Dear Mr. Obama,

You are intent on quashing the release of the torture photos that were to be shown to the public on May 28, 2009, under the terms of a legally adjudicated Freedom of Information Act case.

Do you realize how terrible this decision makes you look to the world, as well as to Americans such as myself who have supported your advocacy of transparency and reconciliation?

As a voter who supported you, and who also supports the ACLU, i am profoundly disappointed by your attempt to throw these photos down the memory hole. Due to governmental denials of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, the slaughter of Jews in rural Poland during World War Two, the sexual mistreatment of female captives by the Japanese Army during World War Two, and so forth, the victims of these events, and their families and national cohorts, will only be reconciled when there is a complete, open, and honest acknowledgement of the abuses, and a formal apology tendered. Buried history festers and engenders rumour, scandal, and covert desires for reprisal. This is human nature.

I have heard your stated reasons for reversing your previous policy, namely that you think the photos, by their horrific nature, will enflame anti-American sentiment abroad, thus resulting in possible danger to our troops. I think this reasoning is flawed, and, even at the risk of seeming to be a waffler, you should revisit the issue in light of how this incident portrays you (and, by extension, America) to the world as a hypocrite who mouths promises about human rights while actually condoning abuse, and, even worse, allows those with politically active imaginations to speculate on how much more horrific the unseen photos must be than those from Abu Ghraib. Are we talking Nazi death camp scale atrocities here? Piles of skulls? Little children being sodomized by our troops in front of their weeping mothers? Trained military attack dogs eating human flesh while U.S. Marines urinate on the corpses? Men screaming as their penises are cut off by bikini-clad female U.S. Marines and the penises being fed to U.S. military dogs while grinning male U.S. Marines stick electric cattle prods up the anuses of the castrated captives? Is Donald Rumsfeld in some of these photos? Is Condoleezza Rice in these photos?

Just how bad *are* these photos, anyway?

The only way to fight lies is with evidentiary truths. The pictures may be bad. They may be real, real bad. But they cannot be as shocking as the scenarios i just proposed ... or can they? Unless they are shown, speculation, rumour, conspiracy theories, and scandal-mongering will elevate these unseen photos -- "the photos so horrific and so damning to elected officials that even Barack Obama, that liberal so-called 'truth-and-reconciliation' president, did not dare release them" -- to iconic status, to the status of a holy grail for spies and information leakers.

The photos may be embarrassing now. But in days, weeks, and years to come, if they are *not* released, they will become more damning by virtue of their presumed explosive quality. "The photos that will blow the lid off the myth of American Democracy forever!" "The photos that the Government cannot allow its own citizens to see!" "The photos that would have sent members of the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to prison for life!"

Do you get the point, Mr. Obama?

The photos may be bad. They may be distasteful. They may be shocking. They may point out severe failures of the U.S. military command structure and flagrant instances of seemingly organized and deliberate U.S. violation of human rights conventions -- but unseen, they will always be worse than seen.

Once viewed, they will require sincere apology, reparations to victims and their families, the meting out of justice to perpetrators of the abuse, and the passage of new laws and regulations to prevent future abuse. Unseen, they are a ticking time-bomb fuelled by fear, political opportunism, and distrust of government that affects both U.S. citizens and citizens of other nations who have good, long, and adequate reasons to fear and distrust U.S. foreign policy.

Which is worse -- to allow the photos to burst open a news story that will be big, sharp, and deep, yet can be cleanly subjected to triage -- or to set into motion a scandal about "the suppressed photos" that will grow virally, persist throughout your administration, may result in unwanted leaks, and cannot be managed in any way at all?

Think about it.

cat yronwode, citizen

P.S. Our family Portuguese Water Dog, Sophie, is a second cousin to your family dog Bo. Their mothers are first cousins. We love the breed (Sophie is our second PWD), and we hope that you are very happy with your pet. They are a handful while they are pups -- i laughed when i saw Bo pulling you folks along at the official photo-op -- but trust me, they take well to obedience training and Bo will settle down to become a great family pack member.