Thursday, May 14, 2009

What They Don't Know...

Let me see if I understand this properly. American troops have abused prisoners in their custody. That much we know. There are photographs of the abuse. That we also know. But to release the photographs would "'further inflame anti-American opinion' and endanger U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan." We know that, too? Really?

So we're supposed to understand that people in the Muslim world, while they are upset about the abuse, will only get REALLY mad if they can see the pictures? That might very well be true, but it seems nonsensical to me, given the fact that in absence of the of the pictures, people can create whatever stories they like about what happened, and "further inflame anti-American opinion" that way. I suppose that your could make the point that the photographs show abuse so heinous that nobody's imagination, no matter how fertile, could possibly come up with a worse scenario, but to borrow a line from Star Wars, "I can imagine quite a lot."

And of course, this raises another point. If the prisoner abuse was so bad that letting people find out what really happened, "could reasonably be expected to endanger some unspecified member of a group so vast as to encompass all United States troops, coalition forces, and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan," we had better be doing everything in our power to make sure that it doesn't happen again. But if, as we all know, secrecy breeds abuses, aren't we still creating a breeding ground? Come, Mister President. You promised us better than that.

"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."
President Barack Obama, Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act, 21 January, 2009.