On April 23, the Obama administration announced it would release hundreds of photos of detainee interrogation, obeying a court order from a lawsuit filed by the ACLU. Predictably, conservatives furious with the Obama administration’s attempt at greater transparency denounced the move. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) wrote to President Obama asking him not to release the photos because they could inflame potential terrorists:
The release of these old photographs of past behavior that has now clearly been prohibited will serve no public good, but will empower al-Qaeda propaganda operations, hurt our country’s image, and endanger our men and women in uniform. We know that many terrorists captured in Iraq have told American interrogators that one of the reasons they decided to join the violent jihadist war against America was what they saw on Al-Qaeda videos of abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib,” wrote Graham and Lieberman.
Today, Liz Cheney, daughter of the former Vice President, decried the move as “appalling,” saying in a Fox News interview that the decision was proof Obama was aiming to “side with the terrorists”:
CHENEY: Clearly what they are doing is releasing images that show American military men and women in a very negative light. And I have heard from families of service members, from families of 9/11 victims, this question about, you know, when did it become so fashionable for us to side, really,with the terrorists?
Watch a compilation of conservatives complaining about the potential release of torture photos:
The photos of torture aren’t the root of the problem. After all — if you don’t torture, you don’t have torture photos. Notably, many of the figures decrying the release of photos have ardently defended the government’s right to torture people:
SEN. LIEBERMAN: “Most people think it’s definitely torture. The truth is, it has mostly a psychological impact on people. … [W]e ought to be able to use something like waterboarding.”HANNITY: “I am having a hard time understanding, though, why dunking somebody’s head in water….just to scare the living daylights out of them… why would you oppose that?”LIZ CHENEY: “[T]he tactics are not torture, we did not torture. The memos lay out the extent of exactly how far we could go before it would become torture because it was very important that we not cross that line into torture.”
LT. COL. BOB MAGINNES: “If we take away tools, whether actual tools or implied tools, from [American intelligence officials’] tool chest, and therefore undermine their potential effectiveness, then I think we hurt our whole cause.”
HUCKABEE: “It was like a carnival ride. … For example, it wasn’t that we were actually going to drown someone, but it was a simulation of it. And for that, there was in fact some information that came forth.”
In fact, Huckabee defended the utility of waterboarding within 30 seconds of agreeing with Hannity that Obama’s release of interrogation photos was “hurting our nation’s defenses.” Fox reporter Catherine Herridge said that “these pictures of humiliation” can be “a primary factor of suicide bombers.”
It’s not the pictures that recruits suicide bombers; it’s what the pictures depict. Torture — ordered by Bush and Cheney — damaged America and increased the risk of another terrorist attack, and revealing the truth of what happened doesn’t change that fact.