Michael has pointed out that some abuse photos show acts never before seen and wonders how this affects my earlier argument against their release. In response, I would say that while the Muslim world does not in many respects resemble a crowded theater, releasing these photos would be like entering one and yelling “Fire!” At the same time, I continue to think that perpetuating lies will not, in the end, save lives. The truth about American misdeeds should be outed.
How to balance these imperatives? The solution I would favor would have President Obama or a military official issue a report containing a fairly detailed catalog of the types of abuses and crimes depicted in the unreleased photos but not containing the photos themselves. The advantage, of such an approach is that it shows America’s readiness to admit what went wrong but also respects the prudential concern to not incite violence against Americans. This American confession would mirror the practice of reconciliation employed in the Catholic Church. Sinners can inform the priest of the type and number of their sins, but they usually won’t find it necessary to offer extensive graphic detail. This might not lead to emotional catharsis, but it can promote the truth without precluding reconciliation.