As I was researching this story today, I remembered what it was: think back to 2005. We were still in shock after the Abu Ghraib photos came out. The Bush White House -- oddly, it seemed to me at the time -- invited scores of lawmakers from both parties to a private screening of the abuse photos and even four videos that did not get released at that time. They emerged, to a man and a woman, shocked. They spoke in public, on the record, by name, of having witnessed scenes of rape, sodomy, and violent sexual assault against children.
I even wrote about this screening in The End of America; I had interpreted the motivation for showing these scenes as being one of intimidation.
Now I am not so sure -- now I think the motive was to implicate any potential opposition. If Bush et al showed these images, and the Congresspeople did nothing -- a damn good bet -- well, the Bush team would have taken the wind out of any prosecutorial impulses.
Why are the Congressional leadership of both parties bizarrely silent now, when the American people are demanding an investigation and prosecution of the crimes represented in just two of 87 of those scenes?
Because they were there then -- saw it -- all of it -- at a weirdly perverse, practically red-carpet, private snuff-film screening -- and they evidently went along with it. Read this quote, which appears again below, carefully:
The military later screened some of the images for lawmakers, who said they showed, among other things, attack dogs snarling at cowed prisoners, Iraqi women forced to expose their breasts, and naked prisoners forced to have sex with each other.
It would seem that the lawmakers, having personally witnessed these same images, did nothing. Pursued nothing. Investigated nothing. Accepted a whitewash. Called to prosecute nothing.
This is a news report from Editor and Publisher, July 23, 2005 called "Why the Pentagon Is Blocking Release of Remaining 87 Abu Ghraib Images":
"So what is shown on the 87 photographs and four videos from Abu Ghraib prison that the Pentagon, in an eleventh hour move, blocked from release this weekend? One clue: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress last year, after viewing a large cache of unreleased images: "I mean, I looked at them last night, and they're hard to believe." They show acts "that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane," he added. A Republican Senator suggested the same day they contained scenes of "rape and murder." No wonder Rumsfeld commented then, "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse."
Yesterday, news emerged that lawyers for the Pentagon had refused to cooperate with a federal judge's order to release dozens of unseen photographs and videos from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq by Saturday. The photos were among thousands turned over by the key "whistleblower" in the scandal, Specialist Joseph M. Darby. Just a few that were released to the press sparked the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal last year, and the video images are said to be even more shocking. [...] One Pentagon lawyer has argued that they should not be released because they would only add to the humiliation of the prisoners. But the ACLU has said the faces of the victims can easily be "redacted." To get a sense of what may be shown in these images, one has to go back to press reports from when the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal was still front page news.
This is how CNN reported it on May 8, 2004, in a typical account that day:
"U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld revealed Friday that videos and 'a lot more pictures' exist of the abuse of Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib prison. [...] "The embattled defense secretary fielded sharp and skeptical questions from lawmakers as he testified about the growing prisoner abuse scandal. A military report about that abuse describes detainees being threatened, sodomized with a chemical light and forced into sexually humiliating poses. [...] "'The American public needs to understand we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience,' Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters after Rumsfeld testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. 'We're talking about rape and murder -- and some very serious charges.' "A report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba on the abuse at the prison outside Baghdad says videotapes and photographs show naked detainees, and that groups of men were forced to masturbate while being photographed and videotaped. Taguba also found evidence of a 'male MP guard having sex with a female detainee.' "Rumsfeld told Congress the unrevealed photos and videos contain acts 'that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman.'" [...] The military later screened some of the images for lawmakers, who said they showed, among other things, attack dogs snarling at cowed prisoners, Iraqi women forced to expose their breasts, and naked prisoners forced to have sex with each other. [...] "Basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys/children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. The worst about all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror it's going to come out."