abu Ghraib

one of the tamer of
the previously released photos
from Abu Ghraib

President Barack Obama is set to announce that his administration will challenge the release of photos that reportedly show the abuse of detainees in Iraq by US soldiers "depicting abuse of detainees held in U.S. military custody abroad."

The pictures were due to be released on May 28th in response to a court ruling on a request brought by the ACLU. The Obama administration had previously said that they would not challenge the ruling, but consultations between President Obama, White House Counsel Greg Craig, and General Ray Odierno, commander of US military operations in Iraq, apparently changed the president’s mind.

Defense officials say Odierno is "vehemently opposed" to the release because he fears it could create a widespread "backlash" against military forces in both war zones.

According to one official, "It would put a bullseye on the backs of our forces."

A couple of points here: First, it isn’t the photos; it is the acts themselves that put US troops in danger. The abuse is widely known among Iraqis, and those inclined to act don’t need photographic evidence as justification.

Second, the White House has a tough argument to make here. The Second Circuit Court has ruled that the Bush claim of an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act was not meant to be an “all purpose damper on global controversy.” Since a controversy already exists, and photos of abuse from Abu Ghraib have previously been released, the current administration is going to have to argue that the new photos are somehow substantially more controversial.

Makes one want to ask: controversial how?