One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

The burial of history, in photographic form

FP’s Annie Lowrey on a bill introduced by Senators Graham and Lieberman that would bury every single photograph or video taken during GW Bush’s tenure in a deep dark secret cave classify detainee treatment photos/videos taken between 9/11/01 and 1/22/09 as impervious to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests:

It seems to me to be a dangerous thing — to group all photographs of detainees together, and ensure they never see light. This is no longer really about the Abu Ghraib photos; at this point, we know what happened, the perpetrators have been punished. But the Bush administration codified the abuse of detainees in secret prisons. It was systemic, and it was law. And if there are photographs of those interrogations, they should be open to FOIA requests, at the very least.

abughraib photoI agree wholeheartedly with sentences 1, 3, and 5; concerns should be taken into account when determine whether and which photos to release — namely the consent of those being abused in the photos, for example — but a blanket cover-up is in the interests of neither ensuring accountability, moving forward, or, chiefly, maintaining a free and open society. This smacks of a political move, and the fact that the chosen end date for the period is only two days after Obama’s inauguration seems designed to ensure that certain elements of Bush’s legacy are simply kept out of history.

So I cannot agree with the last two-thirds of the second sentence in the above graf. This may not be about the Abu Ghraib photos — let alone those at Bagram and any other black sites — and it certainly is not for those like Graham and Lieberman trying to politicize the issue in the other direction. But it is about torture, and U.S. policy, and what the highest-ranking officials in this country claimed to be law (I maintain that, Yoo/Bybee memo-like travesties aside, the prevailing laws of the United States and international human rights conventions never actually authorized such practices — the Supreme Court has already partially, retroactively, vindicated this view).

And the most chilling part of this whole historical episode is that we don’t necessarily know all the happened — and, quite clearly, the perpetrators have not been punished. We know much — the most fundamental outlines of the story — and we have known this for a very long time. I’m open to arguments that filling in lurid details right now could be counter-productive, but the moral affront of torture porn has never dissuaded 24 viewers, and, as damaging as these images may be to the United States’ position and reputation in the world, they are reality, not reality TV.

(image from flickr user ManilaRyce under a Creative Commons license)

June 2, 2009 - Posted by | U.S. politics | , ,

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