Whether the United States government should release the bin Laden death photos is still a topic of discussion in the news and among commentators. Personally, I don’t think our government ought to release them, but not for the reasons we’ve heard.
1. We don’t want to release the photographs because we don’t want incite terrorist violence against Americans.
Boy, we sure don’t want to plant the seeds of violence in any terrorists minds, do we? None of this global war on terror business would exist in the first place were it not for a wave of unprovoked violence against Americans right here in our own country. Yet, we seem to be persistently concerned about offending a group of people who take grave offense, even when none is given or intended.
No, I think we’re looking at that all wrong. In my mind, the bin Laden take-down was about as unequivocal a statement about the cost of messing with us as we’ve made in a while. Why don’t we just strum that chord for a while?
We seem so eager to lurch into a whiplash-inducing 180-degree turn from an all-bowed-up “do you want some more of that?” to a hand-wringing “I hope we haven’t offended anyone.” We’re Americans and we need to stop feeling guilty and self-conscious about that. At this point, I’m not nearly as interested in knowing when the terrorists have been offended as I’m interested in when they’ve had enough and are ready to call it quits. But that’s probably not going to happen right away.
2. We don’t want to release the photographs because that’s not who we are as Americans.
I am about tired of the sanctimonious preaching about things we don’t do because “that’s not who we are.” Well, if it wasn’t just a little bit of who we are, we wouldn’t be talking so seriously about it, would we?
What I object to is our recent tendency to take indecisive half-measures or act timidly, then rationalize it by saying we won’t do more because “that’s not who we are as Americans.”
Really? We probably ought to come to grips with who we are before someone comes along and makes us into who we don’t want to be.
Who we are are the people who didn’t forget what happened to 3,000 people most of us didn’t know ten years ago. Who we are are the people who got our skivvies wadded up over those murders and invaded two countries so we could flush out the scum who had anything remotely to do with it. Who we are are the people who committed hundreds of thousands of our best young men and women to battle in strange lands to either kill the terrorists where they stood or capture them so they could be locked up in a cage in Cuba. That’s who we are.
We’re the people who say we got involved in two “wars of choice,” but haven’t quite gotten around to choosing to get out of them because we don’t seem to be over 9/11 just yet. That’s who we are.
And I’m fine with that.
So, here’s why I think we shouldn’t release the photos.
1. I don’t care if bin Laden’s cohorts ever believe he’s actually dead.
If the terrorists don’t believe bin Laden’s dead, let’s leave them wondering. Let them wonder why it’s been so long since his last video or why it’s been so long since he’s been over to watch some television. Memo to bad guys: He’s made his last video, and he isn’t coming over.
2. When the enemy is likely to imagine the photos are worse than they are, why mess with that?
Why would we even entertain the thought of proving something to the terrorists that they can only now imagine. I would guess the photos look pretty bad, but I doubt they’re worse than many terrorists have imagined them. I’d like for the terrorists to hold that image in their minds for a while.
3. Even if we publish the photos, there would be a lot of people who would swear they were doctored.
Shoot, in about 30 minutes (maybe 35), I could take a photo of a cock-eyed llama and make it look like bin Laden with a bullet in his head – and an arrow too – and so could the 14-year old kid living down the street. It would be only minutes after we released the photos before the first accusations that they were fakes would come rolling in. There’s no point in inviting that.
4. There’s no real good in showing the photos.
What would be the value of distributing the photos? What would it accomplish?
How many of us can view a photograph of a dead bin Laden and know what it really is other than a dead terrorist? How many of us would look at that photograph and envision the young American who stood face-to-face with bin Laden before pulling the trigger, and fully understand what it took to deliver that shot? A photo like that commands respect, not for bin Laden, but for those who risked everything to make it possible. I just don’t see the value in distributing it.
So, while I agree with the decision not to release the photos of the dead bin Laden, I wish our reasons for not releasing them were more stout. Our reasons for not releasing them ought to reflect the momentum we’re riding, and not betray a regression back to self-loathing. This momentum is hard-won, and we shouldn’t give it away.