Plumb Lines

May 28, 2009

Confessional Politics

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matthew Schmitz @ 9:50 am

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.

-Matthew Schmitz



  1. I wasn’t suggesting these should be released. I stand by my previous article about the President’s decision. I just wanted your thoughts.

    Comment by Michael E. van Landingham — May 28, 2009 @ 10:01 am

  2. Right, I didn’t mean to say that you favored such a course. I merely meant that from some previous arguments of mine, it might seem that I would now favor releasing the photos. That is also not the case.

    I’ve updated the post to be more clear on this point.

    Comment by Matthew Schmitz — May 28, 2009 @ 10:10 am

  3. But at this point we’re still operating on belief, i.e. belief in the government to tell us the truth. I’ll believe my eyes, thank you, not the government’s account – not their interpretation of the pictures. What is lost in translation? What is lost deliberately?

    Comment by E.D. Kain — May 29, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

  4. As Matt Schmitz knows….

    There are many pictures of Charles Graner, and others, having sexual intercourse with teenage Iraqi girls, some of them 15 years of age or possibly younger.

    Comment by Anon. — June 9, 2009 @ 12:54 am

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