Normally I have a great deal of sympathy for what Aziz Poonawalla writes, often using his pieces to support my points. He gets them out faster than I do and they’re pretty well researched. However, his recent piece on the torture photos is wrong.
The fact that the US tortured is a mistake and a blot on our national character. The only way to deal with the horror we wrought is to be honest with ourselves about it. The release of the “torture memos” was the first step in this direction. When President Obama said that no one was going to prosecuted for their role in torture, there was an outcry; Americans were genuinely upset and Pres. Obama said the decision to prosecute is up to the Attorney General. He also announced they would release the photos. I argued with a friend of mine that Pres. Obama was seeding the ground for a real national discussion on this topic. He could not lead the charge, no matter how just, because it would be spun as being partisan. He was setting up a situation where we the people would lead; this was not going to be party against party but Americans demanding accountability and defining “American” for this generation.
The world knows we tortured. There is no secret kept on that point. There are photos from Iraq and Afghanistan that are already being used in anti-American propaganda. New pictures alter the calculus very little. In fact, one can argue that witholding them at this point further fuels the idea that we have done something so horrible that it cannot be seen. This notion is a far more powerful recruiting tool for terrorists.
As this is an Internet-savvy presidency, there can be no delusion that these photos would remain hidden. I cannot believe it was accidental that at the same time the US was discouraging the UK from releasing the photos, the Australians did release them. It feels like a sleight of hand.
I do not want to excuse Pres. Obama: these photos must be released. Not to do so makes us look duplicitous overseas and keeps us as a natiin from dealing with the moral brankruptcy of what was done in our name. At the same time it feels as though we are allowed to see a greater game being played as to how we are approaching the issue.
Regardless of the political truth of the situation, a higher notion of truth says we must release the photos.