The U.S. government keeps its top officials out of court whenever possible: If your Cabinet secretaries and four-star generals spend all their time testifying in this dispute and that, they've got little time left to do their jobs for the American people. So why is the Bush administration inserting Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, into a legal case in New York City? Because the pictures you haven't seen yet from Abu Ghraib are apparently much worse than the ones you have.
As the New York Times is reporting, Bush administration lawyers fighting the public release of another round of photos from Abu Ghraib have filed a statement in federal court in New York in which Myers warns that release of the photos could wreak havoc in Iraq and Afghanistan. "The situation on the ground in Iraq is dynamic and dangerous," Myers said. "It is probable that al Qaida and other groups will seize upon these images and videos as grist for their propaganda mill, which will result in, besides violent attacks, increased terrorist recruitment, continued financial support and exacerbation of tensions between Iraqi and Afghani populaces and U.S. and coalition forces." If the photos are released to the public, Myers said, "riots, violence and attacks by insurgents will result."
We have no doubt that the photographs are shocking. As Editor & Publisher noted the other day, Donald Rumsfeld said last year that some unreleased photos from Abu Ghraib depict conduct that "can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane." Seymour Hersh has said that the unreleased images include videotape of Iraqi boys being sodomized. But while the Freedom of Information Act, under which the ACLU is seeking release of the photos, is subject to certain enumerated exceptions, we're pretty sure that "what we've done is so awful that people would riot if they knew" isn't one of them. If the Bush administration is so worried about how Muslims will react to further evidence of torture at Abu Ghraib, maybe it should spend less time fretting about photos that haven't been released and more time focused on wrongs that haven't been righted. Punishing, not promoting, some of the commanders and lawyers involved would be a good way to start.