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Let’s Hope He Won’t Reverse the Reversal

May 14, 2009

For all those who take President Obama’s change of heart concerning the release of photographs showing alleged abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan as proof that he prioritises America’s safety over politics the French Cowboy is here to tell you that you’re wrong to believe so. Why would Monsieur Obama realise that the publication of the photos is going to fuel violence against Americans now when he allegedly didn’t believe this to be the case before he made the decision to comply with the ruling in favour of the ACLU’s FOIA request? What could have possibly make him see the obvious between the first decision and its reversal?

That, mon ami, is of course the wrong question. What has to be asked here is what made President Obama change his mind. And this certainly wasn’t a sudden epiphany that the release of those photos could actually be harmful to American interests and put American lives, especially soldiers’, at an unnecessary risk, and that – contrary to former claims by himself and his staff – he actually can resist the court’s ruling. He knew all this before. It didn’t keep him from planning to make the pictures public (or at least from saying that he will). The reason President Obama has made a 180 on the decision is that he saw the reaction in the media and the public to the announcement of the release and found that going ahead would be politically too costly for him.

Sadly, Obama not getting it right the first time has done enough damage to the US military’s image. For weeks the public has been fed with talk about evidence of what was depicted as Abu Ghraib-like abuses. But the information that the cases at hand are far from the severity of the Abu Ghraib scandal, that all have been investigated, that some have been found to be false alarms and that all others have been adjudicated, that the US military is holding itself to such high standards that ‘abuse’ includes pointing a weapon at a captured illegal combatant etc has reached only a very small audience. So, s’il vous plaît, President Obama, get used to the fact that America’s interests are now your interests, too, and keep that in mind for future decisions. Last-minute reversals aren’t always possible.

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