Thursday, May 14, 2009


From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Obama seeks to block release of abuse photos

President Barack Obama declared Wednesday he would try to block the court-ordered release of photos showing U.S. troops abusing prisoners, abruptly reversing his position out of concern the pictures would "further inflame anti-American opinion" and endanger U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The Justice Department immediately filed a notice with the court of its new position on the release, including that it was considering an appeal with the Supreme Court. The government has until June 9 to do so.

Obama said, "I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib."

Still, he said he had made it newly clear: "Any abuse of detainees is unacceptable. It is against our values. It endangers our security. It will not be tolerated."

The effort to keep the photos from becoming public represented for many a sharp reversal from Obama's repeated pledges for open government, and in particular from his promise to be forthcoming with information that courts have ruled should be publicly available.

Click here for the rest.

"Not particularly sensational." I wonder.

Seymour Hersh, the reporter who broke the Abu Ghraib scandal, has spoken in interviews about the torture pictures he's seen that weren't released to the US public with the batch that made it out back in 2004. Horrifying pictures. Sodomy pictures. Pictures of teenage boys being raped. Hersh, an old school investigative reporter, a man who compulsively needs to dot his "i's" and cross his "t's", has no reason to lie about such things.

Are these the "not particularly sensational" pictures that would "endanger US forces"? I mean, that's fishy in itself. If the banned pics are "not particularly sensational," of the variety made public five years ago, how on earth could they "endanger US forces"? Everybody's already seen this stuff. People inclined to hate America because it tortures already hate America because it tortures. More photos of naked Iraqi POWs don't reasonably stand to piss off anybody anymore than they already are.

Further, releasing these pics sends out a message that is quite contrary to the images they contain. That is, this is a new president trying to right the wrongs of his successor, trying to come clean, confess our nation's sins, repair the damage. I can't possibly believe another crop of non-sensational abuse pictures would "further inflame anti-American opinion."

Unless, of course, they're photos of hardcore torture and rape. That would inflame the fuck out of everybody. That might conceivably "endanger US forces." It might also put prosecutions of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al on the fast track. I wonder if President Obama is having cold feet about potentially putting a former US president on trial for crimes against humanity. Just like Goering and Eichmann.

Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan, who has in the last couple of years become very disillusioned with the Bush administration he once championed, and others have speculated that Obama's recent torture memo dump is about slowly creating the social circumstances necessary for holding the people who ordered the torture responsible. You know, a leak here, some documents released there, some new pictures over there. Step by step bringing the US public to the inescapable conclusion that justice must be done.

I don't know if I buy such speculation, but if that's actually the case, and these "not particularly sensational" photos are indeed the horrific images to which Hersh refers, Obama might very well have chickened out.

I guess we'll see.