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Why The Torture Photos Should Be Released

By Mary Shaw

30 May, 2009

The Obama administration continues trying to block the release of some additional photos of detainee abuse. The excuse? They say exposing the photos could incite anti-American violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

They seem to forget that we're already seeing anti-American violence in those countries. And they seem to forget why.

They seem to ignore how much this move is reminiscent of the Bush administration's culture of secrecy. If it's not openly acknowledged, then it doesn't exist. "We do not torture," Bush would tell us, as if saying the words would make it so.

But the world knew better. The terrorists knew better. As they do now.

And that, not so ironically, has contributed to the ongoing anti-American violence in the world.

Now, despite Obama's attempts at containing the photos, descriptions of what they depict are leaking into the media. An article in the British newspaper the Telegraph elaborates:

"At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

"Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube."

That's our tax dollars at work.

And that is one reason why the Obama administration must release the photos: In this so-called democratic republic, We The People have a right to know how our intelligence agents and military personnel are treating their detainees. Those intelligence agents and military personnel are technically our employees, after all. And detainee abuse is no "state secret".

But the accountability shouldn't stop at the domestic front. The Obama administration should release the photos to demonstrate to the world that the Bush-Cheney culture of secrecy has ended.

Otherwise, the world will continue to wonder what we're hiding, and why. And that can only make things worse. That could be what incites much more anti-American violence.

Obama campaigned on a promise to repair this nation's reputation in the world. In order to do that, we must own up to what happened, apologize to the world for it, and enforce strict policies against repeating our mistakes going forward.

And we must fully investigate the torture issue. All those responsible must be held accountable, not just Lynndie England and her peers who were simply having too much fun following the misguided orders they were given.

Until we do so, the world will continue to view us with suspicion and distrust. And deservedly so.

Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views appear regularly in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites. Note that the ideas expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty International or any other organization with which she may be associated. E-mail: [email protected]


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