Wednesday, May 13, 2009

No photo release; a mistake?

Does the public's right to know something override the government's argument that such knowledge could cause harm? The Obama administration's decision to reverse course and hold back pictures of abuse of detainees continues the Bush policy of supposedly protecting those in harms way -- mainly the US troops overseas -- as a result of releasing such evidence, in the form of terrorist attacks upon our troops.

But is such a fear rational? Consider the last time such photographs were released to the public. When the Abu Ghraib photos came out, the same retaliation was expected: we feared that the insurgency and terrorists in Iraq would attack our soldiers. In fact, according to, deaths among troops went down in the months following the April release of the photos. It went down two straight months, and casualties overall went down three straight months.

The age of transparency was supposed to be ushered in under this administration. Critics of Obama contended the same fears over the release of presidential memos that detailed our abuse tactics under Bush, but so far nothing substantial has come of it.

It's understandable why the government might see releasing these photos as dangerous, but there may be substantial reason to release the photographs as well. Those who support torture but may not understand what it really entails may instead become against it, much like how public opinion of the Vietnam War changed after images from the war entered the homes of Americans via living room television sets.

We shouldn't dismiss releasing these photographs so quickly; while the safety of our troops is of utmost concern, we also owe the public the truth about what actually went down under our watch. A long debate may be warranted in their release, but a debate nonetheless should occur, with all parties involved voicing their opinions and concerns over the photographs' release.

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