Bin Laden Photo
Issue Proves Obama's Moral Superiority Over Bush
has set out to distinguish himself from his predecessor, not only by his
actions, but by his morality. With his decision not to put bin Laden's head on
a pike and carry it through the media landscape, he has done just that."
An old and somewhat haggard looking man identified as Osama bin Laden watches himself on television, from a screen grab on a video tape found in his Pakistan hide out. It was one a a series of videos released by the Pentagon, part of a trove of data found in the raid to kill or capture him.
With or without a photo, conspiracy
theories are circulating, which is why Obama’s decision not to release pictures
of a dead Osama bin Laden is the right thing to do.
People have become accustomed
to seeing brutal, blood-soaked images. The threshold for showing dead bodies, seriously
injured and even maimed people on television, the Internet and in newspapers,
is steadily dropping. In the Internet age, nothing is secret, maximum
transparency being the currency of the modern world. And even if we don't
desire it, transparency will eventually come to be. Resistance is futile.
But that doesn't liberate responsible
parties from an obligation to pose the question of whether or what should be published
in each new case, as much for esthetic as for ethical reasons.
Barack Obama did just that. And
one must assume that he didn't take lightly the decision on whether a photo of
an Osama bin Laden, killed with two shots to the head, would serve as proof of the
end of terrorist number one.
A picture is worth a thousand
words. The Bible tells us that people must see in order to believe. But unlike
in centuries past, displaying a defeated opponent no longer receives applause. Such
displays are repulsive to us, just like George W. Bush’s rumored
order to his CIA chief, “Capture bin Laden, kill him and bring his head
back in a box on dry ice ...”
Obama has set out to
distinguish himself from his predecessor, not only by his actions, but by his
morality. With his decision not to put bin Laden's head on a pike and carry it
through the media landscape, he has done just that. For there’s a difference
between the images of a killed “most wanted” eventually filtering through to
the public and when a hunter triumphantly shows off a trophy. Most likely, Obama
recalled the intense criticism directed at Donald Rumsfeld when the former defense
secretary, in order to eliminate any remaining doubts about their deaths, released
images of the dead sons of Saddam Hussein.
On Wednesday evening, news
agencies disseminated images of the others killed in the 40-minute commando raid.
While most newspapers have refrained from publishing them, they are now freely available
on the Internet to anyone. They are repulsive, frightening images taken at
close proximity, of individuals who were supposedly shot by a member of the Pakistani
security forces an hour after the commando action.
One of the casualties at Osama bin Laden'e Pakistan hideout,
reportedly killed by Pakistan security forces after the U.S.
Are they authentic? Possibly.
But one can’t be sure. The time has long since passed when photos were
considered irrefutable proof. Any child can create a photo montage. Conspiracy
theories will circulate with or without a photo. That’s why demanding that the
U.S. president provide a photo as ultimate proof of the al-Qaeda leader’s death
is pointless. Not even bin Laden’s followers - those vowing to avenge him, question
his death. Why then, do we need a final image?
The images of men lying in
pools of blood now circulating on the Web - to the extent that they're
authentic - show the brutal nature of events in the Pakistani town of Abbotabad.
But that was never really in doubt.
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