President Obama’s sudden reversal of the Pentagon’s decision to release photos of detainee abuse came, it has been reported, after several top generals including Gen. Petraeus and Gen. Odierno cautioned that they believed the release would cost American lives.
The President’s explanation during today’s press conference was certainly perplexing. He simultaneously argued that the photos didn’t contain anything “particularly sensational” and that releasing them would “further inflame anti-American opinion.” The ACLU has condemned the move, saying it was “profoundly inconsistent with the promise of transparency that President Obama has made time after time.”
The timing of the release may have as much to do with his decision as any serious concerns about the troops. The Pentagon release was due on May 28, while President Obama intends to deliver a high profile talk in Egypt only a week later, on June 4. The release of yet more photos detailing the abuse of prisoners by US forces would likely cast an uncomfortable shadow on the Obama talk.