It's Never The Crime ...
One of the reasons I was confused by the administration's decision to withhold the rest of the Abu Ghraib photos was the reasoning that they were more of the same things we'd already seen and that the participants had all been investigated and punished for their crimes. It seemed unlikely to me that more pictures of the stuff that's been out there for years would cause a upsurge of hatred toward Americans. We had all assumed they contained new material but the White House absolutely denied that, so there we were.
Now it appears that there is some question about whether these pictures do show the same things we've seen before and if there exist even more pictures than the ones being discussed. And those questions are firing up the issue again, which is, I suspect, the last thing administration wants. Unfortunately for them, even the best intentions cannot make up for the fact that we have been through eight years of lying and cover-ups which means that everything pertaining to these issues is suspect.
Last night the Telegraph reported that the pictures are those which were mentioned in the Taguba report and which Taguba verified to the paper did exist. These are pictures which allegedly depict sexual assault and rape in various permutations that are even more horrifying than what was in the original group of pictures. One question this raises (and asked here by Nick Baumann at Mother Jonen) is, what happened to those who perpetrated the crimes --- none of the "bad apples" were tried for them and there's no record of prosecutions of others.
The Politico reported the White House response to the report in the Telegraph:
During today's White House briefing, CBS's Chip Reid asked Robert Gibbs about a Daily Telegraph report that claims there are photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners which include images of rape and sexual abuse.
Major General Antonio Taguba -- who conducted the Abu Ghraib investigation -- confirmed the photographs authenticity to the Telegraph, telling the paper that they "show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency." Still, Taguba said he agreed with President Obama's decision to reverse course and not release additional photos of prisoner abuse.
Gibbs not only reminded the press corps that the Pentagon denied the report, but used the opportunity to take shots at the British press.
"I want to speak generally about some reports I've witnessed over the past few years in the British media," Gibbs said. "In some ways, I'm surprised it filtered down."
"Let's just say if I wanted to look up, if I wanted to read a write-up of how Manchester United fared last night in the Champions League Cup, I'd might open up a British newspaper," he continued. "If I was looking for something that bordered on truthful news, I'm not entirely sure it'd be the first pack of clips I'd pick up."
When the photo question came up later, Gibbs again denied the Telegraph report, but also said that he hadn't seen all the photos.
So the White House was quick to deny the Telegraph report today, but what about Major General Taguba's on-the-record confirmation that the photos described in the report exist?
So, we don't know if the pictures Taguba refers to are the pictures which were covered under thee ACLU's FOIA request, and whether they still exist. We do know that accusations of rape were investigated under both the Taguba and Fay reports, but can't be sure of the disposition of them. And again, we don't know if these pictures refer to those specific allegations or if they pertain to different incidents. The Pentagon denies that there are any pictures which depict these heinous acts. In other words, confusion still reigns and suspicions run high.
The administration claims that it withheld the FOIA pictures because they were more of the same and would inflame anti-American hatred which, as I said, always seemed contradictory. And now it appears that they may actually show something much worse than we've seen --- and the administration looks as if it's covering that up by saying that there's nothing new. Perhaps they aren't, but their conflicting statements and refusal to release the pictures quite naturally raises these questions.
The administration needs to realize that it can't avoid this issue even if it wants to and it's not useful to try to finesse it or kick the issue down the road. There are simply too many lies under the bridge --- it's impossible to take the government at its word. If sexual assaults beyond those which we already know about and saw evidence of (and which were prosecuted) happened, then it will come out. The only question is whether it will be a drip, drip, drip of toxic revelations and speculations that will continue to poison this country and its relationship to the world or whether it will be an official, transparent accounting of what happened. Either way, there's no running away from it.