Obama VERY Wrong, Prison Abuse Photos Should Be Made Public

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 thoughts on “Obama VERY Wrong, Prison Abuse Photos Should Be Made Public

  1. Terri


    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?

  2. 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.

  3. Joe

    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.

    1. 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.

      1. Joe


        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”.

  4. RS

    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?

  5. Sailingwindward

    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.

    1. Joe

      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.

  6. 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.

    1. Joe

      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”

  7. Nancy

    Some Americans are so afraid that we are piling enormous monetary debt on our children and grandchildren that they will never be able to pay. Well, that is just money!
    The real bankruptcy going on is the moral bankrupty of our children and our grandchildren if we do not get to the bottom of this torture issue.
    We will never, ever be respected again in the world, and we will remain in just as much danger as we are told we are in now; maybe more. if we, as a nation, refuse to look the truth about torture.
    How can we ever really be proud Americans again unless torture is surgically removed from the American mind, heart, soul and government?
    Only then will we leave our posterity a moral nation purged clean of this dark stain on our integrity.
    This is beyond party affiliation, beyond fear of retribution from other countries, which I believe is imminent if we don’t discipline our own, and beyond the military protection issue, I am sorry to say.

    This is about the moral health and well-being of our children and our nation, What will this country be like in 20 years if our children grow up learning that torture was acceptable? Just imagine a generation of adults who accept and use torture! Goodbye, America if that should happen.
    President Obama, I implore you to do the right thing, no matter how hard it is, for your children and the nation’s children! We can never hurt ourselves by shining light in the dark places. We can never go wrong when we stand for the truth. Have Faith, Obama! Reverse your course on torture.

    1. Joe


      Torture is a reprehensible, disgusting act. You know that. I know that. We should never torture, even if the situation “warrants” it. People all have their different opinions about it. Some say it is justifiable for various reasons. Myself, I think it is never justifiable, both objectively and subjectively. Just wanted to make that clear.

      I also understand your desire to protect our children’s moral integrity. That is of the utmost importance. Our children are our future. We don’t want a country full of Rush Limbaughs, now do we?

      But will the release of these photos really, as you put it, “surgically remove torture from the American mind, heart, soul and government?” The atrocities these photos would reveal are nothing new, and those who perpetrated those atrocities have been investigated and brought to justice. Whether you think the justice is enough is your opinion and not really an objective thing we can debate. Obama has also banned torture from use in the CIA from now and has publicly declared his distaste for it. This is, as you say, setting the example for our children.

      What you seem to be alluding to is that Obama is reversing his course on torture, that he is somehow OK’ing it by withholding these photos. He is not, in fact, OK’ing torture at all. This has nothing to do with torture and everything to do with politics. Obama is doing this in order to keep it from becoming a major pissing match. Sure, it’s a pissing match now, but releasing the photos would create a much greater backlash. I personally don’t believe that backlash would endanger the troops, but many do. I believe the backlash would endanger our ability to get done what really needs to get done, which is health care reform, amongst other things.

      I think you’re making the mistake of lumping this with the CIA memos he released. This is a different issue. This is about prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, perpetrated by psychotic soldiers with too much time on their hands and not properly punished by the idiotic administration they were under. The CIA memos are more specifically about the torture you are addressing – they deal with CIA authorized waterboarding, with Cheney authorized waterboarding. Unlike Abu Ghraib, those responsible for that atrocity have not been brought to justice…yet. Everyone, even Cheney and the right wing, agrees that Abu Ghraib was a disgusting stain on America’s image. No politician in their right mind would back that kind of thing. The waterboarding thing is a different story. Many politicians back it and say it was justified.

      Of course, it wasn’t justified, and there is evidence to support that. Obama may or may not be right in withholding investigation into THOSE perpetrators of war crimes. I personally think he is, as there are more important fish to fry at the moment. But others may disagree. My point is that you are jumping to false conclusions about Obama’s intention and purpose here and you are mistaking what this issue is really about.

      Now, if Obama doesn’t release the photos or prosecute those responsible for the waterboarding sometime in the FUTURE, when there is more time and he has established more of a political foothold…then I would be pretty pissed.

  8. Patrick

    I utterly support Obama’s decision not to release the photos. Obama no longer lives in the soft cloud of campaign politics. Perhaps he doesn’t have the luxury of false moral pontificating now that he has a nation to defend. Decisions have consequences. Our enemies throughout the world don’t give a damn if a neocon is in the whitehouse or not.

    Why not show the video of those people jumping from the world trade center? Why not put the video of Daniel Pearl being beheaded on the nightly news every night for weeks? What photos does the military have of al Qaeda torture chambers in Iraq or Afganistan? Think those images would piss off Americans?

    Only some nincompoop flies into a rage over abuses which might have been committed. Boo Hoo. Some of us live in the real world, have children, friends in the military; we are not interested in trying to paint Bush as hitler while islamic psychopaths hear the call to prayer. Many of us would gladly torture a terrorist suspect if we thought the information would save a loved one. I would, absolutely. Anyone who wouldn’t is morally depraved.

    Obama made the decision because it is best for the country. But if that isn’t good enough for you, consider which democrats in congress knew all about this stuff and like Pelosi–in an instant of moral clarity–asked: “is this all we’re doing?”

  9. Michael

    Hmm… it’s a tough decision, to be honest. Do you release the photos, which potentially inflames anti-Americanism and costs some additional lives of troops? Or do you withhold them, which flies in the face of transparency and potentially shields people in the Bush Administration, if not from the legal ramifications, than at least from the public outcry?

    I don’t know what I would do. I think I would ultimately decide to release the photos, because it’s the “right” thing to do, and try to make sure that the release is accompanied with a consistent, loud message — “We no longer treat prisoners this way. This was the previous administration.” But that message can be easily lost. Maybe watermark each photo with “Previous prisoner abuse that is now banned”?

    In any event, I can understand how the decision is difficult. We’re trying to turn a leaf in our dealings with the Muslim world, right? I’m glad it’s not me deciding…

    1. Joe

      I would release the photos at a later date, when people are less pissed off that Obama’s in office and less nervous about the world going down in flames.

    2. Inflames anti-American opinion?

      If you’re really worried about opinion how about not invading countries and raining bombs on people? Rubs folks the wrong way.

      How about releasing the images and then explain to the world and committ to, in words and deeds, that this is the type of shit that we will no longer do?

      I expect nothing from Republicans, but from Democrats I did not expect that it would become the Party of parrots and dittoheads.

      As usual Glenn Greenwald says it best:

      Apparently, the proper reaction to heinous acts by our political leaders is not to hold them accountable but, instead, to hide evidence of what they did. That’s the warped mentality Obama is endorsing today, and has been endorsing since January 20.

      For all of you defend-Obama-at-all-cost cheerleaders who are about to descend into my comment section and other online venues to explain how Obama did the right thing because of National Security, I have this question: if you actually want to argue that concealing these photographs is the right thing to do, then you must have been criticizing Obama when, two weeks ago, he announced that he would release them. Otherwise, it’s pretty clear that you don’t have any actual beliefs other than: “I support what Obama does because it’s Obama who does it.” So for those arguing today that concealing these photographs is the right thing to do: were you criticizing Obama two weeks ago for announcing he would release these photographs?

      Also, the OLC torture memos released several weeks ago surely increased anti-American sentiment. Indeed, those on the Right who objected to the release of those memos cited exactly that argument. How can anyone cheer on Obama’s decision today to conceal these photographs while also cheering on his decision to release the OLC memos? Those who have any intellectual coherence would have to oppose both or support both. Those two decisions only have one fact in common: Obama made them. Thus, the only way to cheer on both decisions is to be guided by the modified Nixonian mantra: what Obama does is right because Obama does it.

      Also, during the Bush years, were you — along with Bill Kristol and National Review — attacking the ACLU and Congressional Democrats for demanding that the Bush administration stop concealing evidence of its torture, on the ground that disclosure of such evidence would harm America’s national security? Were you defending Bush then for doing what Obama is doing now? …

      Photographs convey the reality of things in a way that mere words cannot. They prevent people who want to deny what was done the ability to do so. They force citizens to face what their country did and what they are now justifying and advocating. They impede the ability of political leaders to use euphemisms to obscure the truth. They show in graphic detail what the effects are of sanctioning torture policies. They prove that this was about more than “dunking three terrorists into water.” They highlight the fact that no decent person believes that this should all just be forgotten and its victims told that they have no right to have accountability. That’s precisely why the photographs are being suppressed: because of how much good they would do.

      1. Joe

        Parrots and dittoheads? You sound just like O’Reilly. Calm down.

        Since you’re clearly talking to me when you passive-aggressively say “defend-Obama-at-all-cost cheerleaders”, let me tell you something: when he announced that he would release him, I objected to that, despite being a liberal and supporting him. So there goes your argument that I do not have intellectual coherence.

        The torture memos, however, I did support. They are two different things, and here’s why:

        As I said before, everyone and their mother knows what happened at Abu Ghraib. It’s not disputed that these atrocities occurred, that they are reprehensible, and that nobody agrees that they were right. Not even Cheney (even though he probably didn’t give a shit, but that’s just my opinion). We already have ample photographic evidence that Abu Ghraib was a shithole. I think it’s safe to say that it’s already abundantly clear that this was wrong and that Obama has made it abundantly clear that we don’t do this kind of thing.

        Waterboarding, however, is still being disputed over its effectiveness and whether or not it is the right thing to do. We still do not have the kind of closure on that issue that we have on Abu Ghraib. The torture memos are about letting it be abundantly clear to the American people that Cheney authorized it, and letting them know it was wrong, which is still disputed.

        There is substantial enough difference between these two issues, subtle as the difference may be, to warrant my agreeing with one and disagreeing with the other. I think you are over-simplifying this issue. Rarely is anything in politics so black and white as you seem to make it out to be. Also, while you have a complete right to be angry, take a step out of that mindset for one second and think about other’s points of view. Like the CIA, which is run by human beings and is not some evil, over-arching organization out to screw you over. That doesn’t mean you have to go soft and suddenly feel for everyone, but it’s clear to me that from the vitriol of your posts you are unwilling to see other’s points of view on this issue.

        I want to make it perfectly clear that I would like to see the photos, and I believe we all have a right to see them. But if they were released now, they would do more harm than good, in my opinion. Not because Obama said that, but because I thought that from the start. I’m glad he changed his mind, and I hope that in the future, when things have calmed down and the release of these photos wouldn’t impede the track he’s on right now (which is vitally important to the economic recovery of our nation), he will release the photos, if only just for reflection’s sake. If he does not, then I’ll be pissed as well.

  10. Do people really imagine that there are still people in Afghanistan who haven’t made their mind yet? They are already aware of what happened and releasing more photos is not going to increase anti-American sentiment in that part of the world. The reason he doesn’t want to release the photos because it will increase domestic and western pressure on him for a full frank and open inquiry into the war crimes of George Bush and Co, something he doesn’t want to do. Indictbushnow.org

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