He reverses position because of damage photos might do
WASHINGTON – President Obama will try to block the court-ordered release of photos showing the abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, reversing his position and ceding to military concerns the images could stoke anti-American passions overseas.
The White House had said last month it would not oppose an appeals court ruling that set a May 28 deadline for releasing dozens of photos from military investigations of alleged misconduct.
But American commanders in the war zones have expressed concern about damage the photos might do.
When photos emerged in 2004 from the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, showing grinning American soldiers posing with detainees – some of the prisoners naked, some being held on leashes – the pictures caused a huge anti-American backlash around the globe, particularly in the Muslim world.
Obama, explaining his change of heart, said the photos had already served their purpose in investigations of “a small number of individuals.” Those cases were all concluded by 2004, and the president said “the individuals who were involved have been identified, and appropriate actions have been taken.”
“This is not a situation in which the Pentagon has concealed or sought to justify inappropriate action,” Obama said of the photos.
The effort to keep the photos from becoming public represented a sharp reversal from Obama’s repeated pledges for open government.
Obama’s reversal puts him in step with some Republicans. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., sent kudos via Twitter. “Strongly agree,” he said.
• A suicide car bomber killed seven people and wounded 21 others Wednesday outside a U.S. military base in the same part of eastern Afghanistan where militants stormed government buildings a day earlier, police said.
• Ninety-five Afghan children are among the 140 people said to have died in a recent U.S.-Taliban battle in western Afghanistan, a lawmaker involved in the investigation into the deaths said Wednesday. The U.S. military disputed the claim.
• Tempers boiled over Wednesday at a refugee camp in Pakistan when a scuffle broke out as police escorted a truck carrying mattresses and water, but the incident did not last long and there were no reports of injuries.
The Associated Press