Obama Opposes Release Of Additional Abu Gharib Photos?

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Barack, Bush, Obama, Torture, Transparency

A surprising reversal and one I obviously disagree with. This also seriously undermines Obama’s message of transparency and openness…at least in the eyes of Dems.

From Wash Post:

President Obama has decided to oppose the release of several dozen photos depicting abuse of detainees held in U.S. military custody abroad, reversing his previous position on the grounds that the pictures could inflame anti-American sentiment and endanger U.S. troops.

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.”

Is it just me or does this reasoning make no sense?

Because having these photos be undefined means people fill in the blanks with even more horrific stuff than what’s possibly contained in them. And that means al Qaeda can say whatever they want about them to their recruits and we’re powerless to stop them. And that’s what puts Americans in greater danger.

Also, the idea that this would have a chilling effect on future investigations? How exactly? Actually, by making these public it would put a chilling effect on the behavior, not the investigations.

The only thing I can think of is he’s finally seen the photos and some of them contain pictures of CIA personnel he promised to protect. So if these pictures get out, he’d be obligated to prosecute them the way the other personnel were or face a massive backlash by the military brass and the American public.

Still, I’m confused by this move and I’m sure many other Americans are too. So the administration owes us more explanation…and soon.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 and is filed under Barack, Bush, Obama, Torture, Transparency. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

17 Responses to “Obama Opposes Release Of Additional Abu Gharib Photos?”

  1. Chris Says:

    Damn, the irony leaves the taste of ashes in my mouth. The reason for Obama not wanting to release the photos, the republicans, and the military are all reasons why WE SHOULDN’T TORTURE PEOPLE! The fear that it will provide justification for further escalation against our troops is completely valid you morons. That’s why you treat people nicer than they treat you.

    I’m so irritated and pissed I can barely type a sentence, it’s beyond retarded.

  2. Chris Says:

    I’m not calling you guys morons btw, but the people at the top :)

  3. Silent Cal Says:

    Releasing the pics doesn’t do much to hurt Republicans — they’re already tarred with the torture brush. But it might add some flavor to the developing Pelosi angle to the story. I’d bet she asked the President not to release them.

    As for the transparency, well, it like “waste, fraud, and abuse”. It’s just something politicians say.

  4. ExiledIndependent Says:

    Obama’s definition of transparency has always been “transparency I can control, and make the masses *think* I’m being transparent.” Frankly, I chalk this one up to another rookie mistake by a guy with too little experience for the office. He opened the Pandora’s box hoping to get some political mileage from a bit of theater, then it bit him in the backside when he realized that it has ramifications beyond reminding people just how bad Bush the Boogeyman was. Yay hope and change!

  5. michael reynolds Says:

    Exiled:

    Sorry, no.

    Obama never wanted this to dominate the next several months. He’s been trying to keep this all sotto voce from the start. He keeps his eye on the ball: health care.

    It’s not Obama pushing torture into the media, it’s Cheney. Obama’s been trying to minimize this. He supported release of the pix hoping that would be it, catharsis, over and done. Who knew Cheney had lost his freaking mind and decided to turn the Party of Lincoln into the Party of Torture?

    Obama wants health care. He doesn’t want prosecutions. He doesn’t want distractions from his agenda. This is about 1) controlling the agenda, 2) McChrystal.

    Far from being naive, Obama is showing the ruthlessness I’ve predicted from the start. He keeps his eyes on the prize. You guys are never going to get any traction unless you learn to understand your opponent.

  6. John Burke Says:

    I don’t see why anyone would be surprised or confused. In three months, Obama has begun to see the extraordinary challenges involved in trying to wind down one war in Iraq while redirecting another far more complex one in Afghanistan and Pakistan to some sort of satisfactory outcome — one that will keep both countries from becoming a permament base for al Qaeda and assorted other terrorists.

    He’s obviously chosen a path that combines a relatively light military footprint (thus, only 20,000 more troops and McKiernan out, McChrystal in), combined with aggressive military and intelligence actions. Even as he was reviewing the Afghan situation and working on this strategy, al Qaeda and the Taliban launched their own “surge” into Pakistan, in effect, opening up a second front in the war, humbling and intimidating the Pakistanis and making it possible to imagine that al Qaeda might actually roam the Punjab at will in short order.

    Obama has kept his cool about this, but it is one huge frigging crisis. There may not be even more troops but there is going to be a lot more fighting out there in those mountains in the Pashtun borderlands, and a lot of Americans are going to get killed in the best of circumstances. Zardari talks a great game and the Pakistanis are claiming big things for the counter-strikes into Swat and Buner, but it remains to be seen whether they are serious or even capable of blocking, much less throwing back, the Taliban. This is a piece of a NYT story from the other day:

    “Intelligence officials say the Taliban advances in Swat and Buner, which are closer to Islamabad than to the tribal areas, have already helped Al Qaeda in its recruiting efforts. The officials say the group’s recruiting campaign is currently aimed at young fighters across the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia who are less inclined to plan and carry out far-reaching global attacks and who have focused their energies on more immediate targets.

    ” ‘They smell blood, and they are intoxicated by the idea of a jihadist takeover in Pakistan,’ said Bruce O. Riedel, a former analyst for the C.I.A. who recently led the Obama administration’s policy review of Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

    Riedel is a former CIA analyst, a professional who spent 30 years working on South Asia affairs, at CIA, as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense under Clinton, and at the National Security Council under Clinton and Bush. He was Obama’s principal advisor on “Af-Pak” issues and the President brought him to the White House to oversee the development of new strategies and policies. In short, he’s Obama’s guy.

    The Mohmand and Afridi tribesmen that al Qaeda and the Taliban are signing up are pretty simple guys — semi-literate, warlike, parochial to such a degree that they distrust and resent the Punjabis and Sindhis who run Pakistan (and don’t speak their language), and ready to take up arms against infidels and apostates at the drop of a hat. They are not especially sophisticated about such matters as due process, and even if they could read about it, they won’t get the part about America publishing all this stuff because it doesn’t hate Islam, isn’t waging war against Muslims, and is punishing its own miscreants.

    So while on the one hand, Obama is smartly trying to leverage his newness and popularity to push back against anti-American feeling that has boiled in Pakistan and across the Muslim world, the better to strip al Qaeda and the Taliban of their best propaganda, on the other hand, he’d be giving our enemies the stark, visual propaganda they need to make their appeal.

    He’s learning that what matters now that he’s sending young soldiers and Marines (and CIA officers) into a rough fight is to make the field a better one for them to fight on, even at the cost of losing some lock-step support from his domestic left. He’s learning that it’s just not possible for him as President to ask people to risk their lives and then take actions that might inflame Afghanis and Pakistanis and make life even riskier for Americans operating there.

    Pakistan has always been a cauldron where anti-Western (and anti-Indian and anti-Russian) feeling can boil over into religious hysteria and violence anytime. Locals rotuinely go on rampages — pogroms might be a better word — against the hated Shiites. In 1979, the US Embassy in Islamabad was burned to the ground (and a Marine killed) by a fierce mob that was inflamed by a rumor — a RUMOR! — that the U.S. was somehow involved in the armed siezure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Actually, the a band of religious zealots intent on proclaiming one of their number as the Mahdi siezed the Mosque and took hundreds of hostages. The Saudi security forces proved pathetically inadequate to retaking the holy site, so in the end, ironically, the Pakistani Army did the job with covert help from French special forces — but not until after the US Embassy had been destroyed.

    It might not take much to give Pakistan a final push into the hands of radicals. Obama doesn’t want to eb the guy on whose watch that happened.

  7. Chris Says:

    John you’re absolutely right, and from a leadership stand-point I think Obama is right not to release them. But from a personal standpoint I want to see all of the people responsible for these policies go to jail and then burn in hell.

  8. ExiledIndependent Says:

    MR,

    While I agree that Obama never wanted this to dominate, you miss the point that the whole reason he opened the box in the first place was theatrical “blue meat” for his left-of-center supporters. And while I agree that Obama certainly is ruthless, that trait is not mutually exclusive with inexperienced. He is both, and the consequences of intense, naive decisions made at a furious pace will be with us for a long, long time. And “minimizing the idea of torture” is an oxymoron of the first degree.

    What, in your opinion, did Mr. Obama *expect* to happen by releasing enough files to inflame and incite but not enough to create a sense of finality?

  9. Justin Says:

    I just watched a great documentary on the Abu Gharib issue. “Standard Operating Procedure” was the title and it showed numerous uncensored photos and video of the activity that took place at the prison. Also, most of the soldiers involved were interviewed including the now infamous Lyndie England. It’s pretty crazy to see their point of view on the matter and find out what the recourse was. Check it out.

  10. michael reynolds Says:

    Exiled:

    First, let’s remember he did not decide to release the photos. He decided not to send his lawyers into court to stop their release.

    I think what Obama has wanted from the start was to swallow this issue in one big gulp. It’s always the drip drip drip that kills. Get it all out since it will all come out eventually, take prosecutions off the table, grudgingly allow some Congressional investigations but avoid feeding that beast, and hope it all blows over. That’s what he was trying to do. And it probably would have worked — had Cheney been sane.

    But Cheney and the paranoid right blew the issue up. They were frankly just too stupid to realize Obama was helping them, that he was trying to keep this all as low-key as it could be kept. So, thanks to the GOP, which has always been better at chin-jutting and chest-thumping than it has at actually helping our soldiers, the issue erupted and dragged on and on and on.

    Obama’s effort to give the issue a quick death was undercut. The issue went partisan. The release of the pix would inflame the situation still further and help provide impetus for a full-on attack on the issue. That path might easily lead to putting Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld on trial. Not something Obama wants. (Although they deserve it.)

    If any of this points to inexperience, it’s on Dick Cheney’s part. I’ve always said of him that gravitas was Latin for b.s.. He’s not just a war criminal and an incompetent, he’s kind of an idiot.

  11. wj Says:

    Suppose, just for the sake of discussion, that Obama expects/intends to have the Justice Department initiate prosecutions for war crimes. Publishing all of these photos would constitute “prejudicial pre-trial publicity,” would it not? The sort that would get a criminal trial a change of venue . . . except that there would likely not be a venue to move to.

    Which would argue for not releasing the photographs “at this time” — which is all that he said. That may not be where this is going. But if it is, suddenly the action makes perfect sense. And all of you who are screaming loudest are actually the ones who should be rejoicing. I’ll be watching for the “how could we have been so blind” postings when the indictments start coming down. ;-)

  12. michael reynolds Says:

    WJ:

    Obama has done everything he can to signal that there will be no indictments.

    Despite the fact that Cheney is quite clearly a war criminal, and that he authorized torture not to make the country safer but to find a rationale for the invasion of Iraq, I don’t think Obama or most of us are excited by the idea of throwing the creep in jail.

    This is yet another GOP mess Obama’s trying to manage — and taking heat from the very fools he’s cleaning up after. The GOP takes a dump on the kitchen floor then complains about the cost of Lysol and the use of the mop.

  13. ExiledIndependent Says:

    MR, I may be wrong, but it really isn’t up to Obama to decide if there will be prosecutions or not. That’s a judicial thing, isn’t it?

  14. michael reynolds Says:

    Exile:

    It’s a DoJ thing. Which is why I said that he had done “everything he can.” He can’t order it. But he can make his wishes known.

  15. Chris Says:

    there’ll never be a trial for the mass murderers.

  16. Shawn Says:

    Torture. You want to know what torture is, torture is being on lets just say the 110th floor of one of the world trade centers and trying to decide weather to burn to death or jump to your death. That is TORTURE. How about being on on of the hijacked planes and knowing your going to die so you try and get a cell phone signal or one of the airphones to work so maybe you can say goodbye to loved ones. Splashing water in someones face while you hold them down is not TORTURE. Think about one of your loved ones in any of those positions and honestly as yourself if that is not torture.

  17. john adams Says:

    What happened in Iraq is a complete mess and against human rights , I just wanna say that we americans are an idols to the world .
    So those sick military personals in Abu Gharib have stained the reputation of the americans with these horrible tortures which is beyond the limits of “JUST” investigations ,,, These actions came from hate to the Arabian race.
    And that could get other nations to hate us and consider us as RACISTS and that is a big problem for a big country like us .
    Actions like these gives the right to Al Qaida to attack us as some kind of revenge and to point allegations to us and then the world could take thier side against us .
    So i really wanted the people who are responsible for the actions to be prosecuted and punished for thier actions.

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