A reader writes:
The reason is pretty simple. Without photos, we would never have heard of the mass abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib. Bush and Cheney would be denying today that any of it happened at all. When the photos were uncovered, revealing clearly what the anodyne words "stress position", "mock execution", "forced nudity" etc actually meant, we finally were able to hold the government accountable for the abuse it authorized.
Of course, they lied to us and to the Congress about this, declaring that these techniques, meticulously crafted in Washington, had been improvised by a few "bad apples" on the night shift whom the Weekly Standard believed should be jailed or executed (that was before they discovered that their friends were deeply implicated).
We now know that these Abu Ghraib techniques were imported from Gitmo and were used in every theater of war as Cheney constructed a secret war machine that used the capture, torture and abuse of prisoners as its central intelligence-gathering tool. But we only have the photos from Abu Ghraib and so people can continue to pull a Noonan and pretend that this didn't happen no a much wider scale. From my understanding, the photos would prove very similar techniques spread across the globe. And so it would be clear that any Muslim anywhere, upon seeing US troops, could be Abu Ghraibed. The photos would reveal more powerfully than the impressive documentation in countless reports that Bush and Cheney's torture and abuse machine was everywhere, in every theater. How do you run an effective counter-insurgency when all Afghans know that Americans bring torture along with "democracy"?
Obama inherits this legacy. He has two options: pull the lid right off it, and fuel more anger and anti-Americanism; or hunker down, acquiesce to the military and become an active accomplice to the cover-up. He's trying to straddle the divide but now realizes he cannot prosecute Bush's wars with Bush's military while exposing Bush's war crimes. Hence the cover-up.