Thursday, September 4, 2014

Silent vigil/potluck/screening of THE CONSPIRATOR/Stop Hiding Images of American Torture


There is usually a silent peace vigil on Fridays, from 5 to 6 PM, outside the Cathedral of the Incarnation, University Parkway and St. Paul St. The Sept. 5 vigil, sponsored by Homewood Friends and Stony Run Meetings, reminds us that War Is Not the Answer and that there is the need to stop torture. After the vigil, there will be a potluck dinner at Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, 3107 N. Charles St.

The Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration Committee, Baltimore Quaker Peace and Justice Committee of Homewood and Stony Run Meetings and Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility are continuing the FILM & SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS DVD SERIES. After the potluck dinner at 7:15 PM, a DVD will be shown with a discussion to follow. There is no charge, and refreshments will be available. The series theme is SEEKING THE TRUTH. The first film in the series will be shown on FRI., SEPT. 5, and it is THE CONSPIRATOR [USA, 2011].

On April 14, 1865, there was a plot to kill Secretary of State William Seward, Vice President Andrew Johnson and President Abraham Lincoln. After Lincoln's death, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton orders all suspects, including Mary Surratt, arrested. THE CONSPIRATOR, directed by Robert Redford, tells Surratt's story. As the only female charged in the conspiracy, she would become the first woman to be executed by the United States government. It stars James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Evan Rachel Wood and Tom Wilkinson, and is a thinly veiled condemnation of the military tribunals at Guantanamo.

Kagiso, Max

SundayReview | EDITORIAL
Stop Hiding Images of American Torture

A hooded man standing on a box, electrodes wired to his fingers. A naked prisoner lying on a cement floor, a leash around his neck held casually by an American soldier. The bloody bodies of dead inmates with their heads bashed in.

Ten years later, the photos leaked from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq remain seared into the American consciousness. But while the United States government was unable to prevent their release, more than 2,000 other photos taken at various American military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan have remained hidden under a 2009 law. By one account, the images — which officials say are a mix of snapshots by soldiers and photos by military investigators documenting allegations of abuse — are “worse than Abu Ghraib.”

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union won an important victory for transparency when a federal district judge in New York City, Alvin Hellerstein, rejected the government’s blanket claim of privilege for all the photos. Judge Hellerstein ordered the government to show why the release of the photos would endanger American lives, and to show that it had considered each photo individually.

President Obama agreed to the photos’ release after taking office in 2009 but changed his mind after pleas from military officials and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. The 2009 law — the Protected National Security Documents Act — created a three-year exemption from the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

Judge Hellerstein accepted the government’s first declaration, made in 2009, that it would withhold the photos. But he was more skeptical of its decision to do that again in 2012 because, he said, the public-safety rationale may have grown weaker with the passage of time.

“Three years is a long time in war, the news cycle, and the international debate over how to respond to terrorism,” the judgewrote. The law was enacted during a war, but the 2012 request, essentially identical to the original, came under different circumstances. “I am aware of no impassioned plea from the prime minister of Iraq relating to the photographs made at that time,” he said.

It may be fairly easy for the Obama administration to satisfy this order and continue to keep the photographs from public view, but that would not make it right. The government should end the secrecy and release the photos.

Images of war are frequently appalling, and the safety of American citizens and soldiers is vitally important. But the greatest threat to that safety lies not in the photographs of horrific behavior; it lies in the fact of the behavior itself. The treatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere was a shameful episode in U.S. history.

America reinforces its values and thus its security by being transparent about even the worst abuses of those values, not by hiding the evidence deep in a file drawer.
A version of this editorial appears in print on August 31, 2014, on page SR10 of the New York edition with the headline: Stop Hiding Images of American Torture.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

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