francislholland, thanks for this piece, but we already have this story twice on the site. It's always good to do a search before posting to make sure that the story hasn't been covered already.
Obama Joins Cheney, U.S. Armed Forces Cover-Up of Torture Photos?
Cross-posted at the Francis L. Holland Blog.
During the Bush Administration, the CIA burned videos of torture because if the public saw these videos there would calls for prosecution under the War Crimes Act and by the International Court in the Hague. Now President Barack Obama has joined forces with the Bush Administration on this issue, offering the same excuse for hiding torture photos from the public that the Bush Administration offered:
In a brief statement to reporters before flying to Arizona for a speech late this afternoon, Obama said he believes "that the publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals. In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger." He also suggested that the publication could lead "a chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse." WaPost
In a brief statement to reporters before flying to Arizona for a speech late this afternoon, Obama said he believes "that the publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals. In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger."
He also suggested that the publication could lead "a chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse." WaPost
This has always been the most tortured logic available. Those individuals and groups who were tortured already know what was done to them, so showing these photos to the public is not going to increase their knowledge. It will only increase the knowledge of others, like American voters and world opinion, of the hideously heinous acts engaged in by the Bush Administration. The people who were tortured already know what torture consists of. According to the WaPost article, Obama now says,
Any abuse of detainees is unacceptable," the president said. "It is against our values. It endangers our security. It will not be tolerated.
( . . . )
But White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters yesterday that Obama has "great concern" about the impact that releasing the photos would have on soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. WaPost
That's the same bullshit we heard under the Bush Administration. However, it's the torture itself and the cover-up that enabled the continued torture that put U.S. soldiers in danger. A new cover-up will not increase troop safety, but will only encourage more torture in the future, in a vicious cycle of torture and cover-ups to which the Obama Administration has become a party. Instead of telling a truth that would lead to increased momentum for prosecution, they are hiding the truth for political reasons.
Just talk about torture doesn't really do it for the American people. But when they see pictures, they get it. That's why Bush had to apologize profusely and throw a few low-level soldiers under the bus when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out. You think there would have been anywhere near that level of controversy or accountability (such that it was) without the pictures? Huffington Post
I guess this means no one will be indicted for burning the evidence war crimes contained in CIA torture videos from the Bush Adminstration. And so no one will be concerned about burning evidence in the future.
If Obama's decision stands, US Armed Forces personnel all over the world know that at least in some cases they can torture and not be punished and they can also torture without even being embarrassed. This is an horrendous precedent to set and Obama should be ashamed of himself. He had the alternative of simply staying quiet and letting the photographs come out of law suits, or laying the blame for release of the photos on the Justice Department, which acts to effect justice, not politics.
Obama's announcement that he opposes the release of the photos makes the US Justice Department the same political propaganda arm of the US Govevernment that it was under the Bush Administration, at least on this issue.
The lawyer pushing for the release of photographs showing the harsh treatment of suspected terrorist detainees said President Barack Obama was backtracking on his word and commitment to transparency by reversing course and objecting to the release of those photos.
Jameel Jaffer, a chief litigator for the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project, described Obama's reversal as "very disappointing" during an interview with Fox News.
"It is inconsistent not only with commitments the Obama administration has made to us and to the courts but inconsistent with the promise of transparency that President Obama has repeated so many times," he said. Huffington Post
It's possible that Obama won't release the photos because he knows they will be released anyway, through an ACLU case now working through the courts. By not releasing the photos himself and by waiting for someone else to do it, the information gets out but Obama does not take the negative heat for embarrassing the US Armed Forces and the CIA. However, the failure of the President to release the photos sets a precedent that we can expect more cover-ups from this Administration that use the same logic: By analogy, 'If we publicize photos of the villages that we burned to the ground then we will inflame the residents of those villages.' Fact is, the residents of those villages are already inflamed, and it's the American public that needs to understand why.
I would expect taser torturers to use the same logic in the future. 'Blacks will become inflamed by videos of taser torture, so we should not show the videos while the taser torture itself continues unabated.'
We voted for a new Government and a disinfectant last November, and instead we got a continuation of Bush Adminstration cover-ups, on the issue of these photographs. The only palatable excuse I can imagine is that the public will see these photographs anyway, but President Obama will not take the political heat and repercussions for having personally authorized their release. But, we have to ask ourselves what else Obama will hide from us. A man who will hide evidence of torture will hide evidence about anything.