Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Obama to Try and Block the Release of Photographs that Depict Abuse

It had been expected that the Obama Administration was going to comply with a court order stemming from a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and release photographs which depict abuse of detainees that were held in U.S. custody. The ACLU wanted the release of these photographs to counter the arguments of the Bush Administration that the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident and not part of government policy.

Ever since the Obama Administration announced that they would comply with the court order, there has been an outcry from both lawmakers and commentators on the Right claiming that the release of these photos would make those serving in the United States military less safe. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) even wrote a letter to President Obama in which they asked for the photographs not to be released because they would serve "no public good" and "endanger our men and women in uniform".

It is now being reported that the Obama Administration has reversed itself and that President Obama has now directly decided to oppose the release of these additional photos citing a concern for the safety of U.S. troops. Speaking to the New York Times, one anonymous administration official stated:

"The president strongly believes that the release of these photos, particularly at this time, would only serve the purpose of inflaming the theaters of war, jeopardizing US forces and making our job more difficult in places like Iraq and Afghanistan."

and another senior administration official stated:

"The president would be the last to excuse the actions depicted in these photos. That is why the Department of Defense investigated these cases, and why individuals have been punished through prison sentences, discharges, and a range of other punitive measures."

Aside from this last interesting quote (Obama is apparently in favor of prosecutions and investigations for some who carried out torture, but not for those who ordered it), the outcry over the release of these photos takes on an interesting dynamic.

On one hand you have people like Sean Hannity, Liz Cheney, Joe Lieberman, and others claiming that the release of these photos will depict American troops in a "negative light" and would cause us national harm, while on the other hand you have this same group of people actively defending the use of torture as necessary to our safety. Here is a compilation put together by ThinkProgress:

Note how in the video clip the acts in the photos are denounced by many as something that happened "in the past" and they speak of these actions as if they are obviously wrong. This does two things, first this deflects from the obvious point that the appalling act is not the release of the photos, but that these acts of torture were occurring in the first place and authorized by the last Administration. Secondly, it deflects from the aforementioned point that these same people who are so against the release of these awful photos are the exact same people who are advocating and justifying the use of torture over the last eight years.

It is situations like these which allow for Liz Cheney to state in one breath that by releasing these photos Obama is in fact "siding with the terrorists" and claim in another breath that the United States never engaged in torture and that techniques like waterboarding are vital to saving American lives.

This entry is crossposted here

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