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Open Letter to Reporter on Detainee Abuse Photos

December 1, 2009

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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  1. Sam Deakins permalink
    December 1, 2009 4:21 am

    What if those detainees were forced to watch the AMA awards with the Adam Lambert homoerotica number over and over again?

    • politicalmoxie permalink
      December 1, 2009 8:23 am

      Dear Ms Northon,

      You are cordially invited to join our family any time for any occasion.

      With sincere appreciation,
      The Family of Political Moxie

  2. SHmuel "Sam" HaLevi permalink
    December 1, 2009 4:45 am

    I have the privilege of having served in the military as a soldier during the Lebanon original War and also as a Senior Engineer on Military Avionics Programs, USA.
    Nothing pleasant, except unique and isolated moments, one may report out war and yet…
    When called to perform our duty we must do so without reservations.
    I find the bleeding heart non serving au lette bags despicable from any angle one may look at them. They have intentionally caused thousands of casualties by proxy and immense harm to the people they purport to be part of.
    Normal human beings do not enjoy killing or using harsh preactices but at times one has to obtain real time information from an enemy, thus preventing further bloodshed.
    Specialists then take the unenviable task of ferreting out that information.
    That is the reality of war and exposing the tragis situations will not prevent a thing other than preventing true performance of duty.
    The Supreme Court has acted wisely.

  3. Brad permalink
    December 1, 2009 6:07 am

    Great perspective, Karen!

    Some, however, have already made up their minds that the US is the Great Culprit, and they will forever advocate against us.

  4. Prudent Man, CFA permalink
    December 1, 2009 6:33 am

    Can the President or Congress name one person or country that will change their opinion of the U.S. because we close Guantanamo or play nice with terrorists who have information we need to save U.S. lives? Ask them to name one!!

    Another reason we need a National Congressional Term Limit Referendum as our politicians are completely ignorant, crazy, insulting or all of the above, regardless of party. We need a referendum as the corrupt collectivists thugs won’t do what is best for the country on their own.

  5. Larry L permalink
    December 1, 2009 7:14 am

    That is a great letter written from the heart of someone that has been in the field under fire. It’s a pity that such “products of liberal academia” like Mr. Doyle are seemingly such intelligent people when they are in the comfort and the protection of their company cubicle. What’s so predictable is that when reporters such as Mr. Doyle step out of their 8 x 8 cubicle bubble it is painfully obvious that all of the time they spent in the higher education system taught them nothing about the real world and common sense.

    Let the issue go Mr. Doyle,, get off your keister and investigate Climategate and the crime of Cap & Trade, the true costs of the Healthcare Bill, Rangel’s abuse of the tax system…….

  6. Carterthewriter permalink
    December 1, 2009 7:41 am

    Most journalist who have reported on the front lines respect the job soldiers do, but it is those who want attention using a string of accreditations to validate themselve, that have never left the safety of their palace. Thus, they ignore the facts leading up to actions taken in the field of battle. They are clueless people.

    If they want another trophy, anyone can buy one.

  7. Larry L permalink
    December 1, 2009 8:02 am

    Very good Carterthewriter

  8. Brewster Campbell permalink
    December 1, 2009 10:05 am

    Karen Northon’s response to Michael Doyle is dead on. Doyle has crossed the line from journalism into voyeurism.

    I think that journalists who have never been in the armed forces can never really understand the military. Ernie Pyle is one of the very few exceptions that comes to mind.

    Soldiers are expected to do things that are counterintuitive and do them “now.” You don’t have the luxury of quiet refelection and you don’t always get it right.

    To help Doyle gain some perspective into voyeuristic journalism I would suggest that before he takes pen to hand to expose another U.S military excess he watch a video of one of Abu Musab al- Zarqawi’s beheadings. They are readily available on the internet. I would recommend he watch the beheading of the pathetic Nepalese truck driver as particularly instructive. This is the enemy, not the U.S. military.

    Of course, I think that the U.S. military should be held to a higher standard than barbarians like al-Zarqawi — and I think that they are. While a fat lip or being hit with the butt of a rifle are not pleasant, they are not the moral equivalent of a beheading.

    Karen Northon deserves special thanks for her letter and I look forward to reading her reportage in the future.

    Brewster Campbell
    Cocoa Beach, FL

    • Carterthewriter permalink
      December 1, 2009 11:00 am

      Excellent, sir. We call them armchair quarterbacks; nothing more.

  9. Kenneth Gareau permalink
    December 1, 2009 11:29 am

    It is not dificult to understand why a journalist would want to release pictures showing abuse; once you understand that they fall into the same category as the depraved individuals who were the perpetraitors of the event. Every occupation has those who lack respect for humanity and, under conditions which also remove the obvious need for restraint, will succumb to that depraved nature. Can there be any difference between those who perpetrate the acts, which almost all people would agree are corrupt, de humanizing, and against humanity, and those, who in their own depraved way see only headlines and supposed honor in pointing out, through their publication of pictures and commentary, the common knowledge of the existence of evil? For me there is no difference. We know evil exists.

    What these pinheads do by exposing the obvious is to ignore the far greater effects of unintended consequences by the publication and printing of this evil. It provides the raw material for propagandists to advance causes which are neither mainstream nor tolerated by the vast majority of those they wish to impune.

    Multiple Degrees, Working at Stanford etc. does not improve ones character!

    Fantastic Article

  10. Peachey permalink
    December 1, 2009 1:20 pm

    Thank you for the wonderful, spot on article. Unfortunately, it is not the desire of the Progressives in this country to help and protect Americans. It is their sole desire to destroy America and then to reshape it into their delusional picture of the utopian communist society where everything is a “level playing field” where there are no entreneurers, no individuals, no religion, no childhood, and no family of strength and values. Only by degrading and employing deceit, deception, lies and chaos can they possibly achieve a foothold. There are those in our country of like mind and will support everything of dishonor deceit to achieve the communist state they desire. All of us know that evil exists and that wars are the last and most undesired course of action. Disclosing the photos only serves one purpose. What the disclosure will create is a greater chaos and backlash against America. This is their end desire. Never underestimate their hatred for Americans and America. Karen, thank you for your service and good luck in your future.

  11. Todd permalink
    December 3, 2009 7:06 pm

    Ronald Reagan, May 20, 1988, transmitting the Convention Against Torture to the Senate for ratification:

    The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention. . . . Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.

    The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called “universal jurisdiction.” Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.

    Convention Against Torture, signed and championed by Ronald Reagan, Article II/IV:

    No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. . . Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law.


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