May 10, 2004

A picture we don't want you to have.

AFP reports this statement by Laura Bush:
"It is really, really sad, I mean, it is sad. I think we -- we agonize as each of those pictures come out and as we see them. It is a picture we don't want the rest of the world to have of us. ... Those photographs don't represent America. They don't represent our troops. And they don't represent the way people in the United States of America think or act ... It is not a fair picture of the United States military."

Photographs make such distinct pictures in the mind that it is difficult for all the other information to compete. We'd like to construct a picture in the minds of everyone who thinks about the United States, a picture of fairness and justice. But it takes a concerted effort over a broad range of activities to create the desired picture in the minds of thinking human beings who are right to be skeptical of self-serving representations. The concrete photographs are crushingly devastating to that other picture we tried to create.

Laura Bush didn't mean to make a statement with a double meaning, but clearly those photographs were pictures our government did not want people to have. I'm struck, when reading the news reports of the President's responses to the crisis, that he seems to have the conception that the main problem is the release of the photographs, rather than the abuse itself.

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