'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Other Shoe is About to Drop 

At the beginning of this month, as a result of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act, a federal judge ordered the Department of Defense to release 144 more photographs and, for the first time, several videos of torture at Abu Ghraib.

The material wasn't immediately released, apparently, because the government needed time to conceal the faces of the prisoners depicted -- it seems it takes weeks to perform 144 Gaussian blurs... The court order requires the photographs to be redacted by June 30th and it ordered the government to issue a timetable for the redaction of the video footage by June 10th. I haven't been able to find out if the June 10th deadline was met and if there is now a timetable for the release of the videos, but the ACLU said on June 2nd that it "expect[ed] redacted versions of the photographs to be released within the next six weeks", which means we should be seeing them in less than a month.

Given the current political climate, the unpopularity of the Iraq War, Bush's low poll numbers, the renewed sense of outrage about Guantanamo Bay in mainstream political culture, I think these pictures and videos could be a bombshell. Especially given what they are likely to contain.

Seymour Hersh had the following to say about the unreleased Abu Ghraib material during a speaking engagement at some ACLU shindig:

Debating about it, ummm ... Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib ... The women were passing messages out saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened' and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out."

Less graphically, here's a bit of the transcript from MSNBC's coverage of Rumsfeld's appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee after the original pictures broke:

[Jim Miklaszewski, NBC Pentagon correspondent (voice-over)]: Rumsfeld then dropped a bomb, revealing that there were more photos, even videos depicting abuses far worse than what has been seen so far.

RUMSFELD: There are other photos that depict incidents of physical violence towards prisoners, acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman.

MIKLASZEWSKI: U.S. military officials tell NBC News, the unreleased images, show American soldiers severely beating one Iraqi prisoner to near death; apparently, raping an Iraqi female prisoner; acting inappropriately with a dead body; and Iraqi guards apparently videotaped by U.S. soldiers raping young boys.

(for the above links, see my old post on this subject)

Now, as far as I know, no one has said specifically that this is the sort of material that is about to be released, but if it is not then what is? Because of the rumors of video, I think the above is what the ACLU is lobbying for.

It's going to be fascinating to see if the release of this stuff becomes a major story or a minor story. I can't imagine that it won't be front page news but in recent times no one has gone broke betting on the cowardliness of the corporate press -- so who knows?

Speaking of betting ... let's say that the inconceivable happens and the release of the new photographic documentation of torture at Abu Ghraib doesn't get the play it deserves, I will bet anyone that once bloggers and activists start making a fuss about the lack of coverage, media spokespeople will write editorials explaining that the new photographs are not news because everyone already knows that prisoners were tortured at Abu Ghraib. Any takers?

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