reversals we can believe in

By now I'm sure you all know that the Obama administration is attempting to block the release of additional evidence of torture perpetrated by the US, making itself complicit in the cover-up of war crimes committed by its predecessors. The release of the photos, which had been set for May 28, was hard won by the ACLU and other rights groups, and those organizations are vigorously fighting this latest setback.

During the Abu Ghraib investigation, several US senators and congresspeople saw many of the photos that had not been released to the public. These are said to document sexual assault and abuse of both women and child prisoners, among other stomach-churning horrors.

By now you should also know that Obama has revived the use of military commissions to "try" the remaining Guantanamo prisoners. The administration is tweaking the rules a bit, such as supposedly barring "evidence" obtained by torture. But when you're holding a kangaroo court, visible to no one, accountable to no one, under your own improvised rules, you can do anything you want. (All quotes necessary here, as military tribunals are not trials and all the so-called evidence is meaningless.)

I hope those of you who still fantasized about Obama changing US foreign policy - substantially, as opposed to rhetorically - are rousing from your slumber. Remember: the Republicans represent man's inhumanity to man. The Democrats represent exactly the opposite.

If you read one piece about this travesty, make it Glenn Greenwald:
There are many bizarre aspects to Obama's decision to try to suppress evidence of America's detainee abuse, beginning with the newfound willingness of so many people to say: "We want our leaders to suppress information that reflects poorly on what our government does." One would think that it would be impossible to train a citizenry to be grateful to political officials for concealing evidence of government wrongdoing, or to accept the idea that evidence that reflects poorly on the conduct of political leaders should, for that reason alone, be covered-up: "Obama and his military commanders decide when it's best that we're kept in the dark, and I'm thankful when they keep from me things that reflect poorly on my government because I trust them to decide what I should and should not know." It's the fantasy of every political leader to have a citizenry willing to think that way ("I know it's totally unrealistic, but wouldn't it be great if we could actually convince people that it's for their own good when we cover-up evidence of government crimes?").

But what is ultimately even more amazing is the claim that suppressing these photographs is necessary to prevent an inflammation of anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world generally and Afghanistan specifically. That claim is coming from the same people who are doing this: [Please click through...]

. . . .

We're currently occupying two Muslim countries. We're killing civilians regularly (as usual) -- with airplanes and unmanned sky robots. We're imprisoning tens of thousands of Muslims with no trial, for years. Our government continues to insist that it has the power to abduct people -- virtually all Muslim -- ship them to Bagram, put them in cages, and keep them there indefinitely with no charges of any kind. We're denying our torture victims any ability to obtain justice for what was done to them by insisting that the way we tortured them is a "state secret" and that we need to "look to the future." We provide Israel with the arms and money used to do things like devastate Gaza. Independent of whether any or all of these policies are justifiable, the extent to which those actions "inflame anti-American sentiment" is impossible to overstate.

And now, the very same people who are doing all of that are claiming that they must suppress evidence of our government's abuse of detainees because to allow the evidence to be seen would "inflame anti-American sentiment." It's not hard to believe that releasing the photos would do so to some extent -- people generally consider it a bad thing to torture and brutally abuse helpless detainees -- but compared to everything else we're doing, the notion that releasing or concealing these photos would make an appreciable difference in terms of how we're perceived in the Muslim world is laughable on its face.

More here.


M@ said...

I got into a discussion about this at a left-wing American blog. The reason I commented at all is because I was quite surprised at the blogger approving of Obama barring the release of the evidence.

The crazy thing is that the reasoning given -- "it'll make our troops less safe" -- is such a transparent politicization of the military, yet these guys were just completely accepting it. Well, if it makes the troops safer, then okay.

Absolutely amazing.

laura k said...

"The reason I commented at all is because I was quite surprised at the blogger approving of Obama barring the release of the evidence."

The willingness to give him a free pass is simply amazing. In this respect, many Obama supporters are cult-like. Check your principles at the door.

allan said...

Greenwald is my favourite political blogger/columnist. He writes a TON and he looks at both parties (and their media and public supporters) with an equally critical eye.

Check his archives for plenty more evidence of how Obama is quickly (and smoothly) becoming Bush 2.0.


"it'll make our troops less safe"

I think we can all agree that everyone over there already knows about the horrors depicted in these pictures/videos.

There won't be anything new or surprising to them. The only group who stands to be shocked by the recorded evidence of torture and rapes and murders is the US general public.

allan said...

Hey Obama: Wanna know how to make the troops really safe?

Cornelia said...

I'm extremely disappointed that Obama doesn't want to investigate and prosecute the torture crimes. And I am so sorry that this has thus come to pass! However, I don't need these photos because they are ghastly and I don't need to watch them during free time _ I know that torture is a heinous, dreadful and horrendous and dehumanizing violent felony crime against human rights - and what's the use showing them to the public if the offenders are not called to account anyway. I think Obama should get a prosecutor, a judge and a jury who do not mind looking at those pics and who don't have a problem with that to the extent of getting freaked out because after all, they are evidence of the crimes.

allan said...

Washington Post's Dan Froomkin:
"In trying to explain his startling decision to oppose the public release of more photos depicting detainee abuse, President Obama and his aides yesterday put forth six excuses for his about-face, one more flawed than the next."

Froomkin examines all six.

deang said...

Sickening. But since so many of the Democratic herd approved of torture and slaughter anyway but just thought it should be concentrated in one part of the Arab world rather than another (Afghanistan/Pakistan vs. Iraq), not terribly surprising.

I have a really hard time not hating Americans in general when I read stuff like this (which I do every day), even though I know there are many Americans who feel more like I do. Their worship of their military doesn't help. Everything's always justified in terms of "supporting the troops", even though veterans services are so often a joke that you have to wonder at the sincerity of the phrase.

And yes, people in the Arab world have been aware in a very personal way, extending into just about every Iraqi and Afghan home, that the US is torturing people in horrendous ways, leaving their relatives dead, in comas, etc, with no charges. As Robert Fisk remarks on occasion, it's remarkable that Arabs/Moslems have been as restrained toward us as they have, considerable all we do to them.

laura k said...

"As Robert Fisk remarks on occasion, it's remarkable that Arabs/Moslems have been as restrained toward us as they have, considerable all we do to them."

It's a testament to people's basic humanity, and probably also to a lack of resources as well.

From the remove of Canada, this doesn't make me hate Americans so much as seethe with hatred against capitalism. When I was in the US, though, I was tremendously angry at Americans. So I understand.

deang said...

Whoops: "considerable all we do to them" should have been "considering all we do to them."

allan said...

Here is a good example of how the media uses biased wording to condition us to accept certain attitudes of the government as normal and mainstream:

Salon's Mark Benjamin:

"It’s one thing if, as former Vice President Dick Cheney keeps saying, the United States brutally interrogated people to keep our kids safe from another strike by Osama bin Laden. If folks got tortured to provide a rationale for going to war with Iraq, though, that's a whole different story."


No. It is not "one thing" if the US tortured people -- as long as it was for Reason X. That is not what the Geneva Conventions say. ALL torture is illegal and wrong.

laura k said...

"No. It is not "one thing" if the US tortured people -- as long as it was for Reason X."

And how easily that essential, crucial point is buried beneath jingoism and manufactured paranoia about "security".

Torture is a hallmark of fascist societies.

No government that engages in or sanctions torture can be said to be democratic.

Also, once again, we see that what counts is what happens to "us". What happens to "them" is only important as it relates to us.

Shaun said...

I'm glad the military tribunals will reject testimony derived from torture. But I guess that all depends on how you define "torture" eh? Obie said only a few weeks ago that waterboarding was torture. How much you wanna bet he's going to reverse his stance on waterboarding too?

Amy said...

I just want to register my own great disappointment over this reversal by Obama. As one who really had high hopes for Obama (and who still tries to in many areas), I found this very upsetting. Not the first time I have been let down (starting with selecting Rev. Rick Warren to participate in the inauguration), and sadly, I am sure not the last time.