St. Louis-based Veterans for Peace
is circulating a letter it plans to to send President Barack Obama demanding that the White House release photos of abusive treatment of detainees at the hands of U.S. troops.
Obama had supported the release of the pictures to the public, but changed his mind in May, saying that he would try to block the court-ordered release of the photos
. Obama's reversal came after U.S. commanders feared that the pictures depicting abusive treatment of detainees would cause rioting and backlashes in Iraq, Afghanistan and other Muslim nations.
, executive director of Veterans for Peace, says he doesn't know what the pictures may reveal, but argues that the public -- especially Americans -- deserve to see them.
"The people of the United States have a right to know what troops representing our government are doing in our name," McPhearson tells Daily RFT
. "We say that we as Americans believe in human rights, and if there's a contradiction between those ideals and how we are acting, that needs to be addressed."
Contrary to the fears of the Defense Department, McPhearson says he believes the biggest reaction to the photos will be seen in the U.S. -- and not abroad.
"Yes, these photos are likely to stir up emotions overseas," says
McPhearson, a veteran of the Persian Gulf War. "But not as much as bombs dropping on the heads of people who have nothing to do with the conflict. I don't see how these
photos could possibly make innocent people living in these war zones more
Unlike a political cartoon
that caused outrage in the Islamic world in 2005, McPhearson believe the photos would not cause mass riots. "People were upset about the Abu Ghraib photos
but they didn't get the rioting caused by the cartoons of Muhammad."
Veterans for Peace joined the ACLU and other interest groups in 2003 in filing a Freedom of Information Act request that eventually freed some of the Abu Ghraib images. McPhearson says his organization (with 153 chapters in 45 states) is seeking the release of additional photos of abuse as part of its mission to "seek justice for all victims of war, including those who wear the uniform as well as those people captured, tortured and raped."
Two other veterans groups Iraq Veterans Against the War
and Veterans for Common Sense
are joining Veterans for Peace on the letter. They expect to deliver the letter to the White House by no later than mid-August.
Says McPhearson: "As former combatants, we've all taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and we take that oath seriously. We expect the government to as well."