Okay, so Obama’s done a policy about-face on transparency and decided to try and block the release of photographs depicting abuse of prisoners by military personnel. Many people are in uproar about this, and just as many are defending him. I, for one, am a little torn. (Not a lot, just a little.) I agree with his reasoning that if the photos were released now, they could bring undue risk upon our troops in the Middle East in the form of increased hostility.
“But Alex,” you might say, “we’ve already seen Abu Ghraib and heard about these other photos. Since we’ve heard about them already, releasing them properly won’t be that much of a stretch.”
Ah, but then you would be thinking like someone reasonable, which terrorists often are not. If the photos were released now, they would become another rallying point for those who hate us already, and they would say, “See? Look at what the Americans do to us. Don’t you hate them? Don’t you want to kill them?” I’m not in favor of keeping the photos hidden forever – but for now, I think the president is doing the right thing by keeping them under wraps for just a little while longer. Given the fact that groups like al-Qaeda are so hard to fight, the question is, for how long will the photographs be classified under the excuse that it could endanger our troops? The fact is, we’re probably not going to feel safe enough to put those photos out in the world for the foreseeable future. There’s always going to be someone pointing at them and saying that the Americans are barbarians who torture. But withholding them for now, with so many soldiers in the region, seems to be the right thing to do. Just not forever…and hopefully not for as long as the Kennedy assassination files. That’s way too long.
(Note: I am fully aware that this may be read as “My President, Right Or Wrong” by those who seek to read it as such. I am merely trying to explain his reasons for wanting to withhold the photos for now – nothing more. Is this experiment in trying to head off hostility before it happens going to work? Probably not. Oh well, I’m trying.)