Would Releasing the Detainee Abuse Photos Really Endanger U.S. Troops?

Monday, May 18, 2009

The reason President Obama and his supporters gave for refusing to comply with a court order to release 44 photos of the abuse of detainees is that the photos would inflame anti-American sentiment and endanger U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, it is worth noting that those who are angry at the U.S. already have plenty of motivation. U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and are still occupying the country 7 ½ years later. U.S. troops invaded Iraq and are still occupying that country more than 6 years later. Citizens in the Muslim world and elsewhere are already well aware of the fact that Americans kidnapped and tortured hundreds of people, many of whom who turned out to be innocent; that the U.S. was operating secret interrogation prisons around the world; and that, through aerial bombing, American troops are still killing civilians, including women and children.

No matter how awful the new set of photos is, does it really seem logical that the release of more photos will suddenly enrage Muslims who until now have remained tolerant of the American people? By this time, 99.9% of Muslims have either decided to hate Americans or to blame our bad behavior on the Bush administration and move on.
An alternative explanation for blocking the release of the photos, we are being told, is that Barack Obama does not want them released until after he speaks to the Muslim world from Cairo on June 4. Perhaps this is the true reason. But what if there is a more sinister motivation? What if these photos and others out there depict torture being committed by Americans other than the ones in the first batch of Abu Ghraib photos or even torture committed in other places outside of Iraq? This would add weight to the argument that the use of torture was Bush administration policy and not just the work of a bunch of rogue soldiers. This would explain why the CIA and others who were involved in the torture object so strenuously to the photos’ release. Obama has until June 8—four days after his Cairo speech—to formally appeal to the Supreme Court to withhold the photos.
-David Wallechinsky
Images, the Law and War (by Adam Liptak, New York Times)


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