Please let’s not indulge another round of “the public didn’t know” about top Qaeda members being roughed up. I remember countless articles from one to two years ago addressing this possibility. The Atlantic even did a giant article on the subject. It was always clear, to me at least, that the option of “smacky face” — as one source described it to the Wall Street Journal — was always on the table.
But the public didn’t know, and that was the point of publishing the Abu Ghraib pictures. The Atlantic has a tiny circulation compared to network news, words don’t have the same impact as images, and all the reporting before now was speculative. It’s only the Abu Ghraib pictures that have convinced people that everything The Atlantic and others have been saying for a while really is true.
This is the best reason ? and, really, the only one we need ? that the Abu Ghraib pictures should indeed have been published: because they’re true. Having seen them, we can then choose to insist that torture and abuse stop; we can choose to decide that perhaps they are unfortunate but necessary methods to win the war; or we can decide that the war isn’t worth it if this is what it takes to win.
But we do get to choose. And those pictures are an important part of that choice.
UPDATE: Sorry, I need to clear something up for those who didn’t click the link: Jonah’s post was about the CIA interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, an al-Qaeda leader. Jonah has also argued that the Abu Ghraib pictures shouldn’t have been published, but I’m the one making the connection here, not him. Fundamentally, the pictures lend credibility to the interrogation story, and I think that’s fine. Americans can decide for themselves whether or not they approve of this, but only if they truly understand in their guts that it’s really happening.