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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Rumsfeld: No cover-up here 

The pentagon has decided not to release any more photos from Abu Ghraib. Senators who have seen the new photos say that they are even more disturbing than the original round.

Rumsfeld has assured the press that if he had it his way, he would release all the photos to the public, so we could "get it behind us." Unfortunately, those snarky pentagon lawyers are advising Rumsfeld that releasing the photos would be illegal, because they would humiliate prisoners of war, which is a violation of the Geneva Convention.

Rumsfeld would like to do the honest thing here, but those lawyers just won't let him. He probably has to do what they say, much as he might regret it. It's not like he runs the pentagon or anything.

Even though this excuse is implausible, it does not mean that covering-up the new photos is the wrong move. If the first link above is any indication, these new photos are really, really bad. The pentagon is not faced with the question of whether it is right or wrong to release these photos. What they are trying to figure out instead is whether anyone else has copies of these photos, and whether the photo holders will be more inclined to give/sell their copies to the pentagon or the press.

Apparently, Rumsfeld is gambling that he has all the photos, or that he can get his hands on any additional photos before the press does. Additionally, if photo holders sell to Arab media outlets, such as Al-Jazeera, Rumsfeld can claim that the photos are fakes. The problem with that strategy is that Rumsfeld's international credibility is probably on par with Al-Jazeera's at this point, and his credibility certainly lags theirs in the Arab world. Even if new photos exposed by Al-Jazeera ARE fakes, Rumsfeld can only prove that by releasing the photos he currently has. Rumsfeld's inflated estimation of American credibility is leading him to make a poor gamble.
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