President Obama made a decision that I completely agree with – not releasing the photos depicting the abuse of detainees held by the U.S. abroad. He had second thoughts after saying earlier that he would.
Obama agreed less than three weeks ago not to oppose the photos’ release, but he changed his mind after viewing some of the images and hearing warnings from his generals in Iraq and in Afghanistan that such a move would endanger U.S. troops deployed there.
"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," Obama said yesterday. "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 danger."
My opinion that they shouldn’t be released should not be construed as an endorsement of what took place. The treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was indefensible and brought shame to our military and country. It was conduct unbecoming of a soldier in the United States Army. His decision is a good one. That said who exactly would benefit from the release of these photos?
The ACLU? Al-Qaeda? Sunni insurgents? Far left radicals? Who?
Of course my hometown paper, the Des Moines Register, disagrees with this decision. Surprise, surprise.
The president certainly faces a dilemma. He values open government. Yet he must weigh that against the unintended consequences of being open.
Photos of U.S. troops abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison that came to public attention in 2004 had consequences. Soldiers ended up in jail. The United States was globally embarrassed. Many in the Middle East were enraged.
It’s possible releasing new images could have the same effect.
But openness is still the right way to go.
So basically the Register says, show the pictures and the consequences be damned. Who cares about the soldiers still in the Middle East! Who cares that they will likely be used as propaganda in terrorist recruitment. This isn’t a move to keep us from looking bad, but rather it is a matter of national security and Obama, for once, is showing some common sense in this area.
Leave it to the Register to be against common sense. These pictures already had their intended effect. The Washington Post reports that, “they were assembled as part of about 200 criminal investigations conducted before and after the disclosure in 2004 of widespread prisoner abuse by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib.”
Isn’t that the important thing here? That those who were involved (a very, very small number of soldiers, the vast majority have acted honorably) were held accountable and are either in prison or have been dishonorably discharged? I think so. Justice has been done. We have own up to what happened.
Releasing the pictures will do nothing but inflame anti-American sentiment, give aid to our enemies, and something the Register isn’t even thinking about, bring further shame to the victims of Abu Ghraib.
Good decision Mr. President.