Why We Must Release bin Laden's Death Photos

Most disagree with President Obama's decision
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2011 1:03 PM CDT
This frame grab from video obtained by ABC News, on Monday, May 2, 2011, shows the interior of the compound where it is believed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan.   (AP Photo/ABC News)

(Newser) – Reactions to President Obama's decision not to release the Osama bin Laden death photos are rolling in—and most seem to disagree with the prez:

  • "While gory photographs would have inflamed some jihadists and wannabes, I believe they would have disillusioned and deflated others," writes Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post. "A heroic myth of invulnerability had been built around bin Laden," which the photos would soundly refute. "The reason to display the photos is to show bin Laden for what he really was: not a holy warrior, not a holy anything, but a deluded mass murderer who met the end he so richly deserved."
  • But, writing on Hot Air, Allahpundit disagrees with Robinson. The Zarqawi death photos, not to mention the numbers of al-Qaeda commanders killed by drone strikes, already warned jihadists "of what awaits if they mess with America." Releasing the photos means treating bin Laden "like a big enough deal that the world should gawk at his fate." By not releasing them, he is "reduced to an afterthought."

  • Many have argued that releasing the photos would put American troops in greater danger from al-Qaeda, but the "idea that news should be calibrated by the government to ease the job of the US military makes for a First Amendment loophole you could drive a motorized regiment through," writes Jack Shafer on Slate. "It's hard to imagine that a death photo of bin Laden would elevate al-Qaeda and its supporters to some fury that his killing didn't."
  • In the Wall Street Journal, Alan Dershowitz calls the decision not to release the photos "only the last in a series of terrible mistakes" in handling bin Laden's body. He's more aghast that the corpse was not subjected to routine forensic techniques, which could have answered many of the lingering questions: "Was he shot in cold blood? Was he shot in the back or in the front? Were his hands raised in surrender? Was he actively resisting?" Burying bin Laden at sea "naturally gives rise to suspicions that there was something to hide."

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