Earlier today Senator Lindsay Graham did a great service in posting extracts from declarations provided by Generals David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno in support of the Obama administration’s position not to release detainee abuse photos. They should be read in full, but here’s a sample from General Petraeus:
Newly released photos depicting abuse, or that could be construed as depicting abuse, of Iraqis in U.S. military custody would inflame emotions across Iraq and trigger the same motivations that prompted many young men to respond to calls for jihad following the Abu Ghraib photo release. After the Abu Ghraib photos were publicized in 2004, there was a significant response to the call for jihad, with new extremists committing themselves to violence against U.S. forces. Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and Sunni insurgents groups in Iraq will likely use any release of detainee abuse images for propaganda purposes, and possibly as an opportunity to widen the call for jihad against U.S. forces, which could result in a near-term increase in recruiting and attacks.
And from Odierno who heads the multi-national force in Iraq:
I strongly believe the release of these photos will endanger the lives of U.S. Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, Sailors and civilians as well as the lives of our Iraqi partners. Certain operating units are at particular risk of harm from release of the photos. One example is our training teams throughout Iraq. These are small elements of between 15 and 30 individuals who live on Iraqi-controlled installations and thus do not have the same protections afforded to many of our service members. In addition, as they assist our Iraqi partners, members of such teams are regularly engaged in small-unit patrols, making them more vulnerable to insurgent attacks or other violence directed at U.S. forces. Accordingly, there is good reason to conclude that the soldiers in those teams and in similarly situated units would face a particularly serious risk to their lives and physical safety.
Well, after threatening to torpedo their own president and dismiss the advice of these generals, it seems the House Democrats have blinked — at least for now. In a 267-152 vote (with 95 Democrats in the majority) the House instructed its conferees in their negotiations with the Senate to retain the Lieberman-Graham amendment barring release of the detainee abuse photos. I am informed that the instruction is not “binding,” but this is the first indication that perhaps the House Democrats don’t have the stomach to carry through on this sort of wretched grandstanding. It certainly does show once again that those who are serious about national security need to loudly and persistently make their views known.