By Jeffry Gardner
Albuquerque Tribune Columnist
October 15, 2005
When U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein recently sided with the American Civil Liberties Union, he sentenced tens, possibly hundreds, more American troops to their deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan and other wonderful bastions of religious tolerance around the globe.
Hellerstein did this by seeing fit to release nearly 90 more photos and four videotapes taken, presumably, by American guards at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
And this makes us a better nation - how?
Now someone in the studio audience is scrambling to his or her computer to dash off a red-hot note chock full of convoluted ideas about why these photos and tapes must be released.
Save yourself the bother. I'm sure Molly Ivins, Maureen Dowd, former Enron adviser Paul Krugman or some other deep-thinking, compassionate-progressive columnist is out there right now championing the ACLU's and Hellerstein's "courage." That's the word they'll use - trust me.
But this past summer, Newsweek wrote a completely irresponsible story that alleged abuse at Guantanamo involving the Koran. The anti-American riots that followed were well-documented. Attacks on Americans rose, violence escalated in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in Pakistan, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Troops undoubtedly lost their lives as a result of Newsweek's desire to do more than cover the news. I would argue that Newsweek sought to create it.
We know that serious trouble brewed in Abu Ghraib. Courts-martial have been or are being held, in some cases, while higher-ranking officers' careers were rightly ended in disgrace.
But the troops on the line are the ones who suffered the most then and will suffer the most now if new images are released. Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Meyer told the court that, among other things, the images will become recruiting posters for al-Qaida and other murderous groups of that ilk.
Hellerstein said he "respected" Meyer's concerns, but his role wasn't to "defer to our worst fears but to interpret and apply the law." Somehow judgment and common sense aren't applicable in the case of the Freedom of Information Act.
Ultimately, the ACLU is behind this, defending again the indefensible: It's more important for us to know what went on at Abu Ghraib than it is to protect our young men and women and, perhaps, ourselves.
The ACLU has become a master of disguise - cloaking its refried-Marxist agenda behind the handful of civil rights it chooses to defend. If the opportunity presents itself to subvert a constitutional underpinning or further unravel the moral fibers that hold our society slightly at bay from our basest debaucheries, the ACLU seizes it.
In this particular case, could anything hurt the nation more than reopening old wounds that will serve to rally our enemies - dare we say aid and comfort them? - with images of actions we've taken steps to correct?
The government will rightly appeal Hellerstein's decision. Let's hope common sense prevails. Too many American lives are in the balance.