Media as an instrument of war
Joint Chief of Staff Dick Myers has defended the Pentagon's suppresion of the remaining 87 photos and four video tapes from Abu Ghraib. Myers called it "a clear and grave risk of inciting violence and riots against American troops and coalition forces."
If those images are graphic as they are reputed to be -- the contents of which were first reported by Seymour Hersh (boys being raped, audio of their screaming) -- I think Myers is waaaay understating his case. Here's what it would be: the single-most influential images ever recorded in a war zone, the catalyst of a permanent belief extending far beyond the Arab world that Americans are decadent monsters who use democracy as a calling card for their pedophiliac fantasies. Think massive uprisings, think violent massacres of civilians as U.S. soldiers "defend" themselves from city-wide riots across Iraq. I think it's tough to overstate what might happen if those images get out there. And once they are...
Newspapers like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer have editorialized about the release of these images, generally striking what seems to me a fairly tepid stance: "Perhaps Gen. Myers should consider how angry Muslims might become if it looks like the U.S. military is covering up further abuses at Abu Ghraib rather than just paying it lip service by saying he condemns the abuses 'in the strongest terms.'" In other words, the Muslim populace might get just as angry about the lack of justice applied to coverups -- which have to this date had their most supreme, damning evidence still covered up -- as they would if photos, videos, and audio sounds of boys being raped by U.S. soldiers were made available to the Arab media.
The Pentagon clearly and correctly regards media as an instrument of war (that's why they've bombed Al Jazeera's bureaus in Kabul, Basra, and Baghdad, for ex. ) My guess is that Dick Myers and whoever else controls access to these images has a good inkling of what could happen than they've let on so far, and that it's going to take a hell of a lot more than ACLU appeals to judges to get the Pentagon to release them. Someone will have to leak them.