Instead, the major news networks tripped over themselves to celebrate their courage for broadcasting the images. The Washington Post received its own set of pictures, including an incendiary photo of an American female soldier parading an Iraqi prisoner on a leash. The Post's only nod to journalistic context was their admission that they weren't sure if the photos were staged or not.
If the Abu Ghraib scandal is the metaphorical - or perhaps literal - rape of the Iraqi people so many claim it to be, why isn't there just a bit more media ethics thumb-sucking over a major American newspaper publishing photos it can't confirm are real?
Obviously, very real abuses occurred at Abu Ghraib, but news operations don't show pictures of rape victims, never mind actual rapes, even when they're sure they're real and the consequences for doing so are comparatively meager.
Peter Preston, the former editor of The Guardian, once told his reporters that there would be no bonuses for producing a scoop that got somebody killed, according to the Newseum's Web site. "It is not necessarily a question of patriotism, it is a sense of realism that you don't want to put the lives of your fellow countrymen at risk."
Well, CBS' scoop has gotten someone killed and there will be more deaths, on both sides, as a result of this story before it becomes history.
Now we're hearing demands that all of the photos collected by the Pentagon be released immediately. Never mind that if the U.S. government releases pictures of POWs being humiliated we'll be violating the Geneva Convention - again.
More to the point, releasing more photos won't advance the story any better than words would, and new photos would do even more damage than the first batch.
But, as I said, it's time to put up or shut up. If the media wants to advance the Abu Ghraib story rather than wallow in it, its course is clear. It can help Americans "appreciate" the Nick Berg beheading by showing it over and over. I don't know if that would be a good idea, but at least the press would be consistent.