Thursday, May 14, 2009

Freeze Frame

On Obama's sudden opposition to release of the torture photos, Andrew Sullivan posts a reader's email:

I do not understand why it is so important for the photos to be released. We know that this behavior occurred. What good would the release of these photos to the public do? Shock factor? I think anyone who has followed the situation in the least is well aware that the torture took place. I didn't have to see a photograph of Lacy Peterson's dead body to understand that she was murdered by her husband. The memos were released that document the torture. What more is needed? I don't understand how this is covering anything up when he already allowed information to be released that documents the torture.

"Understanding" a crime against an individual for which there is extensive precedent, settled law, and an accepted code of punishment is one thing. Grasping the full extent of conduct that breaks important new legal and moral ground for a nation is quite another. The latter depends on public debate, which depends on complete information, visual and otherwise, about what actually happened.

Also, as Andrew notes re: Abu Ghraib, there is an established pattern of behavior by the principals -- denials, secrecy, and an underlying code of silence -- that makes photographic evidence, by its nature, crucial. Would his emailer also have argued against television stations airing the Rodney King tape because we all understand that police abuse sometimes happens and, well, everyone can see from his face that he was beaten? Actually, I remember that sort of reasoning at the time, along with the shock factor objection ("they're just airing it for the ratings") raised by Andrew's emailer. Without that tape, what would have happened?

By the way, can someone ask Robert Gates if he still thinks trying to keep the photos secret is "unrealistic"?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with your point, but the question about Rodney King seems disingenuous.

Without that tape, Los Angeles probably would not have been convulsed with rioting, death, and destruction.

Do you think that episode of U.S. history could have anything to do with Obama's decision?

5/14/2009 11:50 AM  
Blogger alcatholic said...

From what I understand, Obama is asking for time to make a new case to the court. An appeal so to speak. So, make the case to the court and let the court decide. Or let a person of conscious leak the photos.

Obama could release the photos himself as a sign of Leadership, but I'm pretty sure it would be a thankless move. Obama could face an increasingly unruly top brass in the military if he were to betray them outright by releasing the photos. Better to let the generals get pissed at the courts or the leakers.

But, in exchange for Obama's "support" of the general's on this Obama will continue extracting pounds of flesh from the military budget, overrule Gates by canceling the Reliable Nuclear Weapon program, and any number of other measures to bring the military reforms needed.

It's a chess game, and the generals have a way of making life difficult for President's they oppose. Or so I've heard.

5/14/2009 7:37 PM  
Blogger alcatholic said...

PS Gates is right that keeping the photos secret is unrealistic. They will come out eventually anyway...the courts, leakers, etc. Having the President "betray the troops" by leaking the photos when there are other ways to release them or better timing, while still confronting the stain of torture in other ways, is political malpractice and would weaken the President in the end.

5/14/2009 7:42 PM  
Anonymous am4 said...

Point of clarification re alcatholic's "pound of flesh from military budget" comment. Obama's proposed budget reallocates some military spending, but he increases the overall military budget by 4%. And as a reminder the US military budget in 2008 was 6 times that of the Chinese and 10 times that of the Russians. The US military budget is 48% of the total world military spending.

5/14/2009 9:08 PM  
Anonymous syarih said...

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5/15/2009 10:58 AM  
Anonymous stan said...

Let us get off of the "I told you so" train. We have been forwarned that there will not be any trials of the real perpetrators of our illegal war in Iraq. The plain truth is that at this time these photos will only inflame the Muslim world (visuals are a lot more actionable than words) - needlessly increasing the number of deadly attacks on our troops which will in turn derail or delay our combat disengagement in the area and undermine the carrot policy Obama is trying to implement.

5/15/2009 11:31 AM  
Anonymous Ghidorah said...

I would argue that we don't really know what happened. All we hear about in the mainstream press is waterboarding. But I have heard reports of rape and beatings that are not widely discussed and probably not widely acknowledged or understood.

It seems to me that the argument against releasing the photos is that it will make us look even worse than we already do. That in itself implies that we don't have the whole story.

In my view, this whole controversy is one more attempt for the American public to not come to terms with what we have allowed to happen. We have become what we are supposed to stand against and we don't want to face it. We want to continue our delusion of American Exceptionalism. Many of our leaders, past and present, have committed crimes. No one wants to do the difficult work of rectifying that because it is hard and painful.

The results are criminals going unpunished and the US republic slipping further into dysfunction. More and more these days, it seems America can talk the talk, but cannot walk the walk.

5/15/2009 1:11 PM  
Blogger alcatholic said...


I don't know for sure, but I believe the photos document acts that have already been documented in the Congressional report. Obviously, the US has to face its crimes and the photos will be a necessary moment of truth, since it is easy to ignore reports. I just hope the photos come out in a better context than one where Obama can be said to be "betraying the troops."

5/15/2009 3:26 PM  
Anonymous Ghidorah said...


That's kind of my point. You don't know for sure. Which is, of course, why the photos need to be released.

As you may have guessed from my post, I am feeling quite disillusioned these days. And the Obama administration isn't really helping. I actually have little faith that this country will face its crimes. There may be some "truth commission" that will determine that mistakes were made. But that's about it I think. And I just plain don't believe "national security" justifications anymore.

The last 8 years have demonstrated to me that the powerful will not be held accountable in America. I know that's the way it is across much of the world. But America was supposed to be different. For a while maybe it was. But now it seems the rich and politically connected can pretty much do whatever they want, while the law is reserved for the little people.

5/15/2009 4:19 PM  
Anonymous Stan said...


Please take a moment to breathe and relect on the period of grace that we are living through. Obama and his administration are not the second coming, but place in your mind the fact that the US Titanic has a new captain who is trying to change direction. But, a ship this large can not turn on a dime. We all saw the tip of iceberg coming up on the horizon 8 years ago, yet we believed our captain when he assured us that his team knew all about icebergs and that this was such a small one that the strenght of our technology would see us through quickly. He was the "decider" and he advised us to continue with our leisure activities.(which most of us did). So, even when the clear path narrowed and it became crowded with ice floes like Katrina that rocked the ship, and the icebergs' size became clearer, we still stuck with the same captain 4 years later even though we saw that he was not making any evasive manuvers and was steering straight ahead. That is why I know that my God is merciful, because America may yet avert that fatal crash. The issues that we as a nation, and as the leader of the free world, have to deal with have been exasperated over the past 8 years and are too numerous to count - but - if you update your prescription you will see that they are being addressed. I will close by saying the time to dispair was 4-5 years ago - now is the time to engage, not to fret and tuck your hands.

5/15/2009 5:18 PM  
Anonymous Stan said...

I'm sorry, my last post should've been addressed to Ghidorah

5/15/2009 5:20 PM  
Anonymous Ghidorah said...


I had a whole long response to your post, but I scrapped it. I understand your analogy. The thing is, I don't see our captain trying to change course in some very important ways. The desire to keep these pictures, and the truth, under wraps is one of them.

Your God may be merciful. My God feels sorry for us; because after thousands of years and hundreds of enlightened teachers, we still can't find our ass with two hands and a flashlight. After 9/11 the majority of this country wet their collective pants and went primal. Then again, that was what they were expected to do.

I'll close with some song lyrics. Do you know how many decades ago they were written?

"Fighting fire with empty words
While the banks get fat
And the poor stay poor
And the rich get rich
And the cops get paid
To look away
As the one percent rules America."

Le plus ca change and all that...

5/16/2009 12:05 AM  
Anonymous KAIMU said...


Am4 ... Point of more clarification ... Which military budget do you speak of? Supplemental Budget was 90% military spending adding another $75.5BIL USD for 2009. For 2010 there is an added $130BIL USD for the WAR ON TERROR or as OBAMA calls it the OVERSEAS CONTINGENCY OPERATIONS.

So in effect if you are comparing 2008 to 2009 then the military budget went down. In 2008 the base budget and WAR ON TERROR was $666BIL USD. In 2009 it was 654.7BIL USD. For 2010 the OBAMA "requested" budget is a total of $663.7BIL USD which is still less than 2008. Not sure where the increase of 4% came from? The Recovery Act adds only $7.4BIL USD, which equals $671.1BIL USD for 2010, not a 4% increase over 2009.

Final approval by the US CONgress for FY 2010 Defense Budget is not final yet, so the numbers could grow. My guess is that they will.

Also there have been some major cuts and sidelines on weapons projects but those cuts were offset by more spending on "military infrastructure and medical care".

The USA has been outspending China and Russia and everybody else for decades ... We are the World's Police!


5/16/2009 3:39 AM  
Anonymous KAIMU said...


Anyone here care to guess how much has been spent(outlays) for FY 2009 so far, as of May 14, 2009?

According to the US TREASURY our government has spent $7.44TRIL USD total so far. The FY 2009 Budget began on Oct 1, 2008.

Now how much has the US TREASURY taken in tax revenues(receipts), known as FTDs? Total for FY 2009 so far is $1.282TRIL USD. This includes everything like excise taxes, estate taxes, payroll ... all!

That's a $6.158TRIL USD deficit so far. Hummmm??? So how has our government made up for the shortfall? They issued $5.590TRIL USD in Public Debt Cash Issues.

Yes, I know there's still $568BIL USD missing but that's the US TREASURY for you. Go ask the GAO!

No taxey ... more printy!

Where's that mentioned at CNN and FOX? They'll talk all day about the piddly $700BIL BAILOUT or STIMULUS but what of actual "real time" nuts and bolts SPENDING????


5/16/2009 3:53 AM  
Anonymous Stan said...


You lyrics are correct to point out that in over two decades, the exploitation by the monied classes and the self-proclaimed religious saviors has not changed. But this I already know because people will reject truth as it has been written..."for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God."

So other truths, such as the torture pictures will not "SHOCK" America into confession. Those who want to know, know already. Look, today we have folks that deny that the Holocaust happened, even with the pictures. We Americas have never owned up to our actions in the Vietnam non-war, dispite the pictures? More recently, does America even care if our greedy consumption and luxurious lives leads directly to the exploitation of the poor peasants and children in China (or pick the Country of choice)? Not if Walmart can continue to lower prices! Sadly, America does not want to know the truth. God does not feel sorry for us - He has been patient with us for thousands of years because He knows we can't find our ass most of the time even with the abundance of the two hands He has given us. We are weak and are easily persuaded by the coded messages of evil (be it Operation Mindcrime or commercials that teach us to be dissatisfied with our lives) as it has been from the time of Adam and Eve. We are constantly told we can have it all if we would just take it.

I believe we are in agreement on our observations of the human condition and conditioning in America. What we differ on is if there still exists the possibility of enlightened improvement. I believe we still have been given the choice.

Thanks for the discussion.

5/17/2009 10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And did you see this, Rumsfeld's Crusade MemosThe Republicans hate bjobs, so they say, but they love deception, religious fervor and perpetual war. And no one is holding them accountable. I expected more from Obama and the Democrats. Talk about dangerous people: Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Bush, their cronies.

The American people could use a heap of truth, for their survival and quality of life.

5/17/2009 2:50 PM  
Anonymous Ghidorah said...

Thank you too, Stan. I actually agree that we still have the choice. That is the gift that has been given to us.

I also agree that many people (and, importantly, the media) do not want to know what is really going on. That's why I don't have much hope that we will right this ship. But it is possible! And, you're right, it will require those of us who do understand to engage in something. I'm still trying to figure out what; but something.

5/17/2009 2:57 PM  
Anonymous Liebchen said...

The American public knew about Jim Crow laws in the '40s and '50s, but could largely ignore it. "Out of sight, out of mind."

The airing of the footage in Birmingham shocked the nation out of its stupor.

The publication of these photos will likely have a similar effect on the American public, where we are numbed by euphemisms such as "stress position" and "enhanced interrogation."

5/18/2009 2:07 PM  
Anonymous Thomas Daulton said...

Talking about whether Obama is, is trying, or can "change the course" of the United States...

Anyone interested in that question really ought to read this article: the course of a country involves a lot more steps than simply electing a bunch of people with "(D)" behind their names. Neither the leaders nor the vulgar masses really can make a radical change of course by themselves; there has to be a mass change in attitude in order to counter that "momentum" we are discussing. From the above article and from talking and reading the words of "conservatives" (really, neocons, to distinguish them from our benevolent host here) -- it looks to me like the populace is still as divided as the government, with half the citizens still in the "primal" state Ghidorah referred to. But discourse continues to veer to the Right, so the so-called "liberals" really aren't far behind them. Acceptable discourse continues to shift to things we couldn't have imagined a decade ago.

We are still on the exact same course now, that we were two years ago. We've just throttled down the engines and we're arguing over the map about five degrees Port or five more degrees Starboard, after having sailed in circles to the Right for decades. So far, I don't think anyone is really proposing the course change needed to avoid the looming iceberg.

5/18/2009 2:09 PM  
Anonymous Stan said...


"The American public knew about Jim Crow laws in the '40s and '50s..."

My friend, the American public (white men and women) demanded the creation of Jim Crow laws and they were given the permission to codify them in the 1880s' with the Supreme Court's ruling in Plessy vs Ferguson - which by the way put the nail in the coffin of Reconstruction. It was only due to the international exposure to a taste of equality allowed by WWI and WWII that revealed the ugly truth to Blacks and Hispanics in America that the "American Way" was not the only way. The use of legal suits and stategic/targeted resistance by Blacks, Hispanics and Jews to demand respect and equality brought this movement to a head in the 1960's. By the time the pictures came out, the outcome had already been determined by the advance work and sacrifice of people at all levels and of all colors that will never be documeted on the camera - not by some benevolent concern by the American public! In fact, the white flight of the 1970s' and '80s' and the anti-immigrant stance of the '90s to the present show the continuing character of that old (and dying) America . But we are possibly, just possibly, emerging to a new day and a new beginning, and I praise the Lord that I may be allowed to assist with its' delivery!

5/18/2009 3:08 PM  
Blogger alcatholic said...

"By the time the pictures came out, the outcome had already been determined by the advance work and sacrifice of people at all levels and of all colors that will never be documeted on the camera - not by some benevolent concern by the American public!"

Amen, Stan!

5/18/2009 3:37 PM  
Anonymous Ghidorah said...

Interesting link Mr. Daulton. Got to get the kids young, if you want to instill in them an authoritarian mindset and an us-vs-them mentality.

My favorite line: "...a baby-faced young girl screamed, “Separate your feet!” as she moved to handcuff her suspect."

5/19/2009 1:23 PM  
Anonymous Generic Viagra said...

Interesting point above. I think we can't ignore this part about Obama's politics. I think he has been doing a great job in the capitol, just need more time to do the right for the majority, which therefore, the rest, depends on public debate, which depends on complete information. I also think we need to be patients.

1/18/2011 9:37 AM  

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