Obama Doesn’t Want Those Abuse Photos Public After All

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Photo: Everett Bogue; Photos: Getty Images, Wikipedia

In a stark turnaround, President Obama is now trying to block the release of dozens of photos showing prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, which was sought by the ACLU and ordered by a federal judge. Obama hadn't objected to releasing the photos until recently, but he concluded in the past week that, according to Robert Gibbs, doing so now "would only serve the purpose of inflaming the theaters of war, jeopardizing U.S. forces, and making our job more difficult in places like Iraq and Afghanistan." The ACLU is pissed, the Right is pleasantly surprised, and lots of people are just kind of confused. Why didn't Obama realize the implications of the photos right from the start?

• Andrew Sullivan calls it a "stunning reversal" and points out that "covering up war crimes, refusing to proscute [sic] them, promoting those associated with them, and suppressing evidence of them are themselves violations of Geneva and the UN Convention." [Atlantic]

• Michael Goldfarb says the "salutary effect" of releasing the photos "would have been to soothe the consciences of American liberals who suspect American troops to be war criminals and desperately want the pictures to prove it." President Obama "should be praised for resisting those elements even as his actions also serve his own self-interest." [Blog/Weekly Standard]

• Andy McCarthy calls keeping the photos secret "the patently obvious right thing." [Corner/National Review]

• Jennifer Rubin calls this "an overwhelmingly positive sign that the president is subject to persuasion and reason and that those defending the country by placing their own lives on the line carry more sway than ideological extremists in the Justice Department." But she still wonders why it took so long for him to come to the right conclusion. [Contentions/Commentary]

• Ed Morrissey thinks Obama realized that "the last thing [he] needed was a war with the Pentagon," which was "angered" by the original plan to release the photos. [Hot Air]

• Jason Zengerle wonders, "why did the Pentagon strike a deal with the ACLU for their release in the first place?" [Plank/New Republic]

• Adam Serwer believes that everyone already knows we abused prisoners and that the "public interest in seeing what was done in their name, in my view, trumps the government's right to obscure it's [sic] own wrongdoing." [Tapped/American Prospect]

• Kathryn Jean Lopez thinks it's "the right decision." [Corner/National Review]

• Marc Ambinder says he doesn't know why Obama has reversed course. Though the "White House says that President Obama concluded that the photographs' release could bring harm to United States troops," and Robert Gibbs claimed "the photographs will not enhance anyone's understanding of the specific cases," it's unclear "why these arguments suddenly occurred to Obama." [Atlantic]

• David Kurtz thinks the reversal is clearly "a sign of how long and hard they think the slog is ahead in Afghanistan — and how crucial the outcome there will be for the future success of this Administration." It's possible that the administration "must not have cherished the idea of having their new start in Afghanistan undermined by the release of pictures that would further inflame the Muslim world." Still, the decision is "a bad one." [TPM]