Government Reform

Obushma Watch: Torture Photo Flip Flop and Reactions Division

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Glenn Greenwald at Salon, the most delightfully angry man on America's progressive left these days, checks out Obama's tortuous explanations and flipflops on torture photos and accountability for Bush-era crimes. The whole thing is a hoot; here are some highlights.

It's difficult to react much to Obama's complete reversal today of his own prior decision to release photographs depicting extreme detainee abuse by the United States.  He's left no doubt that this is what he does:  ever since he was inaugurated, Obama has taken one extreme step after the next to keep concealed both the details and the evidence of Bush's crimes, including rendition, torture and warrantless eavesdropping……. 

Obama's claim—that release of the photographs "would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger"—means we should conceal or even outright lie about all the bad things we do that might reflect poorly on us.  For instance, if an Obama bombing raid slaughters civilians in Afghanistan (as has happened several times already), then, by this reasoning, we ought to lie about what happened and conceal the evidence depicting what was done—as the Bush administration did—because release of such evidence would "would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger."…..

How can anyone who supports what Obama is doing here complain about the CIA's destruction of their torture videos?  The torture videos, like the torture photos, would, if released, generate anti-American sentiment and make us look bad.  By Obama's reasoning, didn't the CIA do exactly the right thing by destroying them?…..

Obama's claim that he has to hide this evidence to protect our soldiers is the sort of crass, self-serving exploitation of "The Troops" which was the rancid hallmark of Bush/Cheney rhetoric.  Everyone knows what the real effect of these photographs would be:  they would highlight just how brutal and criminal was our treatment of detainees in our custody, and further underscore how amoral and lawless are Obama's calls that we Look To the Future, Not the Past…..

For all of you defend-Obama-at-all-cost cheerleaders….I have this question:  if you actually want to argue that concealing these photographs is the right thing to do, then you must have been criticizing Obama when, two weeks ago, he announced that he would release them.  Otherwise, it's pretty clear that you don't have any actual beliefs other than:  "I support what Obama does because it's Obama who does it."….  

Also, the OLC torture memos released several weeks ago surely increased anti-American sentiment.  Indeed, those on the Right who objected to the release of those memos cited exactly that argument.  How can anyone cheer on Obama's decision today to conceal these photographs while also cheering on his decision to release the OLC memos?  Those who have any intellectual coherence would have to oppose both or support both.   Those two decisions only have one fact in common: Obama made them.  Thus, the only way to cheer on both decisions is to be guided by the modified Nixonian mantra: what Obama does is right because Obama does it.

Matt Welch way back in 2005 laid out the reasons why the government would do all it could to keep future torture photos under wraps. It isn't only on national security crimes that the difference between our past two presidents seems insignificant; check out past Obushma blogging on budgets and spending.