Abu Ghraib Photos Ordered Released

A federal judge has ruled that additional Abu Ghraib photos, which the government had sought to keep secret for various lame, self-serving reasons, must be released in response to an FOIA request: Judge orders release of Abu Ghraib abuse photos.

Even if it gets delayed or overturned as it works its way into the upper ranks of the judiciary, it’s heartening to see someone willing to articulate truths like these:

Suppression of information is the surest way to cause its significance to grow and persists. Clarity and openness are the best antidotes, either to dispel criticism if not merited or, if merited, to correct such errors as may be found. The fight to extend freedom has never been easy, and we are once again challenged, in Iraq and Afghanistan, by terrorists who engage in violence to intimidate our will and to force us to retreat. Our struggle to prevail must be without sacrificing the transparency and accountability of government and military officials. These are the values FOIA was intended to advance, and they are at the very heart of the values for which we fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is a risk that the enemy will seize upon the publicity of the photographs and seek to use such publicity as a pretext of enlistments and violent acts. But the education and debate that such publicity will foster will strengthen our purpose and, by enabling such deficiencies as may be perceived to be debated and corrected, show our strength as a vibrant and functioning democracy to be emulated.

7 Responses to “Abu Ghraib Photos Ordered Released”

  1. Craig Says:

    I really feel that there are some disingenious forces behind this whole “freedom of information” “the people have a right to know” push to publish all these additional pictures. Before people line up their standard ideological responses to what I’m about to ask, please give it some serious thought. What are we really going to learn that is not already painfully obvious regarding Abu Ghraib abuses? What will we be able to debate and be educated on, that hasn’t really been gone over already? People will be shocked and angered again in revisiting this issue. Those with agendas will howl anew for Bush to be taken down (even though this truly covers the same ground that has been discussed before). But even worse, the Arab Street will not look at this as the same time frame and incidents as uncovered before, but will instead treat it like fresh abuses that have reoccurred, which will reignite anti-American attitudes in the Arab world in general and in Iraq specifically. I forsee inspired new attacks on US forces, contractors, and any other western people, including another wave of kidnappings and beheadings to exact revenge.

    All of which complicates an already difficult situation and could slow down the transition of security resonsibility to the Iraqis even more, which then slows down any projected removal of US troops from Iraq.

    Those who just want fresh outrage to shout about should consider how this action could actually play in cross-purposes to everyone’s intended goal to hand over security control to Iraq and get our troops out in a reasonable timeframe.

    Yes, I understand and defend our rights to have such information available for the public to see. But does that always make it the right thing to do when considering all the repercussions likely?

    I am resigned to the idea that my point on this will be lost to reflexive responses about our amendment rights, and knowing the “full story”, “quit protecting Bush”, “right-wing cover-up”, and “education of the public”.

    I really what to know if those who want to see this are really doing to to be further”educated” or maybe to simply exercise our rights as a country, or is it really just because they see another opportunity to hammer the Bush Administration, regardless of any ripple consequences?

    I await my expected bludgeoning.

  2. jbc Says:

    I’m not going to bludgeon you. I agree with most of what you said. If these pictures are made public, there _will_ be negative consequences.

    The judge who made the ruling actually addressed this question directly, though not in the part I excerpted above. I pretty much agree with his reasoning. You can download the full statement from:


    The relevant portion starts on page 43.

  3. Sven Says:

    No bludgeoning from me. Since our troops are stuck in Iraq, releasing these photos will only make things worse for them. Its sure to only embolden the insurgency, and increase the killing.

    But then again, I don’t think our troops should be there in the first place.

  4. Rise Against Says:

    Yeah, it’d be nice if you could just sweep these types things under the rug because no doubt people that had nothing to do with these abuses will feel the affects.

    However, I think it also gives the US another opportunity to show the world that America does not condone such actions, and that those responsible will be brought to justice. America is a free, open society and when that society expresses outrage along with the rest of the world, I think its shows others in the world that not all in America support those types of polices.

    Of course though, the images will be used by insurgents and the like for recruitment and propaganda purposes. But I think by withholding the images, it will create a sense of arrogance and ignorance to the abuses which could also serve the same purpose to the insurgents. I think its a lose-lose situation.

    But yeah, shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

  5. adam_blust Says:

    Accounts have that the photos and video show much worse than has been released previously – rapes and murders. I guess I would ask which is worse – the act, or revealing it? Who sinned more – the people who did these crimes (and those who ordered them), or the people who reported on them?

    I agree with Rise Against. Many people in this country took the lead of Rush Limbaugh and believe that what happened there was on the level of a “fraternity prank.” Well it wasn’t, and I think people should be confronted with that. Of course, many others on the right think we were too lenient. In other words, many (most?) of us in the U.S. *do* condone these actions. That’s the world we’re living in.

  6. onan Says:

    Two responses to Craig’s comment come to mind.

    The first is that there seems to be an undertone of racism or jingoism to assuming that we clever Americans already know everything there is to be learned about the incident, but those simple-minded Arabs won’t be able to distinguish between new photos of old news and a new event entirely.

    The second is that the idea that negative consequences for revealing the images would be an argument _against_ doing so is rather short-sighted. If that causes strife in the short term, that’s an unfortunate (if deserved) effect. But if that strife causes this Administration and future ones to perhaps figure out that torturing people has consequences that make it inadvisable, that seems like a great improvement.

  7. Craig Says:

    I only conjecture on the Arab Street reaction based upon the innumerous stories that I have read over the course of the war which has quoted Iraqi citizens time and time again as trusting rumor and gossip and al-Jazeera’s rantings and overt sympathies, over any other more credible sources, regardless of how often those credible sources, via newspaper and TV, still take great pains to show the good and the bad news regarding the wars’ progress. Years of flat-out lies propagated by Saddam’s media control, have left the public automatically suspicious of any “official” sources, while al-Jazeer and the rumor machine plays up to the deep-seated fears of the population regarding Western motives and actions. So when the credible sources present true negative stories like the prison abuses, it ends up giving further credibility to the embellished hype and hysteria that the other sources run with.

    So it really has nothing to do with intelligence, as Iraq is generally one of the higher educated middle-eastern nations, but perhaps it has more to do with media suaveness, due to their skewed historical exposure.

    And while it could be argued that the US is generally somewhat higher on the media suaveness continuum than Iraq, we are not nearly infallible to erroneous information, as both Conservatives and Liberals can easily point out!

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