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Open Letter to Reporter on Detainee Abuse Photos

Posted on December 1 2009 4:00 am
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That's me on the right - 15 years ago.

The Supreme Court issued a ruling Monday permitting the Pentagon to block the release of photos of detainee abuse at the hands of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The court’s ruling was given in accordance with a provision of the Homeland Security funding bill signed Oct. 28 by President Obama.

I anticipated some bleeding heart liberal media types to cry foul, but I did not expect a reporter for McClatchy Newspapers to write an article that reads more like a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The following is my message to the so-called reporter who wrote this article:

Mr. Michael Doyle,

You have an impressive resume – master of studies in law from Yale Law School, Knight Journalism Fellow, masters in government from The Johns Hopkins University. Well done.

Let me ask you this – during the substantial period of life you spent with your nose buried in books, or in the span of your life since, did you ever feel your life was in danger?

Have you ever been issued a Kevlar helmet or bullet-proof vest as a routine part of your job? Have you ever boarded a C-5 for an 18-hour flight, told only that your destination was a classified location in the Middle East?

Have you ever had to call a parent and listen to them cry as you explained that it was your duty to get on that plane and try, with every word you can think of, to assure them you will return safely? Driven through miles of empty desert, still unaware of your location and seeing only in the distance row upon row of Patriot missile launchers and camels?

How about this – upon returning to your office, do you have to open every door, the trunk, the hood and the gas tank cover of your vehicle and climb down into a bunker while a bomb-sniffing dog is escorted around your vehicle, followed by a military police troop who uses a mirror to examine the undercarriage for explosive devices?

Have you ever participated in a United Nations Peacekeeping mission, during a riot in the middle of one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, and been told by your CO (commanding officer – they don’t teach those acronyms at Yale) to shoot if anyone comes at you?

Do you know what it smells like to stand among more than 100 soaking wet corpses laid out, side-by-side, along a small stretch of beach – the stench of formaldehyde and decay in the Caribbean heat?

You see, Michael, I was an active-duty military journalist and photographer for many years. The things I have seen, heard, smelled and been caught in the middle of – even called upon to photograph as part of my job – would make an academic type like yourself cry for your mother and long for the comforts of typing away at your keyboard while sipping a latte in your favorite coffee shop.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to serve my country. There are so many men and women who have served before me and serve now in our armed forces who come back with far worse memories than mine, and far too many who do not return at all.

However – and make no mistake about this – I abhor the scenes depicted in these photos; men and women wearing a proud uniform, seeming to enjoy the revolting inhumanity of their deeds.  But I will not be so gullible as to believe that any good can possibly come from distributing these photos. Adverse consequences of their release, however, are all but certain.

You’re chomping at the bit to get your hands on these photos. And I’m sure you’re not the only reporter grasping at the mountain of fodder these grotesque photos would give you – plenty of column inches worth, no doubt.

“If it bleeds, it leads.” That’s an old, tried-and-true expression in the news business, isn’t it?

What truth do you think will be uncovered by flaunting these photos in the pages of newspapers, on the Internet, on television, under the bulls*&t guise of news coverage? Perhaps, and despite the diplomas hanging on your wall, you are no more than a mindless student to the rhetoric of the American Civil Liberties Union, which decided some time ago that its prerogative is no longer to protect the civil liberties of Americans?

At what point in your career did you abandon your journalistic ethics?


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