty much their choice. Whether you think that choice is because the President is a wishy-washy, two faced betrayer of the people or because the President is looking out for the well-being of the nation and the military is really up to you, but it’s clearly not “displacing democracy”.

  6. May 13, 2009 6:14 PM

    You already have your punching bag culprit- Bush.
    The torture already happened, and you cannot reverse it.

    I am appalled that people are so anciously excited to flaunt the sins of the past that they are willing to shed the blood of the innocent just for their pride and satisfaction in exposing wrong doing.

    I am eager to see the photos released, the impression made, lessons learned, and seriousnes understood. I do have objection to releasing the photos rRIGHT NOW – while it puts lives at risk. I believe Obama is a brilliant leader on this issue because he clearly understands the importance of TIMING- and that’s taking a lot from me because I am a very staunch republican. But I will admint when anyone is being wise. I do not beleive he is against releaseing them, I beleive he is against releasing them at the WRONG time.

    Release the photos, when it will not cost the blood of the innocent.

    Is pride and WE TOLD YOU SO worth BLOOD ON YOUR OWN HANDS?

  7. May 13, 2009 5:50 PM

    Joe,

    You’re still adopting the argument that less-than-liberty-loving people cannot see the results of American warmaking in the light of day without: What? Fighting back.

    Do you think that absent our troops’ being televised lighting up huts in Vietnam that America would still be viewed as non-invaders?

    I know a lot of Vietnam vets. We don’t talk about the war, ever. But the fact is Vietnam was a massacre by an invading Army that could not wait to get the fuck out of that god-forsaken place.

    You cannot protect the troops on wars abroad by displacing democracy at home.

    We’re not dittoheada. Obama screwed up badly; let’s not try to rationalize.

  8. Joe permalink
    May 13, 2009 5:39 PM

    Sometimes the right thing to do morally is not the right thing to do practically. Morally, we should be able to see the inhumane and despicable results of the corrupt Bush administration’s handling of the war with our very own eyes; it would be a demonstration of transparency and accountability, yes. We have a right to see what atrocities have been committed in our name.

    However, you are assuming that everyone who sees these photos will be intelligent, liberal-minded folk who will be able to distinguish between the army under the Obama administration and the army under the Bush administration, who will be able to say, “Shame on you, Bush! Now, under Obama, we will be able to move forward to greener pastures.”

    But, the release of these photos would elicit that reaction from only a handful of people, people like you or me (I am a liberal). More often than not, it elicit a reaction from more emotionally reactive people, something along the lines of: “Oh my God! Look what the army did! The army sucks! Down with the army! Screw our troops!”

    If you think I am exaggerating, then you obviously haven’t seen the kind of crazy, indignant haze that liberals are prone to just as often as right-wing nutcases are. As intelligent Americans, we should be able to distinguish between who is at fault, who is guilty and who is not guilty of these war crimes. But if these photos are released, a lot of un-intelligent Americans will instantly jump to the conclusion that the military is inherently evil. They will demonize the troops, create a huge stir against the military and cause yet another unnecessary rift in the political landscape. It will create anti-military sentiment, which is counterproductive (some Vietnam vets might agree, I’m willing to bet), as opposed to anti-war-crime sentiment, which is what Obama clearly has and why, as he stated in the video on CNN, he is investigating those responsible for the atrocities depicted in the photos. He is not withholding the photos to hide any facts – the fact that these photos exist should be enough to convince people that atrocities were committed. Why cry out for more blood when it’s already clear what has happened? Do you really need to see these pictures in order to truly, factually confirm these atrocities occurred? Or do you just want to fuel the righteous fire of hyper-reactionary liberal anger? What is the *practicality* of releasing these photos?

    Now, that brings me to another point. Obama is shrewd, politically. I personally wish that these photos would be released. I, too, want to see this with my own eyes. But I know that part of me is just the part of me that screams for justice, that wants an eye for an eye. It is the emotional, human part of me. It is not invalid, but in a political landscape where emotions are the enemy, it is also counterproductive. Obama knows this, and he knows that in order to get done what needs to be done (or at least as much as he can), he needs to play a very careful game of not going too far to either extreme. He is more liberal by nature (because, as far as I can tell, by his actions and manner, he is a good-hearted, intelligent individual), but he pulls back every once in a while like this in order to keep the Republican hounds at bay. Think about it for a second; this man, the first Black president of the United States, the first democrat in office in eight years, has a golden opportunity to make some real change happen, but if he is too careless, if public opinion sways too much against him (read: if he goes to either extreme), then he’s lost it all because too much rides on what he’s doing. A good leader knows they are only as good as the support they have.

    And that is why Obama is withholding those photos, in my opinion. I personally don’t agree with it. I believe that we should be able to see this with our own eyes. But that’s my selfish desire speaking. Practically speaking, I can completely understand why he would withhold the photos, for the reasons I explained above. I wish he didn’t have to, but he does. I think he wishes the same thing, but that’s just conjecture. Also, I have to say that I think the argument that these photos being released will endanger American lives is complete bull and I don’t think for one second that seeing these photos actually poses a security risk. It could fan international flames of anger and resentment, but not that much. I think the real risk is that, due to short-sightedness and reactionary thinking, the flames of anger and resentment of the American people (or a good chunk of it) will grow much, much hotter. The last thing we need is more infighting.

    I could be wrong, but I think I have a fairly good point.

  9. May 13, 2009 5:22 PM

    Terri,

    That’s a real load of crap.

    Guess what, Islam knows what Bush and Co did. The two wars in Asia really gave it away before Abu Ghraib.

    But you’re missing the point. This is a democracy in which claims of secrecy and denial of liberty out to be viewed with deep suspicion.

    I sure as hell did not work to elect someone who wants to be a neocon-light.

    Your words could come from any Neocon, as could the ludicrous justification for this anti-democratic, bone-headed play by Obama.

  10. Terri permalink
    May 13, 2009 4:54 PM

    Gregory,

    You missed the main point I think.

    The pictures are so bad that they’ll incite violence against our troops simply means that the actions of the corrupt Bush and Company regime are even worse than we feared. Think about it, the pictures are so awful that they will cause a reaction against Americans. What in hell’s name was Bush allowing to happen while he was in the White House?

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