Why Obama refuses to put us in the picture

There is a smug group of men and women in the U.S. intelligence services who knew President Barack Obama was never going to release the photos and videos of detainees being tortured.

They knew those images are still too shocking to reveal to the outside world and the sad truth is they will still be too shocking 50 years down the line.

I knew it as well, but the realization only hit me just a few weeks ago during an event to raise public awareness about the legacy of George W Bush’s War on Terror.

Until then I naively believed that the Obama Administration would fulfill its promise of being the most open administration in America’s history.

Every time I doubted the brave pledges from Obama the response to "Can you really?" was a resounding: "Yes, we can."

As I say, the nagging doubts emerged during an event in Bradford in the North of England during a rousing speech by Anas al Tikriti from the Cordoba Foundation about the injustices from the War on Terror we still face today.

To illustrate his talk old, graphic images from Abu Ghraib prison were shown in giant screens around the room… I was amazed that I had actually forgotten just how bad they were. We all remember the iconic image of the hooded man Satar Jabar standing on a tin box holding two wires in his hands and another attached to his penis, in the belief he’s about to be electrocuted.

But the other pictures, when they were shown, drew gasps and the sound of people shuffling uncomfortably on their chairs. It seems time had dulled our memories and some of us had forgotten the naked men, piled high in human pyramids, snarling dogs breathing over terrified prisoners while leering, sneering U.S. military looked on.

I leant over and confided to the person on my left: "I can’t believe I’d forgotten just how bad Abu Ghraib actually was."

He whispered back: "This is nothing. Remember these pictures came long after the opening of Guantanamo and more than three years after people had already been tortured and murdered in Bagram. If you think these are bad, wait until the others are released."

And in that moment I realized, it is just not going to happen.

You see the person who I whispered to was Moazzam Begg, probably the best known ex-resident of Guantanamo Bay, and a man who witnessed the brutalities and atrocities, including murder and torture, carried out routinely by U.S. interrogators and soldiers in Bagram, Afghanistan.

We had both turned up at the event in Bradford to talk about the plight of Dr. Aafiya Siddiqui, a mother-of-three who was kidnapped, tortured, held in Bagram for several years before being shot by American soldiers and put on a rendition flight to New York.

At the moment, the U.S. is in denial Dr. Siddiqui was ever held in Bagram – despite the fact I have irrefutable evidence to the contrary including positive identification by former detainees.

And it occurred to me that hidden away, in this vile archive of pictures and videos revealing the full extent of US torture there will certainly be images of Dr. Aafiya Siddiqui.

Since the U.S. is still in denial it ever held Dr Siddiqui, there is no way it can release the full archive of pictures and videos because they are too incriminating and will open the floodgates for all sorts of legal actions, collapse of trials and no doubt compensation.

Of course the other reason President Obama does not want to release those pictures is that it will inflame both friends and foe, and in the long term probably endanger the lives of any U.S. citizens traveling to the Muslim world not to mention serving military.

Obama said himself that he decided to stop the release of the photos of detainees being tortured by American interrogators on the grounds that "the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger." TV host Jon Stewart observed wryly on his Comedy Central show, that Obama’s statement "does crystallize the dilemma we find ourselves in, though, when we go down this whole torture and abuse road. Torturing detainees is allegedly the only way to get certain information that will make us safer. But pictures of us doing it… puts us in harm’s way." Of course, if the interrogators were doing nothing untoward, there would have been nothing to hide. But clearly there is something to hide, isn’t there? And if what Moazzam says is true we are talking about the rape, sadistic abuse and brutalization not just of men and women, but children too.

While some Republican red necks would probably just scoff at pictures of olive skinned men being brutalized, I’m not so sure they would shrug off so easily pictures of women and young children being tortured.

Two of Dr. Aafiya Siddiqui’s children are still missing – one was a baby just a few months old when he was ripped away from his mother’s arms by a female American agent who took part in the roadside arrest. Another child, a little girl, was barely a toddler.

This information, by the way, was given to me (no money exchanged) via one of the Karachi policemen involved in the joint arrest operation of Dr. Siddiqui in March 2003. And yet the U.S. continues to lie despite the damning evidence stacking up.

So do you think the Americans tortured the baby or the little girl? Is that what the CIA and FBI interrogators, and their freelance operators, are capable of? Is that why Obama can’t, won’t release the pictures and videos?

Do you think the CIA interrogators waterboarded Dr. Siddiqui’s children? May be they even sexually abused them as they did the male and female detainees in Abu Ghraib.

Aha, I can almost hear some of you squealing in horror, objecting loudly to my comments and wild speculations. You could accuse me of being irresponsible and fanning the flames of hate in the Muslim world towards every U.S. soldier and every U.S. passport holder. And you may be right… but don’t blame me, blame your president.

Because he DID promise to release that ghastly archive and he DID once say that "sunlight is the greatest disinfectant."

But after viewing the obscene material he has now adopted the ostrich position in the silly belief it will all go away and we will soon forget.

That is not going to happen and until that archive is released, wild speculation will increase fueled by a growing hatred and anger that yet another U.S. president has been elected on false promises and lies.

Albert Einstein once said: "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it". Can Obama do something about getting these pictures and videos released? YES HE CAN!


* First appeared in The Canadian Charger