Wednesday, February 15, 2006

More Abu Ghraib

So here's the challenge:

You supported the Jyllands-Posten and other European newspapers for publishing the cartoon Muhammads as a necessary expression of free speech and a push-back against self-censorship in the name of sensitivity and outright fear. Even though it was likely the cartoons would be offensive on some level to Muslims (many reasons for this have been given -- not all of them entirely consistent or believable, but it was pretty certain that some imam, somewhere, would be offended). Even if the result were riots. Even if the result were attacks on Europeans and American in the Middle East. Even if hotels and restaurants and embassies got destroyed.

Now someone has pulled out two-year-old pictures from the Abu Ghraib abuse that have not yet been published, and published them. They are as inflammatory, or moreso, than those we saw before. It's almost certain the pictures will be offensive to Muslims. There may be riots; there may be attacks on Europeans and American in the Middle East. The images will be used by jihadis to recruit young men on the edge for the next generation of suicide killers.

How can you argue against their publication?

Mind you, I'm not going to publish them. But should the U.S. media not do it?

Well, you could argue that in the name of consistency, those who refused to publish the Jyllands-Posten's cartoons also should not publish these pictures.

How can you split them into two categories? The cartoons were pure artistic creations. They were not news items. But they became news items once the reaction set in. If you're killing people and burning buildings because you saw "X," then the image of "X" becomes an essential part of the news story.

The Abu Ghraib photos were not journalistic productions. They were artifacts from the knuckleheads who abused the prisoners. They are evidence of what was done there. The news interest in them is not in the reaction their publication undoubtedly will unleash, but in the activities they depict.

Yet one can ask whether they advance the scope of the crimes beyond what we already know, and took to trial, about it. The ones I've seen show Graner and the same pack of thugs going about their evil work. Are there new faces incriminated by these pictures? The chief objection to the way the Abu Ghraib abuses were dealt with is that the punishment did not travel up the chain of command. These photos do not advance the case for doing that, however.

New art of a gory old crime. Is it news?

What if the the best reason you can think of for not publishing the Abu Ghraib photos is that they will have an explosive effect on volatile Muslim populations? What if just last week you were telling those nations to suck it up and get used to Western freedoms to offend?

What if your neighbor's Marine son is killed in Iraq by violence unleashed by these pictures?