Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mr. President, Denial is in Egypt

With today's news that President Obama has decided against compliance with an ACLU Freedom of Information Act suit which requires that he release dozens of prisoner abuse photos, one can't help but think about the responsibilities of being commander-in-chief of the military.

As commander-in-chief, Obama has a responsibility to protect our troops, and bring them home from Iraq, as well as keep them out of harm's way in Afghanistan and Pakistan. His contention that exposing the pervasiveness of cruelty, and sadism, will adversely affect morale is a valid one.

But, it would be ingenuous to the point of absurdity to believe, even for a minute, that it is his desire to protect the troops that leads the president to work to conceal this evidence. Indeed, as is the case with the "state secrets" argument, and the administration's position on disclosing the contents of hundreds of thousands of White House e-mails that have mysteriously shown up, after Mr. Bush left office, clearly the current executive branch is trying to protect the executive branch in much the same way as his predecessor.

Arguably, most importantly, we don't have a general in the White House, and the president must take his commander-in-chief hat off, and accept that he also has a responsibility to tell the truth.

Since news of Abu Ghraib first broke along with those horrific photographs, we've heard the same song and dance about a few "bad apples" performing acts of sadism on detainees. We were also led to believe that those heinous acts were limited to a few prisons, and a handful of our troops.

Well, we now know that both suppositions were false.

Perhaps the president hesitates to release these newest abuse photos as they might prove that acts were committed which were more heinous than those previously disclosed, and that these abuses were, in fact, widespread, systemic, and approved, if not initiated, by commanding officers.

In the final analysis, we need health care reform. We need banking reform. We need to rethink derivatives. But, more than all of these combined, we need truth, and accountability. We need to show future generations, and the rest of the world, that we don't have to outsource justice. We will deal, at home, with whatever crimes against humanity were committed by those waving an American flag.

Anything less would be a grave disservice to every man and woman in uniform, not just in the United States, but around the world.

The mantle was passed to this president from Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy that government by denial is little more than a vehicle for delivery. Doing the right thing has never been easy, but anything less makes a mockery of those values upon which this great nation was founded.