After backtracking on a previous promise to release photos of alleged prisoner abuse, a new report casts doubt on Obama’s honesty in stating the photos were “not particularly sensational“ – a justification for his change of heart. While the photos have not been released to the public, some journalists were given access to the classified photographs – and have begun to reveal what they saw. A report claims that the photos depict instances of torture, including rape of both male and female prisoners, in addition to other forms of sexual abuse, which occurred at Abu Ghraib and several other prisons in Iraq.
The Pentagon has already quickly denied the report’s accuracy, but with the government refusing to release the photos to the public they are also denying themselves any ability to fully refute the claims made against them – assuming the claims are false. I simply don’t understand how the Obama administration can, on the one hand, attempt to downplay what is depicted in the photographs, and on the other think it too dangerous to release them to the public.
While the stated fear is consistently that releasing the photographs may “inflame anti-American opinion, and … put our troops in greater danger,” isn’t the fact that torture and prisoner abuse took place really what will inflame opinion? Covering up what happened – and ineffectively at that – simply raises more questions and keeps the issue at the forefront. While Obama rightly states the abuse to be unacceptable, without an open process – without proper transperency – it creates and fosters a culture where abuse could spring up under the protection of the government not wanting to reveal what is essentially embarassing to them.
Until the photos are fully released, the continued spectre of what they may be hiding will do noone any good – nor will the slow, inevitable drip by drip reveal of details from people who have seen them. On this one, I agree with Martin Garbus at the Huffington Post – releasing all of the photos now and coming clean is the only way to begin the process of truly moving forward. But not only that, it’s the only course which would actually save lives, not merely veil an embarassing truth.