Thursday, May 14, 2009

Obama uses Bush administration "few bad apples" defense

The Obama administration - which had previously promised Americans a move away from the obsessive secrecy of the Bush administration towards transparency and accountablity - has decided not release photographic documentation of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq which had been scheduled for release on May 28. President Obama offered this justification for his reversal on the matter:

The publication of these photos would not add to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals.
Not only is the Obama administration becoming complicit in the crimes of the Bush administration by continuing to cover-up evidence of its wrongdoing, but it is now also using the same disgusting scapegoating tactic of blaming a "few bad apples" for abuse that has well now been demonstrated to be a systemic problem that arose from policy implemented at the highest levels of government. Johnathan Turley and Rachel Maddow addressed this aptly last night

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Many defenders of this move maintain that release of the photos will endanger the lives of American soldiers. What endangers the lives of American soldiers is prisoner abuse that undermines American morale and inflames anti-American sentiment. What promotes prisoner abuse is a lack of transparency and a lack of accountability. Failure to release the photographs fosters a culture of impunity for criminal actions; sweeping them under the rug or blaming a few low level nobodies for the actions doesn't make them go away. What makes them go away is disclosure, investigation, accounting and punishment for those responsible.

If we want to not inflame anti-American sentiment we should be concerned with not abusing prisoners in the first place, not hiding abuse after the fact. As Glenn Greenwald notes today

If we're actually worried about inflaming anti-American sentiment and endangering our troops, we might want to re-consider whether we should keep doing the things that actually spawn "anti-American sentiment" and put American soldiers in danger. We might, for instance, want to stop invading, bombing and occupying Muslim countries and imprisoning their citizens with no charges by the thousands. But exploiting concerns over "anti-American sentiment" to vest our own government leaders with the power to cover-up evidence of wrongdoing is as incoherent as it is dangerous. Who actually thinks that the solution to anti-American sentiment is to hide evidence of our wrongdoing rather than ceasing the conduct that causes that sentiment in the first place?

No comments: