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The issue: Photographic proof of bin Laden's death
Our view: Bold move followed by fear of photo
The Obama administration deserves the praise of the nation with the recent announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden. The president himself exercised the most difficult and important authoritative power of the office when he appropriately made the ultimate call giving the go-ahead for the carefully orchestrated mission.
Through his directive, bin Laden, arguably the most vile and hated individual of our time, met swift and certain justice at the hands of an elite team of highly trained U.S. Navy SEALs.
Equally appropriate was Obama’s directive to secure the body of our arch enemy in order to collect the proper forensic evidence to prove the SEAL operatives accomplished their mission in getting their man.
In fact, it has been reported that Obama chose not to authorize an earlier bombing of bin Laden’s hideout when military and national security advisers acknowledged there would be very little if anything left of the compound or its inhabitants. Instead, the high-risk but highly successful mission took out the mastermind behind the murder of nearly 3,000 victims in attacks in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania, but it also served to sweep up what has publicly been described as a cache of enemy documentation equal in size to a small community college library.
With that praise, however, we must disagree with President Obama’s reasoning for not making photographic evidence of bin Laden’s death public.
The Obama administration has given two justifications for keeping the photos classified. Foremost, it positions the decision as one of national security. Making the photographs public, Obama says, would only serve to be “spiking the football” as he referred to it, potentially inciting radical Islam to further reactionary violence. The second justification is that the images are far too graphic and gruesome for the public to handle.
These are very disappointing, if not shallow, reasons on the president’s part for keeping the photos secret.
Few could argue that as a result of the downing of New York’s twin towers, bin Laden and his minions of al-Qaida jihadists have successfully changed the very nature of daily life in the U.S. and beyond. So many collective wounds remain unhealed to this day. Quickly comes to mind the occupants inside the burning towers of the World Trade Center frantic for rescue; the valiant firefighters, EMTs and law enforcement officers desperate to save them, but rushing unknowingly in to their peril; the heroic actions of passengers on doomed Flight 93 as the first civilian combatants in this ongoing war; the Pentagon, the internationally known representation of our military strength, damaged and ablaze.
These images etched in our minds continue to strike raw nerves. Further, they’re offensive images to remember, but we remember them nonetheless and believe we always will. In fact, it’s because of these memories, the offensive actions that caused them on our enemy’s part and the knowledge that our nation’s warriors continue to battle radical Islam today that we’re offended by the fact that the president apparently doesn’t want to offend the enemy we battle by making the photos public.
With regard to the nature of the photos, those in government who have viewed and spoken publicly about them say they are gruesome. We’re sure they are; wartime imagery regardless of the battlefield always is. But it is this very imagery that serves to build the historic record of our nation’s effort to right wrongs against us and other peace-loving nations that are our allies.
Radical Islam is not among our allies as evidenced by its continued jihad against us. It hates our way of life and all we stand for. Quickly disposing of bin Laden’s body at sea according to Muslim practice will not extinguish this hatred by any measure, nor will publishing post-mortem photographs of its figurehead increase the fury.
But the public can handle far more than the president believes. We deserve to be able to make the decision ourselves to view what we believe we can and must handle.
And our enemy deserves to see publicly what American tenacity and determination can and will accomplish on the battlefield, especially when it forces the might of our hand to do so.