On Wednesday, Obama said he “would try to block the court-ordered release of photos showing U.S. troops abusing prisoners.” The release, which was to be the result of a Freedom of Information Act request made by the ACLU, had been reasonable in the final weeks of April, but today, Obama chose to come out against the release.
According to the Associated Press, “out of concern [that] the pictures would "further inflame anti-American opinion" and endanger U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan” Obama planned to block them.
Obama intends to block the release of the photos because they may negatively impact American empire and American military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. Gen. Ray Odierno, a prime architect of “the surge” in Iraq, and Gen. David Petraeus influenced Obama’s decision after informing the administration that they were afraid the photos will “cost American lives.”
Obama suggested that the “photos had already served their purpose in investigations of "a small number of individuals” and "the individuals who were involved have been identified, and appropriate actions have been taken."
Also, Obama made the argument that "these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib."
When choosing to make a “mockery” out of his “promise of transparency and accountability” (as one member of the ACLU put it), Obama is fine with contending that if information requested does not show something worse than said previous atrocity or does not show that something more inhumane happened the information should not be released.
Even if the information would give further credence to the argument that the Bush Administration tortured (which many in the corporate news media are still reluctant to outright accept as they continue to cling to the “enhanced interrogation technique” euphemism when discussing “torture”), the fact that it does not top the brutality of a batch of previous photos means that the ACLU’s FOIA request should not be fulfilled.
The ACLU released a response to Obama’s decision, which was written by Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:
The Obama administration's adoption of the stonewalling tactics and opaque policies of the Bush administration flies in the face of the president's stated desire to restore the rule of law, to revive our moral standing in the world and to lead a transparent government. This decision is particularly disturbing given the Justice Department's failure to initiate a criminal investigation of torture crimes under the Bush administration.
"If the Obama administration continues down this path, it will betray not only its promises to the American people, but its commitment to this nation's most fundamental principles. President Obama has said we should turn the page, but we cannot do that until we fully learn how this nation veered down the path of criminality and immorality, who allowed that to happen and whose lives were mutilated as a result. Releasing these photos – as painful as it might be – is a critical step toward that accounting. The American people deserve no less."
"It is true that these photos would be disturbing; the day we are no longer disturbed by such repugnant acts would be a sad one. In America, every fact and document gets known – whether now or years from now. And when these photos do see the light of day, the outrage will focus not only on the commission of torture by the Bush administration but on the Obama administration's complicity in covering them up. Any outrage related to these photos should be due not to their release but to the very crimes depicted in them. Only by looking squarely in the mirror, acknowledging the crimes of the past and achieving accountability can we move forward and ensure that these atrocities are not repeated.
Obama said of the Freedom of Information Act in a January 21 memo, “The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”
But, on matters of American empire or “state secrets,” the administration is as bad as Bush if not worse.