They’re bad, okay? Why do you have to actually SEE them?

Um, Obama? It’s a bit pointless going around Asia talking about open societies and basic freedoms when at home you’re trying to cover up what the government you now represent did as recently as last year:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has blocked the release of more photographs of foreign detainees abused by their American captors, saying their release would endanger American soldiers.

The Obama administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court late Friday saying Mr. Gates had invoked new powers blocking the release.

And here voters for whom these sorts of issues are important were thinking that replacing a Republican President with a Democrat was going to make a difference. You’re going around the world advocating for “democracy”, whilst demonstrating that on fundamental issues at home – like accountability for torture – American citizens never actually got a meaningful choice.


Ooh! Ooh! I want a ride too!

At least the order only covers the Bush era, and you’re taking responsibility for what goes on on your watch. That’s a tiny step forward, I suppose.

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58 responses to “They’re bad, okay? Why do you have to actually SEE them?

  1. Well, the important thing is that the torture…ahem….”advanced interogation techniques”, are no longer happening.

    So swapping a Republican for a Democrat did make a difference there. Stopping it occuring is more important than retribution on those who ordered and carried it out under the last administration, although some retribution would be nice too…

    I think releasing the images is probably the “right” thing to do, but it wouldn’t be a smart thing to do, and may do more harm than good.

  2. I agree Patrick, I can’t see any good that would come from releasing the photos, but the potential for harm in terms of putting both military personnel and civilians at risk is extremely high.

  3. So the worse the US behaves, the greater its justification for covering up its behaviour.

    Slippery slope hardly seems to be a potent enough description of that mentality.

  4. good post.

    “At least the order only covers the Bush era, and you’re taking responsibility for what goes on on your watch. That’s a tiny step forward, I suppose.”
    obama’s torture adventures will be left to the next president to cover up.

    the chinese must have a good laugh. the worlds biggest jailor swaggers in, and gives a teleprompter lecture about human rights…

  5. GavinM, can’t see any good? None at all? How about US citizens having the right to know just what kind of torture is being commited in their name?

    Another good thing will be the end of bullshit claims that the US has any moral high ground in its fight against terrorism.

  6. GavinM, can’t see any good? None at all? How about US citizens having the right to know just what kind of torture is being commited in their name?

    Another good thing will be the end of bullshit claims that the US has any moral high ground in its fight against terrorism.

    Your argument would work well for violent police interrogations as well. We can’t allow the public to know the exten to which we beat up suspects during questioning. Just think of what crims on the streets might do to our members after that!

  7. So the worse the US behaves, the greater its justification for covering up its behaviour.

    Slippery slope hardly seems to be a potent enough description of that mentality.

    What is being covered up? It has been acknowledged by everyone relevant that the US practiced torture as an interrogation technique under the bush administration, the existence of these pictures has been acknowledged and it has been stated that what is depicted inthem are indeed horrible and disturbing.

    Nothing is being covered up here, but by releasing the pictures they could and would be used by the US’s enemies to drum up anti American sentiment and misrepresent what is in the pictures (By claiming the US is still doing this, etc).

    GavinM, can’t see any good? None at all? How about US citizens having the right to know just what kind of torture is being commited in their name?

    Is being commited in their name? Maybe you missed the memo, Obama has shut down these practices.

  8. OK, was being committed. My point still stands.

  9. Its a “gentleman’s” agreement.
    What goes round comes round.
    If I expose your shameful activities when you were the govt you will expose mine when your turn to be the govt again comes round.
    So we both lose.
    Better not to let that happen hey?
    Better not to fully inform the people, jeez, they might demand a higher standard of ethics and behaviour and where would we be then?

  10. What is being covered up?

    I don’t know – they won’t release the pictures Patrick. That’s sort of the point.

    the existence of these pictures has been acknowledged and it has been stated that what is depicted inthem are indeed horrible and disturbing

    LOL – evidence of torture exists but you’re not allowed to see it – we’ve described it to you and that should be enough. Nothing more to see here, no further action needs to be taken – move along please sir.

    Nothing is being covered up here

    I wonder, Patrick, whether you’re even aware that this statement of yours is pure speculation. You can’t possibly know that nothing is being covered up, yet you’re willing to try and defend this statement as though it is established fact.

    The reality of the suppression of these photos is more likely to be about protecting American politicians and government officials from prosecustion within the US. These people know that if the scope of the abuse they authorised were to be known to the American public the resulting outrage would lead to their facing serious jail time.

    It is also probably true that the photos will fuel the fire of anti-American sentiment the world over, and may lead to additional military and civilian deaths. But why would you blame this on those who released the photos, rather than those who authorised and committed the acts?

  11. Fred,

    Bit hysterical aren’t we ?

    We already know that these torture techniques were used, have had them vividly described and have seen some photos already — why do we need to see any more ?

    Not releasing these photos isn’t a cover-up at all — what it is, is a sensible decision taken so as not to potentially place innocent people in additional danger.

    Your “point” only stands in your own mind.

    Mcduff,

    “Better not to fully inform the people, jeez, they might demand a higher standard of ethics and behaviour and where would we be then?”

    What exactly have “the people” not been informed of ?

    karl,

    “the chinese must have a good laugh. the worlds biggest jailor swaggers in, and gives a teleprompter lecture about human rights…”

    Perhaps you could try telling that to the Uighurs or the Tibetans.

    On the other hand, perhaps you’re right – after all the Chinese tend to kill rather than imprison.

    Trying to equate the human rights record of the USA to that of China really is a stunning display of ignorance.

  12. Not hysterical at all, GavinM. My point stands in my mind, and the minds of quite a few other people also. Some of them are here in this thread. How can it stand in my mind only, to you, when others are here making the same point?

    Not that muslims are short of things to use to drum up anti-US sentiment, but isn’t your argument kind of self-defeating? By that I mean if we (meaning everyone, including muslims) have already had the torture “vividly described” and seen Abu Ghraib photos released, what additional peril would “innocent people” be exposed to by the release of these photos?

  13. I wonder, Patrick, whether you’re even aware that this statement of yours is pure speculation. You can’t possibly know that nothing is being covered up, yet you’re willing to try and defend this statement as though it is established fact.

    Well that goes both ways doesn’t it, you cannot possibly know something is being covered up yet you’re willing to assert that it is happening as though it is established fact.

    The reality of the suppression of these photos is more likely to be about protecting American politicians and government officials from prosecustion within the US. These people know that if the scope of the abuse they authorised were to be known to the American public the resulting outrage would lead to their facing serious jail time.

    Speaking of pure speculation, that is exactly what you have done here.

    It is also probably true that the photos will fuel the fire of anti-American sentiment the world over, and may lead to additional military and civilian deaths. But why would you blame this on those who released the photos, rather than those who authorised and committed the acts?

    I don’t care about “who to blame”, I don’t care about charging off on some witch hunt to try Bush administration officials for war crimes or whatever, I care about the potentialy dire consequences of releasing these photos.

    And from a purely strategic viewpoint, if your goal is to protect American interests abroad, releasing the photos would be a totally stupid thing to do.

  14. Well that goes both ways doesn’t it, you cannot possibly know something is being covered up yet you’re willing to assert that it is happening as though it is established fact.

    To be fair to me, I haven’t asserted that the photos are covering anything up. I do suspect it, but I haven’t argued it.

    Speaking of pure speculation, that is exactly what you have done here.

    Please note my use of the words “more likely” in the comment you have quoted. It is speculation, but I’ve identified it as such and have not made an argument around it.

    I care about the potentialy dire consequences of releasing these photos.

    And what of the dire consequences of allowing government sanctioned torture to go unpunished? What of the longstanding international principle that those who torture, for whatever reason, must be held to account for their behaviour?

    Do you really believe that these longstanding principles simply evaporate when the country facing the ‘potentially dire’ consequences is the US? Would you take the same position if Iran was withholding evidence of torture, what about Palestine or Israel?

  15. What exactly have “the people” not been informed of ?

    Gavin – can you seriously not see the massive flaw in this query, given that the evidence has not been released for scrutiny?

    How can anyone answer it, given that the photos and evidence of torture have been suppressed?

  16. And what of the dire consequences of allowing government sanctioned torture to go unpunished? What of the longstanding international principle that those who torture, for whatever reason, must be held to account for their behaviour?

    Do you really believe that these longstanding principles simply evaporate when the country facing the ‘potentially dire’ consequences is the US? Would you take the same position if Iran was withholding evidence of torture, what about Palestine or Israel?

    Good point, and I somewhat retract my comments about trying Bush admin officials for war crimes. I am all for the prosecution of those who ordered (and carried out) these practices, provided it isn’t about some politically motivated vendetta.

    But this can be done without publiclly releasing these photos. Releasing them might generate some outrage from Americans but really, oppening that pandoras box for the gratification of being able to say “look how evil these guys where!!!” is not worth it. Thinking pragmaticly, the pros are outweighed by the cons.

    I also suspect Obama is not keen on alienating his secretary of defense, the Pentagon and the military in general by releasing these photos, whose thinking on the issue is purely in strategic terms.

  17. Mondo,

    “Gavin – can you seriously not see the massive flaw in this query, given that the evidence has not been released for scrutiny?”

    We don’t need to see these photos to know that torture occurred, it’s already been acknowledged and photos have been released in the past, we don’t need to see new ones to prove what has already been admitted.

    “So the worse the US behaves, the greater its justification for covering up its behaviour.”

    Looks like you’re accusing them of a cover up to me…

    A cover up would be if the Obama administration had said there are no photos and torture never occurred, clearly that isn’t the case here.

    Can you seriously not see the flaw in your argument — or is it just that you don’t care if other people are put in danger as long as its not likely to affect you ?

    Fred,

    “what additional peril would “innocent people” be exposed to by the release of these photos?”

    It should be obvious, the original photos were released some years ago, enough time has passed for at least some of the emotions and reactions that went with those photos to cool off a little, if a series of new photos were released those emotions and reactions would be stirred up again and that’s where the additional peril lies.

  18. I am all for the prosecution of those who ordered (and carried out) these practices, provided it isn’t about some politically motivated vendetta.

    I think you’re absolutely correct in this point Patrick. It is critical that any prosecutions are ‘de-politicised’ – even though the US Right would never believe it (maybe with good cause).

    But this can be done without publiclly releasing these photos.

    In principle yes – you’re right. In practice I’m not so sure. We still have Cheney and most of the war-cheerleaders insisting in the media that “we didn’t torture”, and a large part of the US population believes them (contrary to the slowly leaking evidence). It seems to me that unless faced with incontrovertible evidence and an international community baying for action the US will sit on its hands.

  19. …if a series of new photos were released those emotions and reactions would be stirred up again.

    And God forbid that the rest of the world should crack the shits with the U.S.A.!

    Why do they get a free pass? What makes the Yanks so fucking special that they can abuse human rights and have the evidence supressed?

    Everybody should see those pictures and everybody should get so bloody angry that the hypocritical Americans will be too bloody scared to try that shit again.

    If it costs a few more dead Americans, then so be it.

    Cheers.

  20. We don’t need to see these photos to know that torture occurred, it’s already been acknowledged

    Commenters above have queried whether we know the full extent of what went on. You have countered this by insisting (based on nothing at all) that we already know all we need to know about what went on.

    This obviously faulty assertion has been challenged – but instead of explaining why you’re so sure that we’ve heard all there is to hear you’ve asked Fred to tell you what actions we haven’t been told about.

    Do you not see how fundamentally illogical your response is?

    is it just that you don’t care if other people are put in danger as long as its not likely to affect you ?

    No-one wants to see more people killed Gavin – you should take that as a given.

    What is under debate is which course of action will actually result in the better outcome (i.e. fewer people put in danger), and what you have clearly not considered is the cost of not releasing the photos.

    Do you care if the suppression of torture evidence (and the resulting failure to hold those who perpetrated it to account) leads to the use of torture again in the future (as it almost certainly will)? Do you care that allowing accountability-free mistreatment of muslim detainees already fuels massive anti-American sentiment and is an active recruitment tool for radicalised Islamists the world over?

    Does the threat of terrorism cause you so much fear that you will abandon the pursuit of basic justice in its name?

  21. GavinM: “It should be obvious, the original photos were released some years ago, enough time has passed for at least some of the emotions and reactions that went with those photos to cool off a little, if a series of new photos were released those emotions and reactions would be stirred up again and that’s where the additional peril lies.”

    Yes, I can see it now… Some terrorist recruiters doing the rounds with some Abu Ghraib photos to try and whip up a few potential jihadis, only to be told “Gee, we’d forgotten all about that stuff. Get over it. That is so 2007. Our passions have cooled, brother.”

    Marek Bage: “We still have Cheney and most of the war-cheerleaders insisting in the media that “we didn’t torture”, and a large part of the US population believes them (contrary to the slowly leaking evidence). It seems to me that unless faced with incontrovertible evidence and an international community baying for action the US will sit on its hands.”

    Exactly. There are still plenty of people who think Abu Ghraib was an aberration, and we only waterboarded 3 terrorists. People who rely on Fox News genuinely believe that the US does not torture, because Cheney told them. Andrew Bolt is one of these people. There are plenty of them out there. Just go to the forums at right wing websites. All these allegations about torture are just the work of Bush-haters and terrorists mischievously making stuff up. Photographs are the only thing that will open these people’s eyes. There’ll be no denying it after that.

  22. Fred – Marek’s writing is good enough without you giving him credit for my ideas!!

  23. The funny thing is that those who condemn release of the photos for the ‘danger’ such an act would unleash are almost universally the same people who condemned the West over its ‘cowardice’ in self-censoring the Danish cartoons.

    I wonder how they distinguish those two issues?

  24. Oops – sorry, Mondo!

  25. It isn’t just photos that have been censured. Recently the administration released documentation supposedly detailing the torture perpetrated on a detainee (I think that’s what it related to). Everything, and I mean *everything* had been blacked out except the word “waterboard”.

    It was the most bizarre thing I’ve seen. Tried to google for it but can’t find it.

  26. The funny thing is that those who condemn release of the photos for the ‘danger’ such an act would unleash are almost universally the same people who condemned the West over its ‘cowardice’ in self-censoring the Danish cartoons.

    I wonder how they distinguish those two issues?”

    That is a spectacularly good question.

  27. The funny thing is that those who condemn release of the photos for the ‘danger’ such an act would unleash are almost universally the same people who condemned the West over its ‘cowardice’ in self-censoring the Danish cartoons.

    I wonder how they distinguish those two issues?

    A bunch of satirical cartoons are fundamentally different to actual photographs of torture.

    But on that point you could argue that this validates the argument not to release the photos. We all saw the ridiculous hoo ha over those cartoons and how they where deliberately misrepresented by certain groups, imagine what would be done with these photographs.

  28. Yeah, they are fundamentally different – the torture is a CRIME.

    Don’t try to have it both ways, Patrick. If you thought the cartoons should be published, and hang the possible consequences, it doesn’t make much sense that you’d be so concerned about the possible consequences of the release of photos of government abuse of captives.

    If you think both should’ve been suppressed, then at least you’re being consistent.

  29. I’ve never really had an opinion about those cartoons before today, although I suppose I would have to go with having them both suppressed.

    On the other hand, the Danish newspaper that published them was not fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq didn’t really have any strategic military interests to protect. The US does.

    I think Robert Gates, the Pentagon and Obama are more interested in finding a solution on Afghanistan than debating the moral points of withholding or releasing the photographs, and with the job already as difficult as it already is, they aren’t going to be in any great rush to make it worse for themselves.

    The torture has been stopped, for me that is enough, for now. If Afghanistan goes to right way in the next few years and America’s involvement overseas winds down, and should Obama win a second term in office, I expect he will make good on his original promise then. I also expect that if he gets a second term he will pursue some of his more social liberal goals, not having to face the consequences for controversial policy in another election.

  30. Are these the photos (and videos) Seymour Hersh claimed showed children of 10 being raped?

    I dunno if they should be released, but not cos of the reasons Patrick says.

    I’m not a big fan of child torture porn.

    then again if they are censored enough to hide faces/identities … then perhaps they should be released.

    basically if you can’t see the image the full horror of it won’t hit you (well if you can’t feel the pain actually, but we don’t really want that.)

    I have actually seen photos of faces of people tortured in south america. The worst were the head with all the skin removed tho the eyes looked alive, scared and in hell; and the skull with all the flesh stripped off it. i think they were of the same person, and I think the second one there was no life in the eyes.

    Close up full colour photos of peoples heads after torture.

    I saw them 20 years ago and they still disturb me and I can still see that first photo exactly…

    Actually I think if you don’t want to see what was done in your name your are gutless and worthy of scorn. But its a fraught issue cos some people actually get off on that shit.

    But I spose on balance they probably should be made public, cos otherwise idiots will continue to claim that there was nothing worse than waterboarding.

    BTW the torture hasn’t necessarily stopped. Bagram is still open and there are plans to expand it.

    That place is notorious.

  31. “Are these the photos (and videos) Seymour Hersh claimed showed children of 10 being raped?”

    no that was abu ghraib, these are US garden variety torture photos

  32. “Do you care if the suppression of torture evidence (and the resulting failure to hold those who perpetrated it to account) leads to the use of torture again in the future (as it almost certainly will)? ”

    Mondo, if those who authorised and perpetrated these acts of torture are ever brought to trial — and I seriously doubt they ever will be — the photos can be used as evidence in those trials without being put on public display…I believe evidence is presented to courts in non-public trials every day.

    “Commenters above have queried whether we know the full extent of what went on. You have countered this by insisting (based on nothing at all) that we already know all we need to know about what went on. ”

    Of course we know what went on Mondo, people were tortured — we don’t need photos of the victims to be publicly released to prove it, its already been admitted.

    For the record, I think there should be prosecutions, problem is I suspect that the Democrats knew exactly what was going on, as witnessed by Pelosi’s meltdown with the FBI a couple of months back , which makes them complicit — so to pursue the case further would be to open a pandora’s box on both sides of politics over there.

  33. I think Robert Gates, the Pentagon and Obama are more interested in finding a solution on Afghanistan than debating the moral points of withholding or releasing the photographs

    I don’t understand this mentality – do you really think that there is a heirachy of ills in the world, and that those lower down on the list can be ignored as long as higher up issues are still unresolved? Does the fact of Afghanistan absolve Obama of his responsibility to address the fact that his country has implemented (and may still be running) a torture regime?

    More to the point – how is it not obvious that the two issues are fundamentally connected? Is it really so difficult to see that the Afghanistan situation is somewhat exacerbated by the fact that the US is known to have been kidnapping and torturing Afghanis (some of whom have died in custody), but is now covering up the evidence and refusing to hold anyone to account?

    Suppression of this torture evidence has already had, and will continue to have, far-reaching consequences. Quite aside from the disquiet that it fosters amongst the muslim world have a think about the next time China is accused of abusing the human rights of the Uighurs. Is it not logical to expect them to trot out the exact same justification as the US has, i.e. sure we did some horrible stuff but we can’t tell you about it because we’re at war with the Uighur terrorists?

    What about the treatment of Iranian dissidents, Georgian separatists, shit – just name ANY group that is in conflict with a larger power and explain why the exact same justification used here by Obama can’t be used to hide human rights abuses and avoid accountability all around the world.

    It’s as though an identifiable risk to a small number of Americans is of such massive importance to some people that it completely overwhelms their ability to see a risk applicable to the entire world.

  34. Mondo, the mutterings and disquiet about the US not releasing these photographs pales in comparrison to the explosion of fury that would be unleashed across the world should they be made public.

    Is such fury justified? Absolutely! Is it justice that the photos have been supressed and those who ordered torture have got off scott free? Absolutely not.

    But if you are the President of the United States or the Secretary of Defence of the United States, stuck in an extremely difficult fight against insurgents in a qaugmire halfway around the world, you are not going to give your enemies more material to help rally people to their cause. You can protest about the ethics of that all you want, but from a logical and strategic position, it would not make sense to do so.

    To me, between allowing Afghanistan to collapse and witholiding the photos, the former is the greater evil, although I know most of those here think that if we pulled out things would somehow repair themselves. If your main priority is to prevent this from happening it would be absolutely boneheaded to release these photographs

    This is not a black and white moral situation, it is a grey. Does it count for nothing to you that the practices have been stopped? You can have you revenge and justice later, right now there is more important work to do, namely, preventing Afghanistan and Pakistan from imploding.

    I do not condone the use of torture in the slightest, but there are very good reasons why intelligence organizations classify their files and only release them decades later, even today we are still getting declassified files from World War 2, and there are still things about that conflict yet to be revealed.

  35. Very well said, Mondo.

  36. Mondo, the mutterings and disquiet about the US not releasing these photographs pales in comparrison to the explosion of fury that would be unleashed across the world should they be made public.

    You can’t possibly know that the above is true Patrick – you’re guessing. A guess that also appears to have been made while studiously ignoring the potential for damage when the US approach is imitated by other countries the world over (and for many years to come).

    You can protest about the ethics of that all you want, but from a logical and strategic position, it would not make sense to do so.

    Ahh – now we come to the nub of it. Because withholding the photos is in America’s strategic interest (in your view anyway) that’s all that you need to know. Questions of principle, justice, ethics, morality and adherence to the basic tenets of democracy can be discared as irrelevant as long as the act will result in a good outcome for America.

    It’s rare to see the real justification for the ‘withhold the photos’ argument laid out so openly. It’s about promoting the interests of the US above all other considerations.

  37. GavinM: “Of course we know what went on Mondo, people were tortured — we don’t need photos of the victims to be publicly released to prove it, its already been admitted.”

    Can you direct us to these admissions? Other than what is in the Abu Ghraib photos and the waterboarding of only 3 captives, I think you’ll find most of the torture allegations have not been admitted. Cheney continues to maintain the US doesn’t torture. That’s why the photos need to be released – to prove that isn’t true.

    Have you read a book called The Dark Side, by Jane Mayer? I recommend it. There are many allegations in there concerning US treatment of terrorism suspects – of behaviour far, far, worse than waterboarding and the Abu Ghraib stuff. None of that has been admitted.

  38. You can’t possibly know that the above is true Patrick – you’re guessing. A guess that also appears to have been made while studiously ignoring the potential for damage when the US approach is imitated by other countries the world over (and for many years to come).

    Of course it is a guess and I don’t know that it would be true, I do not claim to have a time machine or a crystal ball, or pregognitive powers. I just think it more than likely.

    Ahh – now we come to the nub of it. Because withholding the photos is in America’s strategic interest (in your view anyway) that’s all that you need to know. Questions of principle, justice, ethics, morality and adherence to the basic tenets of democracy can be discared as irrelevant as long as the act will result in a good outcome for America.

    It’s rare to see the real justification for the ‘withhold the photos’ argument laid out so openly. It’s about promoting the interests of the US above all other considerations.

    More or less, although in less cynical and sinister terms than you have painted it. I am still of the opinion that actually stopping the torture has resolved a much greater moral issue than actually releasing photographs. In fact, I would be delighted if every other country around the world followed the US’s example and ceased using torture as an interrogation practice. Getting justice on the perpetrators is an important thing but for the present, it is a moot point when there are greater issues at stake.

    I’m happy for the photos to be released and I think they eventually should be, just at a more opportune time, preferably once Afghanistan has been resolved one way or another.

  39. I am still of the opinion that actually stopping the torture has resolved a much greater moral issue than actually releasing photographs.

    It should go without saying that the torture programs cannot and will not be stopped until they are admitted and there is some sort of accountability imposed for them. You may be willing to simply accept US government assurances that everything’s fixed and they really really promise not to do it again, but in the real world we know that misbehaviour never stops until there are consequences to it.

    In fact, I would be delighted if every other country around the world followed the US’s example and ceased using torture as an interrogation practice.

    Um – Patrick – the US is the only Western country that I’m aware of that has run a torture program in the last decade (and may still be running one for all we know). I simply can’t believe you want to hold them up as the standard to be followed on torture.

    It’s like praising a murderer for simply announcing that he’s decided to stop murdering people.

  40. Cheers Karl.

  41. Fred,

    Please, a book written by a journo who works for the New Yorker is supposed to be a credible piece ? Lets try and be serious.

    “In its November 1, 2004 issue, the magazine broke with 80 years of precedent and issued a formal endorsement of Presidential candidate John Kerry in a long editorial, signed “The Editors”, which specifically criticized the policies of the Bush administration.[12] The magazine endorsed Barack Obama in another long editorial, signed “The Editors” in the October 13, 2008 issue, criticizing both George W. Bush and John McCain.[13]”

    I don’t usually quote wikipedia but the above is easily verifiable.

    “Her achievement,” wrote reviewer Andrew J. Bacevich in The Washington Post of Mayer’s book, “lies less in bringing new revelations to light than in weaving into a comprehensive narrative a story revealed elsewhere in bits and pieces.”[14] The volume, wrote Bacevich, a Boston University professor, “is a very fine book.”

    As this reviewer notes, there’s nothing in her book that we didn’t know about already.

    All of which is irrelevant to the public releasung of these photos, as I said, if these perpetrators are to be charged, the photos can be used as evidence in court without public release.

  42. Now who’s hysterical? If you’re suggesting that anybody who works for the New Yorker is ipso facto incapable of writing a credible book, that is awfully petty of you. Btw, a wiki cut’n’paste ad hominem is beneath you.

    “As this reviewer notes, there’s nothing in her book that we didn’t know about already.”

    Did I claim otherwise? Look, I bet there’s plenty in there that you don’t know about personally. You should read it. It is very interesting. Try reading the book before writing it off. It won’t turn you into a leftard.

    I was taking issue with your claim that the torture allegations have been admitted. They haven’t. As an example, I used the allegations made by terrorism suspects which have been collated in Mayer’s book. There are many, many allegations detailed there which haven’t been admitted. As long as the photos – which would establish the truth of at least some of the more horrific allegations – remain unpublished, people of the US will go on believing the lies Cheney is telling them about what went on.

    I also haven’t denied it is possible for the photographs to be used in court without being released to the public. But the mere fact that that is possible does not mean the photographs should not be released, in my opinion. The people have a right to know what was done in their name.

  43. Fred,

    Releasing these photos will not bring these perpetrators of torture any closer to court, what it will do though, is further inflame what is already an intense hatred of America and the West in the eyes of the fundy Islamists.

    Those fundies won’t hesitate to claim that these photos are current to their followers who will believe and react without question.

    The added peril that this reaction will potentially place both Americans and Westerners in general in, both in Afghanistan and other places around the world is simply not worth the risk at this time.

    I know its a hard pill to swallow, but the truth is sometimes its better to withhold some things from the public.

  44. Actually non-publication allows exaggeration by opponents. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  45. Releasing these photos will not bring these perpetrators of torture any closer to court,

    Of course it will. As Fred has repeatedly pointed out to you the full extent of what went on in these secret prison camps has not been revealed to the American public. Only a fool could believe that the incentive to prosecute will be unaffected by the release of new evidence.

    I know its a hard pill to swallow, but the truth is sometimes its better to withhold some things from the public.

    What a pathetic surrender of democratic values Gavin. The precedent you are encouraging America to set spits in the face of the principle of open and free government that our societies are built on.

  46. “I know its a hard pill to swallow, but the truth is sometimes its better to withhold some things from the public.”

    I totally agree, openness in govt is so overrated.

    I think there should be some correlation between voting rights and income too.

  47. Um – Patrick – the US is the only Western country that I’m aware of that has run a torture program in the last decade (and may still be running one for all we know). I simply can’t believe you want to hold them up as the standard to be followed on torture.

    I didn’t say “Western” country did I?

  48. No Patrick – you said “every other country in the world” should follow the US’s example.

    You are explicitly holding the US up as the world standard for best practice when it comes to torture.

    Pray tell – please explain how Australia’s record on torture would be improved by following the US example?

  49. “What a pathetic surrender of democratic values Gavin. The precedent you are encouraging America to set spits in the face of the principle of open and free government that our societies are built on.”

    Clearly you’ve never heard of the state secrets act then Mondo.

    Righly or wrongly, the reason the release of these photos won’t bring anyone any closer to court is very simple Mondo — it has nothing to do with public outrage, it has everything to do with politics.

    Aside from the inevitable violent reactions the release of such photos would incite, Obama knows very well that there are people in his administration who were aware of what was going on, to go after the Republicans involved means those Democrats will also be implicated.

    I’m well aware that its not an ideal situation, but unfortuneately withholding things like this is necessary in the real world of politics and the current international climate and only a fool would think otherwise.

    Jules,

    “I think there should be some correlation between voting rights and income too.”

    A novel idea, although would you mind explaining its relevance to this topic to me please.

    Oh and by the way, re Seymour Hersh’s claims about the rape and torture of children — it wasn’t exactly as he first stated:

    http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/people/features/11719/

    See page 4 for the relevant bit.

  50. Its not that novel Gav, its just taking the idea of a Poll tax a bit further, and it doesn’t really have anything to do with the topic, cept that its a snarky response.

    Cos to me witholding stuff from the public is a failure of democracy, similar to witholding voting rights from the income deprived… or those with the wrong parents or something.

    It kind of goes against the idea of citizens having a full knowledge of what their govt is up to.

    In the context of the US, where torture is kind of “cool” people should be able to see what it really looks like. Otherwise they have some sanitised idea in their head that torture is like a tv show 9say 24) not messy ugly and demeaning to all of humanity.

    Thanks for the link re Hersh tho. I’ll go read it now. (i’m not opposed to info that contradicts my beliefs btw, I actually appreciate even if I don’t agree with it so cheers.)

  51. No Patrick – you said “every other country in the world” should follow the US’s example.

    Ok, let me clarify. “Every other country that uses torture as an interrogation technique.”

    Obviously I am not talking about countries that don’t practice torture because they cannot follow the US’s lead and stop torture if they are not doing it in the first place.

  52. Obama knows very well that there are people in his administration who were aware of what was going on, to go after the Republicans involved means those Democrats will also be implicated.

    Now I think we’re back on the same page Gavin – I agree that there are Dems who will almost certainly be caught up in any future torture prosecutions and I agree that it is this that is most likely behind the failure to release the photos.

    However I find it disgusting that this is used as a reason for inaction, and even more disgusting that so many ordinary people seem to accept it without much objection. People (some of whom are undoubtedly innocent) have been tortured by the US as a result of a government sanctioned torture program – nearly 100 people have died in US custody for crying out loud. Were any of these people tortured to death?

    Does anyone even care?

    Much of the US seems to have simply forgotten that torture is unacceptable no matter who does it. It should hardly need pointing out that a belief that torture somehow isn’t so bad when it’s the US doing it is the most debased form of moral relativism that there is.

  53. Mondo, I think your arguments about releasing the photographs and about torture itself are meshing together somewhat.

    Everybody here agrees that torture is totally unnacceptable, that has always been Obama’s stance and he has taken the measures to have it stopped.

    The argument is about the merits of releasing or witholding the photographs.

    You can speculate about whether torture is still occuring, but although I would never take the word of the US government at face value, or any government for that matter, there is no evidence to suggest this is the case, and untill evidence is unearthed I will have to go with the assumption that it is not still occuring.

    Would this evidence be contained in the photographs? Not as I understand it. They are photographs of torture that occured during the Bush administration.

  54. “The argument is about the merits of releasing or witholding the photographs. ”

    I’m siding with Gavin, the US Admin has admitted the photos exist, admitted that the depictions are bad. It seems to me that the merits of releasing them are to satisfy the morbid curiosity of the general public, I say sod the rubbernecks, it’s enough for me to know that they exist, I personally don’t want to view them, I accept the argument that it would place troops in danger, whatever I think of the war (I hate it, Iraq and Afghanistan, I supported neither) the less death the better.

  55. lionel hutz: that guy said they wouldnt do it anymore… I rest my case.
    Judge: You rest your case?
    LH: Oh, no. I thought that was just an expression. Case closed!

  56. Mondo, I think your arguments about releasing the photographs and about torture itself are meshing together somewhat.

    Somewhat? Their inextricably linked Patrick!!

    In my view releasing the photographs is a fundamental step along the road to accountability for the torture that was undertaken. Without it I firmly believe that this torture will go unpunished, and those who ordered it and advocated for it will suffer no consequences.

    This precedent will lead to further torture in the future, both by the US and other countries, as government officials realise that it is a option available to them for which they will not be held to account. I’m speculating I know – but it is no less likely an outcome than Afghanistan rising up against the US as a result of photographs.

    And underlying all of this is the fact that torture is both illegal and abhorrent. Accepting transparently self-interested justifications for allowing it to remain concealed (and therefore unpunished) is nothing less than a weak-willed capitulation to authoritarian politics.

    There will be a short-term cost to the US from releasing the photos, no doubt, but in my view the cost of not releasing them (and consequently failing to prosecute those responsible) will last far longer, cost far more, and will impact the entire world.

  57. For a far better summary of the risks of allowing the US to hypocritically remain above the law, and of the direct danger posed by decisions such as the failure to release these photos, read this article by the always excellent Glenn Greenwald

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