Mr. Obama said he concluded that images of Bin Laden, bloodied by gunshots, would do nothing to persuade skeptics, but could inflame tensions in the Muslim world and pose problems for America’s national security.
He disclosed his decision in an interview for the CBS program “60 Minutes,” part of which will be broadcast on the network’s evening news programs Wednesday.
According to a transcript read aloud at a White House press briefing, Mr. Obama said that there was no doubt Bin Laden was dead and that “we don’t trot this stuff out as trophies — that’s not who we are.”
The president went on to say, “[I]t is important to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool.” He added, “We don’t need to spike the football…. [G]iven the graphic nature of the photo it would create national security risk.”
I don’t have especially strong opinions on this, but on balance, this strikes me as the right call. There are conspiracy theorists who’ll continue to demand proof, but the funny thing about conspiracy theorists is that no level of proof is ever enough. They’d very likely say the photographs were faked, just like the moon landing and the president birth certificate.
And given the potential risks associated with the dissemination of the photos, Obama’s call seems entirely reasonable.
Of course, this is not to say the photos won’t leak anyway. Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee have reportedly seen them, and one assumes Intelligence Committee members will soon follow, if this hasn’t already happened. It only takes one staffer with brief access to send the image to a worldwide audience.
But so long as the president has a choice, I think he’s making the right one.
Bolstering this judgment, Sarah Palin today argued that releasing the photo would serve as a “warning to others seeking America’s destruction.” She went on criticize “pussy-footing around.”
For what it’s worth, I find it hard to imagine dissemination of the images would discourage terrorists, and it’s ludicrous on its face to suggest those who just killed bin Laden are guilty of “pussy-footing around.”