Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pictures as "Proof"

From this NY Times Op-Ed piece:

The M.P.’s had no military training as prison guards, and they were told to do whatever the interrogators — a mix of military intelligence and C.I.A. officers and civilian contractors — asked them to do to the prisoners....

...What were the pictures for? “Just to show what was going on,” Ms. Harman said. To say, “Look, I have proof, you can’t deny it.” Sometimes she and her fellow guards posed alongside their abused wards, but most of her photos from Abu Ghraib have a purely documentary quality — solitary prisoners, stripped and manacled in their cells, stretched over bed frames or forced to balance on a box. Cpl. Charles Graner, the M.P. in charge of the night shift on the intelligence block that fall, also took photographs. And Corporal Graner, too, spoke of his snapshots as a form of “proof.” He showed the pictures to his superior officers, medics, lawyers.

Later, he told Army investigators how he had routinely beat up prisoners for interrogators, or kept them up all night, making them crawl naked back and forth across the floor. “Was all this stuff wrong?” he said. “Yeah.” But his point was that it was no secret. He kept getting praised for his work.

Six months later, in April 2004, when the Harman and Graner photographs were leaked to the press, they shocked the world’s conscience. They also performed a great public service. They told us something about ourselves that we might have suspected but did not fully know — that the Bush administration had decided to fight terror with terror, and torture with torture.

We did not fully know this before the photographs came out, because our leaders hid it from us, and when it was revealed they denied it. “We do not torture,” Mr. Bush kept saying, even as a stream of official documents leaked to the press contradicted him.

Had a journalist taken the photos, there would have been prizes. Instead, the photographs were used by the administration and the military to frame the soldiers who took and appeared in them as rogues acting out of their own individual perversity. In this way, the exposé became the cover-up: the soldiers who revealed our corruption to us were made scapegoats and thrown in prison.

(Empasis Mine)

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