After his decision to reverse himself, and fight the release of torture photos, President Barack Obama is getting praise from the right, and heavy criticism from both the American Civil Liberties Union, and Amnesty International. Currently, Obama’s strongest critics on several issues are in his own party on the left.
Obama said of his decision today, “I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib. But they do represent conduct that did not conform with the Army Manual. That’s precisely why they were investigated, and I might add — investigated long before I took office.”
The ACLU has been fighting for the release of the photos, and Executive Director Anthony Romero said, “The Obama administration’s adoption of the stonewalling tactics and opaque policies of the Bush administration flies in the face of the president’s stated desire to restore the rule of law, to revive our moral standing in the world and to lead a transparent government. This decision is particularly disturbing given the Justice Department’s failure to initiate a criminal investigation of torture crimes under the Bush administration.”
Amnesty International expressed disappointment with the decision, and called for torture investigations, “Human beings have been tortured and denied basic rights. The American people have been lied to, and government officials who authorized and justified abusive policies have been given a pass. The world has lost faith in the United States’ respect for human dignity. And still, the whole story has not been told. Now, the Obama administration is reneging on its legal obligation to release the torture photos, a critical disclosure in helping Americans understand the range and degree of abuse that was committed in their name. Today’s decision to hold the torture photos only points more firmly to the urgent need for an investigation to expose, prosecute and finally close the book on torture.”
President Obama put himself in a tough situation. It was his administration’s initial decision to release the photos, and I get the feeling that they aren’t exactly being straight with us about their explanation. Political timing had a lot to do with this. Somebody at the White House realized that releasing these photos around Memorial Day was not such a great idea.
The bigger picture here, no pun intended, is that Obama does want to derail any serious torture investigations and prosecutions. The left was going to be disappointed with President Obama unless he governed from their direction. Obama has been highly effective so far, because he tends to move to the middle. His decision to reverse himself on the photos is more evidence that Obama isn’t the lefty that both liberals and conservatives think he is. The true Obama is somewhere in the middle.