Barring Torture Photos- Obama’s Blunder?

Nothing hurts President Barack Obama with his base quite like reversing course after making a firm commitment. That’s why his latest flip flop, in moving to bar the release of photos documenting the torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan is sure to grate. Wasn’t it just recently the White House said wouldn’t fight the release of these same pictures?

We know the president’s rationale. as he’s articulated it. US military commanders expressed to Defense Secretary Gates a good deal of unease about the release because they fear it could inflame anti American sentiment and put soldiers at risk. Gates then went to the president and told him of those concerns. As valid as they may be, the reversal could stir up a hornet’s nest of problems for the Obama Administration.

There’s a court case here, involving the ACLU. They had prevailed both at the federal trial court and appeals court levels. The agreement to release the photos was crafted to end the litigation. It’s entirely possible that not only could Obama lose in the court of public opinion on this one, but in the courts as well. ¬†That combination would be a body blow politically as well.

How will the president respond to critics who say his “troops at risk” explanation is little more than a blind to mask a capitulation to the Dick Cheneys of the world? And isn’t he trying to take away one of the most powerful tools in making sure torture doesn’t happen again by letting the public see what it really looks like? And raising the red flag of national security sounds an awful lot like the president who just left office, doesn’t it?

No one, repeat, no one wants to put US soldiers at more risk than they face in their normal duties. However, something is getting lost. It is the act of torture, not the release of 2000 pictures, that creates anti-Americanism abroad. The act of releasing them ought to be seen as a symbolic purge of this type of intelligence gathering. Cheney can caterwaul all he wants about the valuable information torture provided. It is he who puts American troops in harm’s way with his constant attempts to defend the indefensible.

Now Obama is starting to look just like him to some of those who worked most passionately for his election. Some media reports say many of the Bush Administration’s fiercest critics felt betrayed and blindsided by Obama’s decision.

Should they be? You tell me?

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1 Comment

  1. Want to see just how angry the Democrats on the (I think) biggest political blog are at the President so many worked so hard to get elected? Go to Daily Kos, yesterday’s “diary” (word for article) by mcjoan on http://www.dailykos.com Hundreds were angry and a very small number of the nearly 500 when I looked (and read most of the comments) were sounding like the 20% of the Bush loyal-no-matter what. (That observation about the 20% is from one of the many comments.) People gave excellent reasons for why Pres. Obama is wrong. To me, continuing Bush policies and cover-up are so bad.

    On the “before I slide into gloom” side: Howard Zinn makes some good points in his speech given to The Progressive Magazine audience at the 100th anniversary of the magazine, on May 3, 2009. It’s on YouTube or the Progressive Mag.’s website. He also alluded to it on DemocracyNow yesterday: change comes from the bottom up. You can’t look to Congress or the President to “make things better”….people have to push the government to do things for the people. But he says it better.

    I was speaking with someone from Middle Europe who I know. I generally avoid political arguments, but when she said strongly that Obama is loved in Europe (true) and is so much better than Bush, I asked her to come up with a short list of differences so far in policy. She could not. True, she didn’t know who LBJ was until I said, “Vietnam”. When I talked about the bailout, she said, “you have to have banks”‘ and “you can’t let them fail”. But she did make one good point: “If you want to be first in the world, you have to do…” in effect, the dirty work, when I suggested “Let the UN and NATO take care of the Taliban, etc. The US population can’t afford it.” That’s where history and LBJ fit in. It’s not Obama’s Vietnam, it’s Obama’s war now in Afghanistan and now Pakistan,too. Push for peace. And the ACLU will probably win.


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