Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A CHILLING EFFECT

IT CHILLS ME FOR SURE that today Obama reversed his previous decision to release the torture photos, saying the images could "further inflame anti-American opinion." My first reaction is to agree with Xeni Jardin at boingboing who said, "What BS. You know what will help dampen those flames? An end to war crimes impunity, and the dawn of that true transparency he promised America during his presidential campaign."


The story is all over the media and, of course, the opinions and interpretations are multiplying as well. I am grateful for the possibility that some courageous journalists and bloggers like Andrew Sullivan will hold Obama's toes to the fire of public scrutiny.

It's understandable that releasing new evidence of the widespread torture and abuse policy of Bush and Cheney, including techniques that were tailored specifically against Muslims, could inflame the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the two newest military theaters for the US. On the brink of what may be a brutal summer in all theaters in a war whose purpose is now opaque, one can understand the caution, and there is no reason to doubt the genuine worries of commanders in the field. But it is important to remember that it is the abuse that inflames, not the accounting of the abuse. And for Obama to act as an extension of the Bush era of secrecy is potentially more damaging to the US and its interests and service members. read more

[NOTE - 14 MAY - There's a VERY interesting follow-up from Sullivan in which he speculates that there may be some clever strategy behind Obama's "Rope-a-Dope" ways and quite a real politik dissent here.]

Yes, I'm willing to be compassionate about the errors of the past if, and only if, I am convinced that they are past. And, YES, I do want to see Cheney, et al, brought to full public exposure. That makes me feel that the real test will come not over photos but over whether the various investigations of wrong-doing will proceed, whether Gitmo will indeed be closed, or whether loss of transparency will continue.

Now, as I watch the great morality play unfolding, I read Obama's signals as meaning that I better wear a heavier coat and not assume that spring flowers will soon bloom.

But I still hope...



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