Obama Reverses Promise to Release Detainee Torture Photos

President Obama announced today that he will move to block the release of photos documenting American military personnel torturing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying the images could "further inflame anti-American opinion."

What BS. You know what will help dampen those flames? An end to war crimes impunity, and the dawn of that true transparency he promised America during his presidential campaign. Instead, we're dealt yet another civil liberties disappointment.

Snip from NYT story:

As he left the White House to fly to Arizona for an evening commencement address, Mr. Obama briefly explained his abrupt reversal on releasing the photographs. He said the pictures, which he has reviewed, "are not particularly sensational, but the conduct did not conform with the Army manual." He did not take questions from reporters, but said disclosing the photos would have "a chilling effect" on future attempts to investigate detainee abuse.

The president's decision marks a sharp reversal from a decision made last month by the Pentagon, which agreed in a case with the American Civil Liberties Union to release photographs showing incidents at Abu Ghraib and a half-dozen other prisons. At the time, the president signed off on the decision, saying he agreed with releasing the photos.

Read the NYT story here, and the ACLU's statement on today's news is here. Snip:
The Obama administration's adoption of the stonewalling tactics and opaque policies of the Bush administration flies in the face of the president's stated desire to restore the rule of law, to revive our moral standing in the world and to lead a transparent government. This decision is particularly disturbing given the Justice Department's failure to initiate a criminal investigation of torture crimes under the Bush administration.
Obama isn't just "Bush Lite" with regard to these issues, he's continuing the exact same policies of the Bush administration and in some matters, expanding those powers further. Nothing "lite" about that.

Read more about the torture documents the ACLU obtained under FOIA here.

Update: Mark Frauenfelder tweets, "Here's a quick form to email President Obama telling him you support transparency and accountability."


  1. Get used to it. He made promises to the extreme left to get elected. Now he has to actually be an executive and make real decisions. Let me know when Gitmo actually gets closed (maybe 2050…)

  2. Doubling down on the Afghani Adventure is going to inflame far many more people than all the torture porn in Washington. That, and all the dead Iraqis. A bad decision.

  3. Don’t blame me, I voted for Kucinich!

    Actually I voted for Obama but I was never under the illusion that much would “change”.

    It’s still disappointing though.

  4. As a pretty big Obama supporter, I have to say I am utterly baffled at this news. I think perhaps people would actually respect America for being open and not trying to sweep our actions under the rug. And the notion that photos could inspire terrorism is plain ludicrous, and demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding about who we are fighting (not that I think Obama is saying this necessarily, but I have heard too many talking heads spewing this BS).

  5. I am a pretty pro free the information sort of guy, but I understand the decision. It was disclosed that the US did the nasty deeds. They came clean. The reason behind holding back the pictures is that it is going to be used in the propaganda war. There isn’t much to gain from releasing the pictures now other than to hand over a PR victory to the Taliban and Al-qaeda.

    Eh, the decision is terribly idealistic, but it is pragmatic. Admit that in the past you have acted like a bastard, say you are sorry, and then try and not hand over any more PR victories to your enemies.

    After having come clean about what happened, what is there to gain by releasing the pictures and tying more emotion to the topic? I ask this question in a completely non-rhetorical manner because there might be a good answer. The best answer I have is that some ugly pictures might convince the American people that torture is bad, but you just need to realize that you are going to pay a price for this elsewhere in the world.

  6. I appreciate how annoying this must be. However, from Obama’s perspective, its not a hard choice to make. He will be being told that the photos will be used as recruiting tools for jihadii and that, ultimately, this will lead to more attacks on US troops and their allies overseas. Now, the people telling him this will have a strong interest in keeping the photos quiet from their own ends – but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t right.

    Xeni draws a false dichotomy when she calls these arguments b/s. Sure a greater respect for the rule of law in the US would help restore its reputation around the world. But it wouldn’t stop these photos being used as recruiting tools for extremists. The best solution would have been for the abuse never to have happened – but Obmama must face the real politic that publishing these photos would put people in danger…

  7. This is not a surprise. Sorry to burst your collective iBubble, but this guy is not
    really out to help the USA.

    He will, however, help with the 70%
    population mortality that is in the
    global pipes.

  8. @#6 The best argument for releasing all the photographs is that not doing so suggests there is still something to hide.

    By not releasing the photographs we/the media/opponents of the Obama administration are free to speculate on what they might contain; perhaps they depict far worse atrocities than have been admitted; perhaps senior military figures would be compromised; perhaps claims by prisoners that have been dismissed would be supported. And so on.

    In this situation, there is more to gain by being open than closed.

  9. I think this could be a case of juggling too much at once and of someone not only picking their battles but picking them at a time that they feel is smart. While this particular issue is certainly near and dear to my own heart as well as to many others’, I am willing to consider the possibility that the reason for the reversal in stance is a reflection of Barry’s belief that taking on this issue, at this moment would have had a corrosive effect on some of his other efforts. While I think, logically, we can look at the decision to release the photos as being something that would bolster our current global reputation, not to mention restore a sense of accountability to our governing body, not all other members of the global society(read: people) are logical. For some, the subject of the photos may have eclipsed the significance of the gesture of releasing the photos. The potential negative reaction to the photos, however likely, may be more than Obama feels his administration or military can handle at this point in time. Whether a flare up over the decision not to release the photos is to occur I would guess that, at least in Obama’s mind, the risk there is outweighed by the risk of the first scenario. I am not a blindly dogged Obama fanboy, just playing somebody’s advocate here.

  10. “Coming clean” requires full disclosure which means releasing the pictures. Hiding the pictures arms anyone who disagrees with Obama’s take on how revealing the pictures are. There is so much more making up for the US to do, it’s naive and almost oblivious to the consequences of torture to believe that mere disclosure is sufficient to heal those wounds.

    The only pragmatism involved here is Obama’s belief that he’s worth re-electing despite continuing the policies that the left got so up in arms about when Bush implemented them. Sadly I think he’s right; so many Americans vote out of fear and ignorance they will fall for the lesser of two evils instead of deciding we’ve had enough evil and vote accordingly. Obama’s decision ought to make any American seriously consider what third parties and independents have to offer, challenging the corporate media the whole time for not presenting those candidates to us.

  11. As much as I hate the torture tactics that have been used in our so-called war-on-terror, anything that we do that will increase the risk to the young men and women who are doing our national bidding in Afganistan and Iraq would be irresponsible in the extreme. I’m willing to give Obama a pass on this one…

  12. I think the photos should be released – and made into a Time Life style book titled, “U.S. Torture, Lest We Forget.” Often it takes the shock of images to make some people change their mind on something.

  13. Personally, I know the events happened and I want accountability. However, I *DO NOT* want to actually look at any of these photos.

  14. Laughing my ass off at those that actually thought that “the messiah” was going to fix everything and hand out all you ever needed. Obama is just an empty suit swaying which ever way the wind blows to get media attention. He made big promises and scare tactics to convince the ignorant how to vote. Now that there are critical issues its just like watching a chicken with its head cut off. No direction, no clue.

    Perhaps he should just throw a lot more money, we don’t have, at the problem. Just like his plan for the economy. I am still waiting for my government created job that took $275,000 each to create.

  15. What makes me giggle is that some of you are surprised by this decision.

    Obama is not who you thought he was, an agent of change.

    He is just another politician with a good set of nice teeth, handsome, young, and can give a good speech from time to time.

    If you are upset about this decision, just wait, he’s just getting started.

    The next few years are going to be highly entertaining. If this wasn’t the country I love, I wouldn’t be crying after the laughing stopped.

  16. Obama said in the press today that the photos were “un-sensational” if that is so, why not release them? We cannot just sweep that last 8 years under the rug and pretend it never happened, especially when Obama is continuing some of the Bush Era policies, that just don’t make sense.

  17. Obama has backpedaled on FISA, has come out against gay marriage, hasn’t drawn down troops in Iraq… seems like there is a pattern here.

  18. I’m not going to argue whether the photographs should be published or not.

    rindan @7:

    Admit that in the past you have acted like a bastard, say you are sorry, and then try and not hand over any more PR victories to your enemies.

    Saying that you’re sorry is necessary, but not sufficient. You also have to prosecute the criminals who carried out the many illegal programs and those who authorized them, from the Idiot Boy King down. This includes Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, Tenet, Yoo, Bybee, Ashcroft, and Gonzales. Until this happens, the apology is an empty gesture: if we show the world that America’s top bastards can break the law without consequence, then we have failed to be a nation “of laws, not of men”. And that is the end of the Republic.

  19. Dd y dts xpct nythng dffrnt? Y ll drnk th cl-d. It’s so obvious that D.C. will be D.C. no matter who is in office.

    I doesn’t matter who holds the office of “President”.

  20. “the dawn of that true transparency he promised America during his presidential campaign.”

    what… you BOUGHT that shit?

    Did anyone honestly think that he was going to fix anything? Or that a President even has any actual power to make good on his promises?

    Wouldn’t it be a bit more prudent to perhaps look at, say, pretty much every f’ing president’s campaign promises, and their subsequent non-manifestation, as an indication of what this presidency might be like?

    I mean come on – I voted for Ron Paul, but not once did i actually believe that he would succeed in abolishing the Fed and the IRS. I’m sure he’d try, and he certainly isn’t typical regarding his complacency – he genuinely would have tried.

    But Obama is like clinton. He just says shit to get elected, great orator blah blah blah, but now the bastard is *laughing* at the marijuana legalization efforts, and hasn’t done anything to restore our country to dignity. Closing gitmo, he doesnt get credit for that – it’s simply the right thing to do. If you take a shit, and then wipe your ass, does anyone come and blow you for a job well done? No, your ass was dirty – you wiped it. You did something that’s completely obvious and necessary. If you disagree, make sure to really thank and congratulate the next guy who serves you a burger at a burger joint.

  21. By the way, I completely support our President, and I love the USA. As a disabled veteran, I feel that there is no better place in the world to live. Though the media would make you think that the entire world is against the USA, they are wrong. I’ve been all over the world, and nothing could be further from the truth.

    The fact that people are wasting time discussing pictures is amazing to me. There are far more pressing issues that need to be discussed.

    Love your Country, and love each other.

  22. Everybody remember; no matter HOW much you love “your” guy or gal in office, they are still POLITICIANS who POLITIC.

    There may be some things that the Left is better at and some things that the right is better at but this whole thing is just American Politics as Usual.

    and people on the Right? Don’t think that your team would have done any different.

  23. Ah, the smell of broken promises and crushed illusions.

    I was hoping Obama would be strong enough to stop the US’ descent into evil empire/police state, but it looks like I was wrong.

    Well, it couldn’t happen to a nicer country.

  24. I’m boggled that anyone ranks the lack of prosecution for torture with the failure to release pictures. I don’t think the pictures need to be released. They are absolutely propaganda for the other side. I do think that we need to prosecute those who tortured.

    Coming clean means admitting what you did. It does not require providing pictures. Nor should it. Do you think that coming clean as a spousal abuser should require releasing pictures of your spouse with bruises? I see that as more likely to provide propaganda benefits to the other side, and more likely to hurt the victims depicted than anything else. Now if you want to release mugshots of the folks convicted of abusing detainees, I’d be all for that.

  25. I don’t see the advantage in releasing these photographs. We know precisely what sorts of torture went on thanks to a number of declassified reports by the CIA and others. This has been a laudably transparent move. I don’t see how the tiny boost to transparency obtained by releasing these photos does more good than harm to foreign opinion.

    They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I think they’re right. If you were to ask people precisely what things went on in Guantanamo Bay, most people wouldn’t be able to say anything beyond torture and maybe waterboarding. It’s not that the information is hard to find, it’s just that it’s in text form. Release these pictures and everyone will know the extent and horror of the atrocities committed in these black sites.

    I am honestly convinced that most of the people who want to see these photos released are saying so because, deep down, they’re more interested in satisfying their own morbid curiosity than actually thinking about what is best for everyone.

    Releasing these photos so soon after they were taken would not “put an end to war crimes impunity.”

  26. @#27: Where is this libertarian utopia you live in?

    I live in the US and have never felt as though I live in a policy state.

  27. I don’t blame him. I blame the miserable, good for nothing pricks who have access to the material and will not leak it.

  28. Wouldn’t it be a bit more prudent to perhaps look at, say, pretty much every f’ing president’s campaign promises, and their subsequent non-manifestation, as an indication of what this presidency might be like?

    Well, you can actually look at Obama’s. There’s a nice little website that details all the campaign promises Obama has made and which ones he’s fulfilled, which he’s renegged on and what’s in progress.

    For the life of me I can’t seem to find a campaign promise to legalize marijuana anywhere within the 514 promises listed and I’d really like to only hold Obama accountable for breaking promises that he actually made.

    Since this whole story was about Obama’s transparency promises, I’d like to point out that Obama’s promise to make his administration transparent in no way implies making Bush’s administration transparent. Obama did however restore the Presidential Records Act that Bush neutered so that in five years, you’ll be able to file an FOIA request.

    Seriously though, what is with everyone’s complete lack of patience? Everyone always wants everything NOW NOW NOW.

  29. What? Politician fails to keep campaign promise? In this case, perhaps the most skillful politician we’ve seen, so I’m not surprised.

    I voted for him, and I knew what I was getting myself into. With all the entertainment industry lawyers in place, you can expect big change all right. Get ready for the shakedown of the century. Civil liberties, what’re those?

    Forget all the talk about socialism, Obama is pure money. As if Americans and the rest of the world aren’t prepared to witness firsthand what we already know to be true. We’ve tortured people, it’s old news, and yet the delayed release of these pictures says WHAT about us exactly? That we seek to hide our wrongdoings, even after we’ve publicly acknowledged it was wrong in great detail? That we’re terrified of our own fucking shadows, even as the most cowardly among us contend that we’ve done nothing wrong? We deserve whatever happens to us. For our complicity in these crimes, our electing of countless amoral finks, our laziness, cultural vanity and ignorance, and pervasive greed.

    62% of Americans believe that waterboarding is torture. Regardless of what the other 38% think, it has been considered torture for centuries, and all torture is wrong. Tortured prisoners, even guilty ones, demand justice.

  30. Obama predictably let me down. Where does this
    fit into his promise of transparency and openness?

    Anyway, after his pledges of support to Israel
    in his speeches before AIPAC I had to hold my
    nose to vote for him.

    I didn’t really vote for Obama – I voted for
    ‘not McCain”.

  31. Surely when you voted for Obama you knew he would make some decisions with which you would disagree. Can you take the bad with the good?

  32. I consider the failure to prosecute the perpetrators, the failure to close Guantanamo, the failure to reverse course on the Patriot Act, and the failure to cease pursuing Bush era litigation about the legitimacy of torture to be actual failures of this administration.

    Not releasing the pictures is a logical decision. The pictures will give us nothing of value, except for those freaks who get off on that kind of stuff.

  33. Agreeing with Obama. Torture photos should not be released

    I reluctantly agree that at this time it is in the interest of the nation that these particular photos not be released. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and is very fragile right now. To release these photos would serve no good political purpose and only inflame the Taliban and others.

    People should not be blasé about these photos. We know what’s in them. They make the previous torture photos look like a walk in the park and depict the sexual abuse and rape of young Islamic men. Including anal rape with objects. Some of the detainees were sodomized to the point of exhaustion as a tactic to break their will.

    You really want that shit spread all through the Islamic world?

    I also reject the cynicism and the purity posturing seen in a few of the comments here. Both cynicism and ideological purity are self-centered positions. They are poison and should be resisted.

    I don’t like taking this position but my pragmatism forces me to at this time.

  34. If people were very publicly going to jail for what happened, I’d say “Allright, the photos don’t matter. Justice is being done”.

    But as far as I’ve seen that’s not being done. Correction – I KNOW thats not being done. And if we can’t hope for accountability, we at least need transparency. Or at least a smattering of honesty. Not only did he not release the photos, he said “They aren’t that bad.” When you say something like that, and refuse to show the pictures? Then your shooting your own credibility to hell. If he had said “They are horrible. They make me sick – they are worse than we have seen before, and the people who are doing them are going to pay the consequences of their action, but we feel its in the best interests of our people to not reveal the actual photos” you know, I would have been okay with it. But the ways he’s handling it… just, no.

  35. Of course the photos can be of recruitment use to terrorists. Too bad. So can a cover-up be used.

    We are supposed to be a nation of laws. When we sweep the crimes of high-office holders aside for expedient reasons, we do more harm to ourselves than any terrorist can. This policy by the Obama administration is immoral and cowardly. By covering this up, by lamely attempting to “hide” what everyone knows happened only ensures it will happen again. We should live up to our own standards, no matter what radical Islam thinks.

    Well I guess that’s just me posturing “pure.”

    When we torture, when we subscribe to the Nixon/Rice belief that if “the President does it, it’s not illegal” then all that is LEFT for the terrorist to destroy is buildings, because we’ve destroyed the real country ourselves.

  36. OMFG!!11!! OBAMA SOLD OUT TO THE MAN!!!!!1!!

    Oh wait…

    …in this instance there is no man to sell out to. Who exactly do you think Obama is covering for with evil intent? The Bush (!?) administration? Has it occurred to the people up in arms that maybe a lot of smart people sat down in a room, hashed it out, and in the end decided that releasing the photos might cause more harm then good?

    Obama has nothing to lose when he trashes on the old administration. Love or hate the decision, you might want to stop and consider for a moment that maybe, just maybe, Obama isn’t sell out to , but instead is genuinely doing what he thinks is best for the American people.

    I am pretty sure not releasing the photos has zero to do American sensibilities. I can saw with complete assurance that the decision to not release the photos despite having released the documents associated with them is 100% about people outside of the US. It is a calculated move to not dump a PR gift in the lap of Al-qaeda.

    Images mean a lot. Hell, look at Pakistan. You have the Taliban doing horrible things in the Swat valley and the majority of Pakistan wanted nothing to do with it. Then, a video leaks out of a Taliban flogging a woman. The video didn’t change any facts or evidence. Everyone in Pakistan knew what was happening on an intellectual level, but it wasn’t until they saw what they already knew that rage finally spilled over.

    Personally, I give Obama the benefit of the doubt. He doesn’t stand to gain anything politically from this. On the contrary, his reversal will likely hurt him politically and toss canon fodder to the right. I personally think it is a bold move. I personally LIKE having a president who can see that what he originally thought was wrong and have his mind changed. I don’t consider inflexibility and the inability to listen to the arguments of others as a virtue.

  37. “Ladies and Gentlemen, after looking at those pictures in depth for the first time since before I President….. I do not want to show these pictures to the American public, because they are now evidence. I have filed charges with the department of justice to arrest all those responsible for these heinous acts, starting with the president and vice president. I want these people arrested, tried, and convicted for these pictures to be sealed away for 100 years so we as the American people can live out our shame to know we lived in these times.”

    Maybe in another time line…..


  38. He doesn’t stand to gain anything politically from this.


    Not releasing the photos means he can continue to keep a lid on calls for investigations into the torture regime. It’s obviously, undoubtedly a political winner for him.

  39. I knew there would be no real change in foreign policy when this administration let Robert Gates keep his job. The same guy in the same position does the same stuff — hardly a shocker. Sad, but not unexpected.

  40. I think Obama has more to fear from the US public seeing those pictures than ‘the islamic world’.

    In a court those pictures would be (and should be) used as evidence, but when the American justice system seems to be turning a blind eye its the public that needs those pictures to be able to say ‘THIS is what happened. THIS is why those people need to be in jail.’ Extremists are the least of America’s problems when the people in charge are able to circumvent the law.

    The entire world was cheering for Obama to get elected and now he is, himself, flaming that same anti-americanism via inaction.

  41. I voted for obama…

    I had alot of hope for the future…

    It seems my hope was sorely misplaced…

  42. We are now, after decades of working at it, finally on the cusp of making real changes to health care, energy, and education.

    You don’t get that done if you go around arresting ex-presidents. Simply, the office of president is bigger than Bush.

    The subtext here is that the republican party is re-forming around libertarianism. Here’s a litmus test: if you’re on the same side as Hannity (who is also making a big deal about this), you need to re-think things.

  43. @46

    Yeah, systematic, widespread torture is a fair price to pay for better health care, energy and education. What’s the big deal of a few possibly innocent Ay-rabs getting beaten and raped compared to a real public investment in solar panels?

  44. The Nation might have already seen enough to know that things went down that should not have. I know that I haven’t seen all that have already been released and I am not sure what seeing more of the same or worse is going to further prove. Rather, The Bush admin should have to answer for the actions of their volunteer military carrying out orders. Some people, I am certain we will never know who, will never be held responsible in a real court.

    Pres. Obama is a smart politician. His administration is generally quite appropriate. Way smarter and far less shifty than Bush’s appointees. We shall see after four years how things are going.

    One thing that I know is that I have never seen a leader so smug and incoherent as that last dud we had for eight years and I think that Bush was wily more than smart. Pres. Obama is coherent, he thinks about what he says and does for a while before he acts–usually. Not in this case, he appears hypocritical but perhaps for good reason. Those reasons might be as transparent as he says. They would only further the embarrassment of America.

    I am sure that is true. For what else could such information accomplish other than put an exclamation point on something that has enough emphasis already!

  45. @ #46: I don’t think positive social changes are incompatible with justice and accountability.

    Bigger fish to fry shouldn’t mean a get out a jail free card.

  46. Christ people, can’t you let Obama make a freakin’ decision?
    Just because he doesn’t release the photos now doesn’t mean he won’t in the future, and don’t forget he still has four and a half years left.
    Personally, I don’t think they need to be released; I just don’t think it’s needed. There’s plenty of first-hand testimony available from people that were involved.
    As for the photos “putting our soldiers in danger”, um, aren’t they fighting in a war for chrissake? How much more danger can they get in?

  47. I think Obama has more to fear from the US public seeing those pictures than ‘the islamic world’.

    In a court those pictures would be (and should be) used as evidence, but when the American justice system seems to be turning a blind eye its the public that needs those pictures to be able to say ‘THIS is what happened. THIS is why those people need to be in jail.’ Extremists are the least of America’s problems when the people in charge are able to circumvent the law.

    It isn’t like this is the first time there have been pictures of Americans torturing people. We have been down this road, or has Abu Ghraib too far back in the past for everyone’s memory?

    What happened last time?

    Was the American public mildly pissed? Sure. Did it launch a revolt? Nope. Did the “the Islamic world” throw a fit and start burning things? You better believe it. Abu Ghraib was the greatest propaganda defeat the US suffered during the Iraq war.

    Obama doesn’t have anything politically to lose by tossing the pictures out there. So he makes Bush look like a jackass and elevates himself? Wow, those are some BIG consequences for Obama.

    Nope, I am pretty sure that there is no domestic political calculation here. The easy thing to do is release the pictures and re-hash what a jackass that old president was and gee, isn’t it nice to have a new one? The hard thing to do is to decide is to listen to council, accept a valid argument, and not put out the pictures for the betterment of the US, even though putting them out and stomping a little more on Bush is a political slam dunk.

    I have a lot of respect for Obama. The fact that he could come out and say that he was going to release the pictures, listen council, and OMG CHANGE HIS MIND despite the negative political consequences to himself, is frankly refreshing. I don’t want a block headed jackass in the white house who makes a decision and rides it out come hell or high water. We tried that once. It sucked.

    I personally have grown to like Obama more and more as time has gone on. That isn’t to say I agree with his every decision, but it is wonderfully refreshing to see the president act with a pragmatic deliberateness. Is he pissing off his base in addition to the right? Yup. If everyone is pissed it is probably a sign that he is doing something right.

  48. @52 Actually, they don’t. Germany does, in does. Good thing, too.

    The very fact that the guy’s nearly 90 is simply no reason not ro prosesucte him.

  49. The propaganda war is already lost. Not against the warmongers employing terrorism, because those are fanatics who are very hard to reach just by information.

    People already left American and American-led camps in prison and spread their tales of torture, both real, imagined and outright lies.

    What’s worse is the signal this sends to allies and observing neutrals, because it implies that there will no real repercussions to anyone involved. Instead of going public and prosecute the torturers, it’s business as usual.

    Every German soldier, draftees and enlisted alike, gets hammered in that he must refuse illegal orders and that he’s quite capable of making that decision for him- or herself, especially in such clear cases. Frankly, I see our soldiers in Afghanistan at an increased risk by having them confused with U.S. soldiers and agents, who apparently can get away with committing atrocities and I’ll certainly let my MP know that I expect him to refuse sending more soldiers, as Obama expects us to do.

    An increased risk for American soldiers abroad? Yes, of course. Because by trying to suppress the issue for domestic reasons, Obama proves to the rest of the world, that the moral and high ground the American used to claim with some right has been eroded.

  50. @28 Likening state-sanctioned torture of foreign nationals with spousal abuse evokes an intersting picture. America as a battering husband who should be shamed. Non intended, I’m sure.

    No, the point of publicizing such photos is not shaming, but truth. At allow the public, in whose name the acts have been done and in whose name any justice will be spoken to see for themselves what has happened, who did it and if they want to be associated with either.

    When U.S. and troops freed concentration camps in Germany, they forced the nearby populace to confront the installations and the victims. While seemingly cruel to a civilian population which certainly knew about the genocide in an abstract way, but was disconnected from the real horrors (save getting bombed themselves), it was a good decision. No sweeping under the carpet for those people, while others fester idead of camps as just prisons and abuse and murders just as anti-German propaganda years later.

    By suppressing visual information about torture and abuse, the administration effectively denies the American public to make a truly informed decision on that matter.

  51. The very fact that the guy’s nearly 90 is simply no reason not to prosecute him.

    Prosecution theater. Or, technically for the US, extradition theater. We’re extraditing a guy for war crimes committed 65 years ago, for which even Israel has said that he’s the wrong guy.

    In the meantime, we have dozens of US soldiers who have committed war crimes in the last ten years, with video to prove it, and most of them will get off with a slap on the wrist. And the politicians and ranking military who allowed it, who would have been hanged after Nuremberg, will be pardoned.

    It’s propaganda. And the message is that war crimes can’t possibly be committed by the US. Look at the old man over there; he’s a real honest-to-god Nazi. Those are the real criminals. Pay no attention to the man behind the red, white and blue curtain.

  52. @57 No, the US is extraditing him because he’s not an US citizen who’s being charged with crimes by another nation.

    The court in Israel let him go, because he was not the person who committed crimes at Treblinka. Germany, however, prosecutes him for crimes done at Sobibor. Not even double jeopardy, which wouldn’t apply anyway.

  53. @56 again.

    If Demjanjuk can be proven to have assisted in the slaugther of thousands of people, he *is* a criminal. Plain and simple. He’s even worse than the US soliders and agents who ordered or comitted torture on a much smaller state.

    But even those should not be safe from prosecuction, even if takes another 60 years.

  54. So, it turns out politicians lie, and Obama might not be the messiah after all.

    Who knew?

  55. Here is the problem with their rationalization on not releasing the photos: the pictures obviously exist. If I told you I had pictures of me brutally abusing your significant other, but told you that I did not want to show them to you because you would be mad at me, would you be any LESS mad?

    Sure, the entire world is not going to change their opinion of America overnight, especially not over this, but if he were to go ahead and release these, and admit that America has made some huge mistakes (like he was so glad to do on the campain trail), then it would be a step in the right direction.

  56. I’m actually fine with this, as long as he “trades” us the persecution of some of the individuals who committed torture.

    I think it’s fucking retarded of people here to just measure it as “he promised”. If these photos are really that bad, and they do inflame al-queda and other extremists and put American servicemen at risk, then that’s something at least be factoring in. And yes, sunlight etc etc etc… But like I said, trade me some prosecution and at the end of the day we get what’s important.

  57. To all those who say they knew he would break his “promises” and that everyone was naive to vote for him, you should be happy that it’s not McCain who’s in office right now.

  58. .
    Curious timing. One can’t help but wonder whether it has anything to do with Cheney’s torturer in chief being promoted to Grand Wazir of Afghanistan & Pakistan by Obama. Wouldn’t want the Senators staring at pics of Lt.Gen. McChrystal’s handiwork in Iraq at his confirmation hearing.

    Change? Up to you, now, peoples…

  59. Pictures matter. Do you think many Americans would have cared about what happened at Abu Ghraib if it weren’t for the iconic images that came out? I highly doubt it.

  60. grimc @ 47:

    What’s the big deal of a few possibly innocent Ay-rabs getting beaten and raped compared to a real public investment in solar panels? < \i>

    Torture policies have already been stopped: you’re not talking about stopping torture, you’re talking about prosecuting the lawyers responsible.

    In that case, the argument for releasing these photos is that it adds pressure to carry out those prosecutions. I don’t believe releasing the photos would lead to that. It would< \i> lead to real danger for American soldiers, and it would distract from the social changes Obama DID promise and IS carrying out.

    I did not vote for Obama the idealogue, I voted for Obama the pragmatist. He stands to gain nothing from releasing the photos, while he stands to lose everything on his platform. And I care about his platform.

    Should people push the debate? Absolutely. But for goodness sake don’t claim, as many here have, that Obama hasn’t been an agent of real change.

  61. Torture policies have already been stopped: you’re not talking about stopping torture, you’re talking about prosecuting the lawyers responsible.

    You’re talking about looking the other way so you can get cheaper insurance rates and lower electricity bills. You’re talking not only about the office of President being “bigger than Bush”, but also bigger than the rule of law.

    Accusing people of agreeing with Hannity is rich, coming from somebody who’s channelling Nixon.

    Just because the guy I voted for won doesn’t mean I’m going to hold him to a lesser standard.

  62. “National security”– what was in the photos that would compromise national security? Embarrassment maybe? I certainly remember embarrassment making me feel insecure in grade school.

    I too would like the photos to go away, to forget that representatives of the US did things that were inhumane and macabre and unhelpful, but making them go away won’t actually change what happened. It’s better to release the photos and apologize and draw a line in the sand saying “we will not go back to this ever again.”

  63. I don’t understand why everyone is so busy going “HAHA! Your Obama savior is a liar! He’s the same old blahblah politican liar” because we are pointing out decisions we disagree with. Just because Obama doesn’t always do what we want doesn’t mean that “omg our hope for washington is over! give up hope now!” Obama’s doing a lot of things I like, and some things I don’t. Just because he makes decisions I disagree with doesn’t mean that he’s dashed my hopes for bringing change to America. Why does everyone always react like that?

  64. You can respect rule of law without releasing all evidence to the public — happens every day in court.

  65. @70 Actually, I kind of agree. As a German I’m used to a much greater respect for privacy, as Americans are used to a much greater respect for free speech.

    However, this is not a simple spousal abuse isse, some petty theft, etc, but the absue of prisoners of the state. Isn’t it kind of the point of your and others consitititions to limit the vast powers granted to the state by installing checks and balances and holding it to a higher standard?

    It’s absurd that the addresses of “sex offenders” get posted to the web, picture of petty car thives publiczed on on television but evidence of state abuse gets withold from the publich.

  66. #68,

    We react in this way partly because we have high expectations of Obama–we do not want him simply to reverse legal, ideological, and stylistic course from the previous administration, but also to make good on his explicit and implicit campaign promises.

    We react this way because while we like some of his decisions as president he has botched many of those which matter most to us: for every promise not to abuse the use of signing statements to alter legislation passed by Congress (good), he refuses to pursue and prosecute criminal behavior in the previous administration (bad). And then we have the in-between cases, which give us the candy-coated shell, but not the milky-chocolate center: he wants to close Guantanamo Bay (good), but the persons held there will not get trials or have the chance to defend themselves by other means, but instead simply be transferred to sites in the U.S. They will remain in detention without recourse to the law (bad).

    We expect much of Obama, that doesn’t seem unreasonable for a person who occupies the so-called ‘most important job in the world’, and so far he fails as much as succeeds to deliver.

    That is why we react this way. Because we desperately want the situation to improve, and we feel that in many substantive ways it has not.

    Can you blame us?

  67. I don’t need to see the torture photos to know that what happened was very very bad and should never happen again. “Enhanced interrogation” doesn’t even make my top ten reasons for why war is an ugly rotten sick and twisted defilemnt of humanity. Torture is just one spoke on the tragic wheel of war. We need to focus on ending the war in a responsible manner. I’ll pass on the Time/Life coffee table tome of this horrendous passage in world history. Peace.

  68. I think about Wolfie getting a hold of the paper with all this gruesome stuff layed out. Think about it. Do we really want to put all this stuff out there to be sucked up by every impressionable mind the world over? Because you know they are going to end up seeing it. They’ll put the pictures on Extra or the Evening News and people will sit around the dinner table and see the whole thing.

    It reminds me a lot of the Starr Report. Remember those good old days? Back then, we’d gather around the boob tube and listen to journalists tell us all about the presidet’s extramarital sex life. It just keeps getting better!

  69. Wow! What a bullshitter this Obama is. I’ve already removed my email address from his mailing list and withdrawn all support of him. This assault on freedom of information is disgusting and bespeaks a leader who is too frightened to stand up to his own military. Very dangerous.

    I simply cannot believe that I gave money to this guy. Lots a lots of it. I’d kind of like a refund.

    I certainly look forward to the possibility of a Democratic candidate in 2012 who is not Mr. Obama.

    Mr. Obama: way to lose your audience, dude.

  70. @75

    Why did you vote for Obama? The domestic platform was education, energy, and health care. He is working on all these: health care first.

    Internationally, he promised to move troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan. He’s done that.

    Above all, he promised to listen to ideas and be open to changing his mind. That’s precisely what he’s done. You may not agree with him, but he WILL listen, so speak up!

    Democrats need enthusiastic supporters and they need harsh critics. I hope you haven’t decided to unplug from the process.

  71. #76,

    Oh have no fear I have not by any means unplugged from the process. Far from it. I am a supporter of freedom of expression and I think that the requirements of freedom of information with our government require that the administration release the photos of a crimes committed by our own military. You do not hide photos of crimes. You do not seek to excuse such secrecy by pretending that the information will ‘inflame’ various people.

    Once someone performs way he or she loses me forever. Forever. There’s no going back. There’s no more vote for this person. I become an opponent. I will campaign and fund and vote until Obama is no longer in office. He’s a four year president because when you lose people like me you are all done.

    If the moderators allow it (and I fully understand if they don’t), here is a link to my withdrawal of support for Obama from my own site:


    I take this situation very very seriously because it goes right to the heart of the need for freedom of information in our government. A Democratic administration that does not release these photos is not a liberal administration by any stretch of the definition.

  72. danlalan: What makes the troops unsafe is invasion, occupation, and torture. All of those things come well before the pictures were taken. Finding out more about these events does not “increase the risk to the young men and women who are doing our national bidding” because there are already lots of people who know the US invades, occupies, and tortures people.

    As more of those American men and women come home in body bags more Americans disagree with war. At which point war is not “our national bidding”. Remember, the Democrats fiercely opposed anti-war candidates in their primary. The country was asked to choose between a number of corporate-funded pro-war candidates. Any candidates who opposed war as policy were marginalized in what little coverage they received and prevented from getting the coverage necessary for the country to realize that life doesn’t have to be this way.

  73. @72 At first I wanted to say “That’s patently absurd.” Than I thought the worst kind of images I do not want to see published frely: The ones about rape and abuse picture of children, usually misnamed as kid porn. Afterwards I was inclined to switch your position – but only for a short moment, The later doesn’t get usually exposed to the public, even though it is evidence. But the matter isn’t that simple, the cases are not really comparable.

    The vast majority of people do indeed not to see pictures about child rape and abuse to know it’s wrong. This diminishes the need of the press to have open and candid access to theses pictures to publish them so the populace can make an informed decision. Also, there *is* an audience of sick people(*) who would jump at the free material. Which is why possession and/or trafficking such material is an punishable offense in many jurisdictions.

    Pictures of abused and tortured adults, however, are usually protected by free speech, an adult can also make an informed decision to let himself get tortured, etc.

    So, these pictures are in my option less worthy of suppression because not the lesser need of protection of the victims and the greater need of educating the public about the reality of the public.

    Yes, I wrote education, because upon reading of dozens of comments on the web, I have severe doubt that most citizens have truly grasped what horrors have been done in their names, thinking that waterboarding means getting splashed with a litte water and that “toture” is what some sissies call getting slapped in the face and having to food for a day.

    *) I mean that literally, these men and women need therapy, preferably long before they do something that warrants pubishment.

  74. @79

    This line of argument works better than others I’ve read. You’re not arguing that these should be public because EVERYTHING should be public.

    Instead, you’re saying that a better understanding of what happened might prevent it in the future.

    As an educator, I would have to give at least a ten year window to a real reconsideration: we’re not even OK with teaching our kids this stuff yet. But, I hope that US history shows that such a reconsideration will take place.

    You’re also implying that the blame, today, would be placed in the right spot: that outrage would lead to prosecutions of (at best) Bush-era lawyers and high level CIA.

    That’s not how American politics works. Presently, the person most likely to get taken down by a public outrage is Nancy Pelosi, a prominent democrat. Perversely, the Republicans have turned this issue in their favor.

    I have concluded that prosecution is simply impossible (although Pelosi might get ousted). Without prosecution as a positive effect, there is nothing left to balance the negatives:

    Would YOU like to write the letter explaining why a child’s death during the resulting riots was justified? What reasons would you give in such a letter?

    Moving the ship of state is a slow process. The problem should not and will not go away, but it will go through the judicial system, not the executive. The best I hope for is that after several years, there will be transparent rules for dealing with enemy non-combatants: a broadened Geneva Convention.

    Clearly what’s needed here is cooperation to define new rules globally. I highly suspect German suspects are asked for more than their name, rank, and serial number.

    I hope that those who oppose torture have the strength of will to KEEP opposing it even though it will take time to happen, and even if the avenues it takes aren’t what you expect.

  75. It sounds perfectly reasonable to me. They do need to prosecute the suspects that they have arrested. There may be some of the inmates that were wrongly accused. But there are assuredly other inmates who were honestly captured to prevent them from carrying out attacks against them. Listen, its a dirty filthy business. But its a WAR, what the hell does everyone expect? Of course it is going to be messy, vile, humiliating and profoundly destructive. The torture is the icing on the cake. Let them carry out the prosecutions, release the innocent, close the base, and END THE WAR.

    The civilian death toll, the property destruction- these things to me are so much more unacceptable than torture. We’ve fixated on the practice of torture as the cause celebre. Meanwhile, the streets of Bagdhad continue to run with blood. The villages destroyed under American bombs. This is what we must put an end to. Kucinich was right. We need to withdrawl. Those regions are fucked, we fucked it up even more for them, and we need to turn the tanks around and go home.

  76. @80

    Well, having a child killed in a riot would be bad, sure, bt it’d be the rioters fault. After all, certain populations riot because of caricature of Mohammed, and I do not really see a great call to suppress such caricatures in the west.

    However, i’m interested in this:

    “Clearly what’s needed here is cooperation to define new rules globally. I highly suspect German suspects are asked for more than their name, rank, and serial number.”

    I don’t get where you are getting at.

    However, you might be interested that the German Staatsanwaltschaft (what Americans would call the prosecution) does indeed get involved whenever German soldeier kill in Afghanistan.

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