From The New York Times:
President Obama is seeking to block the release of photographs depicting American military personnel abusing captives in Iraq and Afghanistan, an administration official said Wednesday.
The president’s decision marks a sharp reversal from a decision made last month by the Pentagon, which reached a deal with the American Civil Liberties Union to release photographs showing incidents at Abu Ghraib and a half-dozen other prisons.
“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 U.S. forces,” the official said, “and making our job more difficult in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said of the nation’s top military generals: “Odierno and McKiernan and Petraeus have all voiced real concern about this. Particularly in Afghanistan, this is the last thing they need.”
The photographs were set to be released on May 28. But as that date approached, a growing sense of unease among military officials was expressed to the White House.
Many also recalled the Abu Ghraib photographs, showing prisoners naked or in degrading positions, sometimes with Americans posing smugly nearby, caused an uproar in the Arab world and concerns within the military that the actions of a relatively few service members had tainted the entire forces.
In this more recent case, the A.C.L.U. argued that disclosing the pictures was “critical for helping the public understand the scope and scale of prisoner abuse as well as for holding senior officials accountable for authorizing or permitting such abuse,” said Amrit Singh, who argued the case on behalf of the group before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.
The world already has easy access to some very disturbing torture photos. Are the new ones sought by the ACLU really so much worse than these that they would put our soldiers at more risk than they already are?
I agree with the ACLU that the photos should be released. If these photos confirm that torture took place in many places besides Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, they would support the allegations that prisoner abuse and torture was not carried out by just “a relatively few service members,” but that it was directed by high ranking officials in the Bush Administration.
We need to see what, where, and when the abuses occurred so that we can investigate and find out who was ultimately responsible for the violations. They need to be held accountable for their crimes.
Someday we will see the photos, so we might as well see them now. The sooner we get through this nasty episode in our history, the sooner we can atone for it and put it behind us.