Saturday, August 13, 2005

Joint Chiefs Wriggle Like A Detainee On A Wire

(As WIIIAI has also noted), the Bush Administration was revealed yesterday in its, by my count, third desperate and wholly discontinuous attempt to resist releasing the torture images from Abu Ghraib, as ordered by a federal judge in early June.

(Attempt #1 was of course my favorite for sheer barefaced gall: they argued that to release recognizable images of the men, women and children being tortured, raped, sodomized, set on by dogs and beaten to bloody mincemeat by US forces would constitute unacceptable humiliation and therefore violate the victims' rights under the Geneva Conventions. This gambit of truly epic chutzpah was swiftly dispatched with reference to the miracle of modern photographic redaction technology.)

This latest effort, revealed in arguments submitted to the US District Court by General Richard B. Myers on July 22nd, claims that to release the images would 'pose a clear and grave risk of inciting violence and riots against American troops and coalition forces.'
[Myers] said it was "probable that al-Qaida and other groups will seize upon these images and videos as grist for their propaganda mill," leading to violent attacks, increased terrorist recruitment, continued financial support and a worsening of tensions between the Iraqi and Afghani populaces and U.S. and coalition forces.


Myers said the United States has documented situations in which insurgents have falsely claimed that U.S. actions in Iraq caused suffering to women and children when the damage was actually done by violence and sabotage by the insurgents.

He said the insurgents rely on doctored photographs and images to support their calls to violence.
This is absolutely extraordinary. The logic of this argument is twofold and utterly, fatally bankrupt. It posits that:

i) If the consequences of revealing crimes which we fully acknowledge having committed threaten to prove harmful to our cause, we have no obligation to reveal them. I.e., the way to avoid harmful consequences is not to avoid committing the crimes, but to refuse to reveal them later, even when we've admitted to them.

ii) The fact that our enemies allegedly fabricate similar evidence of wrongdoing on our part absolves us of responsibility to reveal true, unfabricated evidence. This is completely fallacious; the one accusation, even if true, has exactly no bearing on the other assertion. If we didn't want to hand our opponents propaganda-on-a-platter, we might have considered not issuing orders abrogating international conventions on prisoner abuse. But tough luck, we did, and now we have to belly up to the fallout. The fact that it gives Iraqis more reason to loathe and resist us is not some unfortunate collateral effect, it is precisely the point.

The government's obligation to reveal the Abu Ghraib images is an obligation not particularly to Iraqi insurgents who may indeed use it for 'propaganda' purposes (wouldn't you?), but to its own citizens, to the abuse victims and Iraqi citizens who suffer under the jackboot of this depravedly human-rights-indifferent occupation, and in fact to the entire world, which has every moral right to demand accountability from the hyperpower that claims the quasi-divine prerogative of enforcing global Freeman Moxie at the point of a gun.

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