Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Not particularly sensational


So let me get this straight. Obama has decided to fight the court-ordered release of torture pictures which, he claims, are “not particularly sensational” and “would not add any additional benefit to our understanding,” but would, if published, “further inflame anti-American opinion and... put our troops in greater danger.” So the pictures are unsensational but inflammatory. Or maybe he means unsensational to jaded Americans but inflammatory for excitable foreigners.

I’d guess that the real reason here, besides a lot of whining from the military, is that some of the pictures are of abuse that occurred in Obama’s favorite war, Afghanistan, where information about detainee abuse at Bagram – indeed, any information about detainees in Bagram – has been kept relatively quiet – no Lynddie Englands with digital cameras.

He focused on the fact that these abuses of prisoners – which at one point in his statement today he referred to as “alleged abuse” – occurred in the past. But not everyone shares his belief that the United States was born anew on January 20th. He inherited this country’s past along with its government, and while he attempts to sound like an objective outsider making judgments about what is or is not sensational, what will or will not aid the public understanding, he fails to realize that what he sounds like, because it’s what he is, is the head of a government covering up for employees of the government. He is not a disinterested bystander. Bush and Rumsfeld’s cover-up is now Obama’s cover-up.

What, according to Obama, are the dangers of releasing the photos? “I fear the publication of these photos may only have a chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse.” I puzzled over that for a while with no success, but I think Digby has successfully decoded it: “Apparently, the logic is that the military will refuse to investigate criminal behavior if there is any chance that pictures of such criminal behavior could be made public. So we simply won’t make pictures of it public anymore.” To put it another way, the military has other goals that it values more than stopping the abuse of detainees, and Obama is validating those priorities.

In the end, it’s all about protecting our troops: “I am concerned about how the release of these photos would be -- would impact on the safety of our troops.” So if you oppose this cover-up, you hate our troops.

Seems to me I’ve heard all this before.

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