08 August 2009

Torture, Photography and Litigation

Well, The New York Times reports the Obama administration is pressing the Supreme Court to prevent release of the heretofore undisclosed images of prisoner abuse by American military personnel. The rationale is the same - releasing them will stiffen resistance to American military operations. I disagreed with that rationale when the case was in the lower courts. I still disagree with it. My grounds are consequentialist. I can see that release of the photos might be taken up and used in propaganda campaigns. But (1) there already are a lot of images out there for the propagandists to use and (2) the opposition and resistance to American military projects will hardly vanish simply because we secret those pictures away. Releasing these images will not change either of those facts. If the success of our military adventures is so tenuous that it will be upset by a marginal increase in propaganda, we have significantly greater problems to worry about than these images.

Conversely, keeping the pictures secret lends cover to Bush and his minions and allows them to insist that torturing prisoners 'works.' According to the brief the Justice Department filed with the court, one of the pictures depicts ''a soldier holds a broom as if 'sticking its end into the rectum of a restrained detainee." I don't know about you, but I just don't see that as a terribly effective way of generating effective 'intelligence.' My concern is for the consequences for justice and democracy here in the U.S.; keeping the images secret damages both.

Having said all that, I will give odds that the right wing activists on the Court will side with te government on this one.

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Blogger míchel said...

Increasingly, my problem with these cover-ups is that people in this country lend their support to torture and war without knowing what it is. The obfuscating language--stress positions, enhanced interrogation techniques, etc.--only makes the situation worse. I think most people are still unaware of what U.S. torture looks like, what it does to people, what it means in human-terms, and I think the images play a critical role in our fully understanding those things and changing minds. Is that naïve?

A poll redone in June by WaPo/ABC indicated almost half 1001 respondents are ok with torture of terrorism suspects in some cases. Half! Do we know what we're talking about, here?

I know the question was poorly worded, but still. I wonder if that same percentage would still be ok with torture if they "knew," were forced to confront, visually, the brutal inhumanity of torture (and the U.S. Govt, in general).

Geez. I do sound embarrassingly naïve.

08 August, 2009 16:27  

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