I Don’t Wanna Look

Public Entitled to See Abu Ghraib Photos, Judge Says
A federal judge has told the government it will have to release additional pictures of detainee abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, civil rights lawyers said.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein, finding the public has a right to see the pictures, told the government Thursday he will sign an order requiring it to release them to the American Civil Liberties Union, the lawyers said.


The judge's decision stems from a lawsuit the ACLU filed in October 2003 seeking information on treatment of detainees in U.S. custody and the transfer of prisoners to countries known to use torture. The ACLU contends that prisoner abuse is systemic.

So far, 36,000 pages of documents and the reports of 130 investigations, mostly from the FBI and Army, have been turned over to the ACLU. The group is seeking documents from the CIA and the Defense Department as well.
I remember when the video of Nick Berg’s beheading was first made available for viewing, I wrestled with my decision about whether to view it or not. I had the page on the monitor in front of me, my cursor hovering over the link to the video. Part of me felt obligated; I didn’t feel I had the right to shield myself from the images of what’s going on in the world. Part of me felt desperately sad for those who knew him, which in turn made me feel voyeuristic and intrusive. And part of me was scared of what I’d see. In the end, I simply couldn’t bring myself to do it. I kept thinking about his family, and what it felt like to know that strangers were looking at their loved one being killed in such a gruesome way, and the discomfort with being another nameless, faceless downloader of their anguish trumped my sense of duty to be as well-informed as modern media allowed me to be.

I spoke to Mr. Furious on the phone the evening. “I watched it,” he said. His voice seemed weird.

“You did? I almost did, but then decided not to.”

“Be glad,” he said. “I wish I hadn’t. It was horrible. I’ll never get that image out of my head.” He described it to me, and I can’t remember what he said at all; I just remember that when he said the word “hack,” my mind involuntarily brought up an image of the two of us, teenagers, back in the publication room, pasting up the newspaper after school, dancing around to a tape of Morrissey b-sides and rare tracks that Mr. F had mixed and titled Morrissey Mania. A strange synapse just firing off a random image of a happy moment; a self-protection mechanism.

I am a terrible coward.

If the pictures from Au Ghraib become available for public consumption, I don’t want to see them. The ones I’ve seen are bad enough—and these will be even worse.

And yet, I think I need to look; I think I ought to know exactly what’s been done on my behalf by the government to people we were supposed to be saving. Fuck, just the thought of it makes me want to cry.

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