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President Barack Obama failed the American public by refusing to release photos depicting the abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Well, that’s what we’re told they depict — not having seen them we have no way to judge that ourselves.
Obama said it’s his belief that “the publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals. In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”
I have a hard time processing a statement so prevaricating and despicable, especially from our eloquent president, who we voted for, who we trusted, because of his previously unflinching honesty and integrity. It’s mind blowing.
I am not naïve; I knew Obama would fail to fulfill some of his campaign promises…likely, many of them. It was simply not practical to expect otherwise. Presidents are elected via partisanship, but they must rule the whole constituency. A move toward the middle is, in many ways, inevitable.
But while I was ready for disappointment, I was not ready for the continuation of the military status quo established by the GOP and former President Bush. I did not anticipate that Obama would continue Bush’s policies in all but tone. And I did not expect Obama to resort to the pathetic spin and justification necessary to continue those policies.
President Obama: American troops are not in danger because of photos inspiring anti-American sentiment. The anti-American sentiment already exists, in no small part because of other photos that are already public — and should be. The anti-American sentiment existed before 9-11 — it inspired 9-11, it caused 9-11. The danger isn’t because of the photos, it’s because of what they show: Torture. Sadism. Prisoner abuse.
The torture doesn’t go away because we can only see some of the photos depicting it. The anti-American sentiment doesn’t lessen because there is less than complete photographic evidence of the horrific brutality inflicted and endorsed by the American government and the soldiers in its service.
Most importantly, the troops aren’t in danger because of pictures. They’re in danger because they’re in a war zone. They’re in danger because they are continuing to occupy hostile territory.
In short, Mr. President, our troops are in danger because you haven’t brought them home yet.
The whole situation further underscores the failure of the Obama administration to do what we elected him to do.
Obama’s refusal to release the photos undermines his supposed goal of transparency and disables our ability to create the accountability he also claimed to value. His repeated emphasis on how events like torture and abuse of power were “in the past” conveniently implies that those who continue to discuss it — which incidentally, are mostly people in Middle Eastern countries who identify with the abused parties — are just petty nitpickers holding a grudge, as if they’re the metaphorical equivalent to the nerds who can’t get over being picked on in high school. Last time I checked, it wasn’t the bully’s call as to whether or not the abuse he perpetrated was “a big deal.”
And that doesn’t even touch on the fact that Obama has conceded to the conservatives’ rhetorical designation of detainees as “terrorists” when not only have these people not been convicted of a crime and denied their human rights and reasonable expectation of a speedy trial, but the military is apparently incapable of even presenting enough evidence to suggest that most of these men should be charged with a crime in the first place. Let me repeat that: For the vast majority of the prisoners that we are currently designating “terrorists,” the military has proven incapable of producing even enough evidence to go to trial, much less convict them of a crime. That’s the real reason Obama has reneged on another promise and continued the “tribunal” system. Because if we tried to try them in a “real” court, we’d have to let most of them go before even getting to the trial part. And that would release handfuls of men who we’ve spent the last few years torturing and abusing in the name of ending terrorism.
Yeah. We wouldn’t want to let them go. Sure that would show the world that we’re willing to hold ourselves up to our own standards but…they’d be so pissed!
Bottom line: We didn’t elect Obama to get another Bush. But so far, when it comes to Afghanistan, accountability, and Gitmo, I’m having a hard time seeing the difference between them.
Ruthie Kelly’s column was originally published by The Daily Aztec.
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