Why The Government Needs to Release the CIA Torture Photos

[WARNING: GRAPHIC PHOTOS]

As details emerge from the CIA Torture Report, many Americans are finding themselves reeling. Yet we are still getting an incredibly sanitized version of the truth. This is because thousands of photos, taken at these CIA black sites, are being withheld by the government under the guise of ‘national security.’

The photos are currently locked in a court case that has been going on for some time, but last Friday the government was forced to submit reasoning for every photo they wanted to remain classified. NY State Judge Alvin Hellerstein is expected to make a ruling shortly regarding their release, but the United States may still attempt to withhold them.

When it comes to our reactions to crimes against humanity, we can read a story in disgust, but it is the visual representations that give us our visceral reaction. I can tell you how in 1940s Europe, certain minority groups were rounded up, killed, gassed and starved. Yet the facts I give you will never give you the reaction that this photo does:

 

Mass Grave at Bergen-Belsen

Mass Grave at Bergen-Belsen

Similarly, I can tell you that during the Vietnam War, napalm was dropped on villages as part of a campaign to destroy resistance in the countryside. I can tell you about women and children who ran screaming from their villages as warplanes flew overhead. Yet this recounting of facts will never impact us like this will:

 

Children run from Napalm during Vietnam War

Children run from Napalm during Vietnam War

When it comes to what the government sanctioned overseas, many of us are upset. But there are some who still justify this behavior. Dick Cheney, who went on Meet The Press, rigorously defended the use of torture and said he would do it all again if given the chance. Would he dare say such things if the photos of government employees raping women were released? If men being sodomized with phosphorescent light tubes were made public? If we only read about the rapes, the deaths and the torture we are only getting half the story, because most of us have no basis for imagining what these situations were like.

We read that a man froze to death after being doused with water in a cell. We can imagine a man freezing to death, but what if we knew what that cell looked like? If we saw the rats, the excrement and blood on the cement walls? It is only then we can truly comprehend what his final moments must have been like.

For those of us who haven’t seen what a third world jail looks like, it can be difficult to imagine. We think of our own prisons with their stainless steel toilets, bunks, cafeterias, and showers. But the reality of a third world prison is more like this:

Prisoners in Iraq/ AFP Michael V. May

Prisoners in Iraq/ AFP Michael V. May

The government is hiding behind the guise of ‘national security,’ yet most of the men and women who were tortured posed zero security threat nor did they have any knowledge of attacks on U.S. interests. And that should resonate with us: the fact that most of those that we tortured, that our government sanctioned the torture of, had absolutely no intelligence value is shocking. But the government has blocked these photos because they know as much as a detailed report could hurt their credibility, seeing human beings being beaten to death would be far more damaging.

Some are worried that to see these photos would revive anti-American sentiment around the world. This could very well be true. However, in this case it might be deserved. If the American Government wants international respect and acclaim, it cannot just spout platitudes about rights and liberty, it must live by them. It has failed to do so, and now it must be held accountable.

As for insurgencies and terrorist organizations worldwide being bolstered by the photos, we must remember that for them this information isn’t news. They didn’t need a CIA report because they had access to information on the ground. Photos of torture victims, whether doctored or true, make their rounds on Middle Eastern social media all the time. The idea that America tortures, detains, renditions, rapes and kills with the tactic approval of the government isn’t news to them.

Because of this, the government’s worry that the photos could cause a terrorist attack is fairly behind the times. Rather it will cause a PR storm and anger on the part of Western citizens who were under the impression that the government we pay into has been using our money to kill innocents under the guise of ‘national security.’ That those on our payroll were raping women and sodomizing men at off-the-radar black sites.

You cannot get a fresh start by sweeping all your secrets under the rug. If America wants to move forward, it first must hold itself accountable for the illegal, inhumane and barbaric actions it inflicted on thousands of innocents overseas. This means coming clean, releasing the photos, and making sure that we never forget what can happen when we let our anger and our inhumanity get the better of us.

69 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y6 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y6 months ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven4 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Rosemary Diehl
Rosemary Diehl4 years ago

If Dick Cheney's mouth is open he is lying

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Dennis D.
Past Member 4 years ago

Mandy H. There is a vast difference between "knowing about" and being able to prove it.

By your logic the Aussie government should have filed then the charges as soon as the stories started circulate. That government did not. For the exact same reason most Americans would not really believe. Until there is documentation. As has now been provided it was all hearsay and rumor.

Is The Bush Administration Criminal liable.. I would say, yes. Well the Court in Austria or Germany agree. We will see.

Also the reason why these criminals will not be charged. After 9/11 the then republican controlled Congress gave the then President Bush the power to do what ever was necessary to fight terrorism. Essentially a free get out jail card for the President and his Administration.. This is the same party, with the same virtual leadership, that was just voted in....

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john hall
john hall4 years ago

The real torture for americans is having obama as a president and knowing people still think he's been a good one....

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JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris4 years ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

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sheila h.
sheila haigh4 years ago

Hi, Rose. I had not heard of David Hicks' book, so thank you for mentioning it. I have now read numerous reviews and extracts from it & will try to get a copy. This comment from the Independent Australia review sums up the situation in a similar vein to many of the comments here;

"If Western Governments commit or condone torture in the name of national security, then they risk losing any moral authority they have over terrorists. This puts us all at risk as we lose the battle for hearts and minds in the Islamic world and thereby condemn ourselves to watching the cycle of violence spiral higher."

And I would add, not only condemns us to watching the cycle of violence spiral higher but also creates an increased risk that western people will be attacked wherever they can be found. I just wish those who support this kind of barbarity could understand that.

Another good book to read on Guantanamo is "Bad Men: Guantanamo Bay and the Secret Prisons" by Clive Stafford Smith, one of the defense lawyers with access to Guantanamo. He explains the limitations put on his writing by the US authorities, but what he does write is sickening to the core.


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Rose NoFWDSPLZ
Rose Becke4 years ago

Sheila

I read David Hicks book I was sickened I would have signed anything

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Rose NoFWDSPLZ
Rose Becke4 years ago

Sent Ben O a star

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