OFF THE GRID

The Abu Ghraib Photos Surface—Slowly but Surely

May 28, 09 | 9:08 AM   byMichael Wolff
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The Daily Telegraph, on a roll since bringing down the British Parliament, describes the Abu Ghraib photographs that we are not allowed to see. These are, according to the Telegraph, documentary evidence of specific instances of sexual degradation and torture.

There are two important points about the Telegraph’s revelations. The first is that these photographs can’t and won’t be kept secret. The second is that the British press has become one of the most effective back doors to the American media.

Mike Allen, in Politico’s Daybook, speculates that the sexual nature of these photographs is precisely why President Obama, after initially signing on to the release of the more than 2,000 images, reversed course and is now actively on the side of suppression. His excuse is that the pictures might endanger American troops—i.e., they are so terrible that they are likely to foment a retaliatory rage among our enemies. Or, put another way, this is the proof that we’re guilty of what they say we’re guilty of, so we better hide it.

The pictures are described in a report assembled by Gen. Antonio Taguba, who conducted the inquiry into the Abu Ghraib scandal. The report remains secret but the Telegraph has Taguba confirming the description of the photographs. According to the Telegraph, Taguba is also against releasing the pictures. “The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it,” he says.


(AP Photo)

A question now is whether the descriptions of the pictures are more horrendous than the pictures themselves. It is one of the difficulties of keeping pictures secret that the facts of the pictures can’t be protected. It isn’t really possible to classify the description of a picture—which is, at best, only impressionistic hearsay. Still, based on these descriptions, we have reason to believe that the Obama administration has evidence of a series of crimes that it is doing nothing about—that it is effectively engaged in a cover-up. As likely, of course, the descriptions are exaggerated, or, at least, the description of what’s in the picture is much more certain than an image is apt to be.

In other words, we have, on the one hand, crimes so horrendous that they must be investigated and exposed—hence the pictures must come out. Or, on the other, rumors and allegations that will surely take on a hyperbolic life of their own, unless the pictures come out.

We will see these pictures.

Meanwhile, the British press is becoming ever more powerful in the US (arguably as the US press grows less powerful). This is because the Brits have lower standards—if they won’t print just anything, they almost will. If you’re a leaker, it’s easier to hide your trail in the UK. And because the Brits know how to make a scandal really look like a scandal—hence, a story boomerangs out and returns here with added force. And, of course, because of the Internet. Newspapers are just a fiction. Reality is in front of you. Which is a plug for Newser.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com.
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