Bin Laden Photo: Obama Makes Mistake Holding Back Photo

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1d9950393d5841d3a53074a340d8f243-Photo-7-240x172.jpgWith all due respect to President Obama, he is making a serious mistake by not releasing a photo showing that Osama bin Laden was killed. President Obama is expecting the world to trust his word, America’s word, that bin Laden is gone — but there are many doubts about American credibility in the world today.
Furthermore, bin Laden has been a “phantom” lurking out there, somewhere, perhaps in Afghanistan, perhaps in Pakistan, perhaps in Somalia — but lurking and virtually no trace of him.
Many American intelligence officials began to think some years ago that he was dead already. A senior FBI agent once asked me, “you don’t really believe he is still alive do you?”
If that is what high level Americans in the terror-tracking business thought, what does President Obama think that those through the Arab world will think.
Not releasing a photo of some sort furthers a bad trend of governments — that the public doesn’t have a right to know, that governments are better stewards of the truth and of basic information than the public. It is undemocratic and stiflingly paternalistic.
Wikileaks was a market reaction to the massive expansion of official secrecy not just in the US but elsewhere in the world.
President Obama’s decision to hold back the bin Laden photo/s only aggravates this trend.
– Steve Clemons

Comments

27 comments on “Bin Laden Photo: Obama Makes Mistake Holding Back Photo

  1. David/G says:

    I believe that withholding the death photos is perfectly consistent with President Obama’s main public relations goal regarding AQ since the day he took office. From the moment he took his hand off of the bible he’s been giving the required (and needed) tough speeches about the need to destroy this group. But, he also has been trying to dial down the hysteria and reduce the stature of the AQ threat to a more realistic level: From 10-feet tall existential menace to a more relaisticly-appreciated important-threat-among many.
    What better way to do this at this moment than to consign UBL as far down the memory hole as possible? No grave, no photos. Just oblivion. It’s a much better obituary and advances the larger goal of consigning AQ “warriors” to the status they deserve — not the one they crave.

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  2. Tank Man says:

    I believe OBL is toast and could care less either way, but I’m
    damn sure not going to take some WH PR hacks word for
    anything. It’s not simply the conspiracy theorist in the ME or
    “death doubters”. Whether it’s illegal wars, skewing
    unemployment numbers or hyping threats our Gov’t in it’s
    current state simply can’t be trusted…period!

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  3. Carson Ranger says:

    Releasing the photos serves no purpose and will
    satisfy no one.
    Let the burden to prove he’s still alive fall on bin
    Laden.
    End.of.story

    Reply

  4. Brassplyer says:

    It’s a mistake to withhold the photos. The fear-based rationale – “it’s going to inflame sentiment” – is out of sync with having taken out a symbol of terrorism. It smacks of appeasement. Those who are philosophically in league with Bin Laden aren’t going to hate the US any less. He’s going to be a martyr to them no matter what.
    Make the photos public.

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  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Also any photo release would be called a fake. DNA is far more accurate and positive, even so there will be people who don’t believe that nothing you ca do about those people and playing to them is not a positive thing to do”
    Yes, and the wonderful thing about this “DNA proof” is that all they have to do is gaze sincerely into the camera, and tell us they have the proof. Kinda like gazing sincerely into the camera and telling us about the vicious firefight the special forces were engaged in.
    Ah yes, Max, they told us it is so, so surely it must be the truth.
    Sadly, the other side of the coin is that there is a huge segment of our population that believe ANYTHING these criminals tell them, no matter how many times we discover they are lying to us unabashedly. And it is that kind of gullibility that enables the utter and complete lack of accountability our politicians currently enjoy.
    Whatta concept;
    “Well, we don’t need to show you proof, because you’d just doubt it anyway”.
    Are you advocating that we just allow our politicians the luxury of this kind of reasoning, or should we make it courtroom policy as well?
    It amazes me how meakly some are willing to march themselves to underneath the looming hammer of fascism. One by one, the basic tenets of what the Founding Fathers intended are being cast aside, with the more gullible and naive amongst us murmuring “it can’t happen here”, while pointing their fingers with the accusation of “conspiracy theory”.
    Well, it CAN happen here, Max. And by all indications, it IS happening here.

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  6. Kathleen Grasso Andersen says:

    Kathleen…I agree…there is an extreme lopsidedess in virtually all of the discussions of 9/11. OBL, “Islamofascists” in general…as though our killing is innocent…after all, it is we, the US, who are in their midst, not the other way around…if we stayed in our own backyard, they wouldn’t be killing any of us.
    I’ve never heard of a burial at sea for Muslims..talk about fishy.
    rc…yes…lack of respect for the Rule of Law. It is the underlying malaise of our whole “American” culture now…fake everything, just about.

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  7. Max Campbell says:

    Wish there was the thumbs down symbol as I would click on that. Totally disagree with you on this one. As Obama said that is not the kind of thing this country does. Also any photo release would be called a fake. DNA is far more accurate and positive, even so there will be people who don’t believe that nothing you ca do about those people and playing to them is not a positive thing to do.

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  8. Kathleen says:

    Karen K. Just wish the same standards of justice and accountability applied to the crimes against humanity applied to Osama Bin Laden were applied to the crimes against humanity that Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Feith, Rice committed in the run up to the unnecessary, illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq. No need for the Navy seals…Trials would suffice
    Or Netanyahu’s crimes against Palestinians Let’s see OBL complicit in the killing of 3000 and more around the world. Bush, Cheney, Feith, Wolfowitz and team responsible for hundreds of thousands dead and injured in Iraq. Oh yes “we don’t count” Iraqi’s. Netanyahu responsible for killing 1400 Palestinians and more.
    Instead of holding Feith, Rice, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz accountable for their crimes against humanity our MSM parades them on their programs. Allowing them more opportunities to lie and spin. Feith was on MSNBC’s Martin Bashirs yesterday (Wednesday). Condi “mushroom cloud” Rice has been paraded on numerous programs. Tonight Lawrence O’Donnell is going to have her on. Rumsfeld on numerous programs. Wolfowitz on several Sunday morning programs. David “axis of evil” Frum on O’Donnells and Chris Matthews.
    For God’s sake why do these host go along with insulting our intelligence and muddying their own integrity by having these liars and people who have committed crimes against humanity on their programs. Put them on trial and stop insulting the American public and are armed forces. Stop recycling these warmongers.
    When the same standards of justice and accountability are applied to these crimes against humanity then we will really know “Justice has been done”
    The whole world is watching and waiting

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  9. questions says:

    Those who think back a few days to the birth certificate will note that seeing a picture is not believing a thing at all.
    What we learned from the birther club is that word order matters, “birth certificate” is not, apparently the same thing as “certificate of live birth”; that pdfs produce floating letters as they separate layers of picture from the text recognition portion of the program. Text recognition and writable pdfs are new and amazing, but they confuse the hell out of a lot of people; and finally, believing is seeing. People have beliefs about bin Laden’s status, and that is what they will see.
    There will likely be Elvis-style sightings for another 100 years. The “fat” bin Laden, the “young” bin Laden…..
    Further, we know that photos have the power to generate outrage in portions of the world where outrage is not our friend. Better to let the fantasy structure run wild instead.
    Further, there is a new generation of younger people who don’t really care about bin Laden, and who don’t need a reason to start caring.
    It’s time to move forward with a younger generation, with the Arab Spring movements. It is time to be done with bin Laden’s image as a mascot, with bin Laden’s tapes as encouragement, with bin Laden’s fundraising and imagination.
    There’s a lot to hope for in the future, and we should be building for that possible good to come rather than dwelling on the shot up, open brain, mashed and bloody skull of a now dead and gone instigator.
    Indeed, bin Laden is a phantom, and has been. His status as phantom is better served without a death mask, or a photo.
    I think perhaps the Bush administration is finally over. Things end long after they end, or they begin before they start. In this case, it wasn’t the election that ended the Bush reign, it was this event.

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  10. Bethie says:

    Has the silliness over the Obama birth certificate not taught us anything?
    Don’t do it. It just diminishes us. And we should really stop doing that to ourselves.

    Reply

  11. bob h says:

    One assumes that there is a photo taken at an angle that does not show his exploded head. That photo should be released.

    Reply

  12. Dr.Evil says:

    The consequence of the nature of services such as Facebook and 24/7/365 news coverage has given us all the sense that we should be aware of and be subject to see anything and everything. There is no longer the sense that private lives should stay private and some secrets don’t need to be seen nor told.
    The need to see this photo is more to satisfy the inner self-centered need to be certain because somehow seeing is believing.
    Obama is being sensible that the picture and Osama is not a trophy to be displayed and flaunted. That picture will not go to just the American people but will be printed and used as propaganda and used to incite hatred against America.
    If Mr. Clemons doubts this assertion, a picture worth a thousand words. Disclosure doesn’t serve any purpose such as reminding us that some tragedies don’t need to happen like in the case of the Holocaust or the imagine of the Vietnamese girl naked in the street with burns all over her body in the Vietnam War.
    This simply a picture of a dead evil man with a hole in his head. This is the digital age, once it gets out, it will live forever.
    If it was a picture of Reagan with a bullet in his head, Americans would be outraged and would never stop hunting whomever did it.
    Conspiracy theorists have a logic all their own. No matter how many photos you release, some will always find some fault with them. Hell, there are people who believe that we never went to the Moon.
    Its time to end the chapter where America lives in paranoia. Americans need to realize that they aren’t too popular around the world because many see them as ignorant, self-absorbed and oblivious. It is this underestimation of this feeling that led to the blindside that is 9/11.
    If you don’t want a brush fire caused by the camp fire in front of you…one doesn’t put it out by dumping more fuel onto it.
    They got him, its done. Live with it.

    Reply

  13. Ed Lane says:

    Regarding photo disclosure, think about the impact on American psyche of the release of the Danny Pearl beheading photo. It rightly enraged and disgusted us. It might have even redoubled our efforts to fight those who were aligned with this horrific deed.
    Now put the shoe on the other foot. Is it worth risking American lives to show this photo? What would be gained? Proof that we treated his body with respect? Do you really believe that showing the photo would achieve that end?

    Reply

  14. David Billington says:

    “Not releasing a photo of some sort furthers a bad trend of governments — that the public doesn’t have
    a right to know, that governments are better stewards of the truth and of basic information than the
    public. It is undemocratic and stiflingly paternalistic.” (Steve Clemons)
    Withholding material for release at a later time has long been an accepted practice with war records and
    is the alternative to immediate disclosure here.

    Reply

  15. Arthur says:

    There is more than the President’s word that Osama bin Laden is dead . Today there are reports from Pakistan that surviving occupants of the compound are in custody awaiting deportation . Osama’s 12 year old daughter is said to have seen him shot before her eyes.
    For the Doubting Thomases , this is likely insufficient , but it is hard to see what evidence would convince them.A photograph has no more probative value to them {since photoshopping is a possibility} than “coerced” testimony from Pakistani custody.
    In the end, however , why do we care that the followers might think him alive ? . If they want to hang around waiting for instructions from the deceased , haven’t we disrupted al Qaeda’s ability to reorganize under new leadership ?

    Reply

  16. Gabe says:

    Are you sure you’re not just eager (as I am) to see a gorey image of this man with a hole in his head? If you dig deep, don’t you truly believe he’s now dead, and it’s just the bloodlust that wants the satisfaction of a picture.

    Reply

  17. Caitlyn Antrim says:

    Steve, I’m going with Obama on this one. I don’t feel it is necessary
    to deal with the death doubters – they will be around even if the
    photo is released. Perhaps you might release the control sample
    and the recovered DNA. Or interview the SEAL who fired the shot.
    Would it ever end?
    Then again, perhaps it could appear in wikileaks that it really was
    Bin Laden. Perhaps that would satisfy the doubters.

    Reply

  18. Carson Ranger says:

    Wrong, it’s not his “word” alone. This needs a
    rethink.
    Anyone who doesn’t believe it now won’t believe it
    with a photo.
    When you disagree with Boehner and Obama, you need
    to rethink …

    Reply

  19. FSC says:

    I do not understand. It seems to me that::
    a) virtually no one who is not NOW convinced OBL is dead, will be convinced by a picture;
    b) news outlets should be drumming the following OBvious thought into the public consciousness — if OBL were not dead, would he not immediately, or soon, post a video? Would the Obama administration risk that possibility?
    I do not understand.
    What am I missing?
    If I am right, it seems to me that it makes sense for the Obama administration to calculate that a picture simply gives more room for craziness. (Although I don’t understand why they don’t explain exactly as above.)

    Reply

  20. Ducky8abug says:

    I’m sorry, I don’t need to see a bullet hole in a man’s head or his chest caved in from a fatal gun shot to prove the sincerity of President Obama’s confirmation. It makes my stomach churn, and I say this as a New Yorker who lost her neighbor ten years ago. I don’t need to see it. I don’t WANT to see it. I can do without!

    Reply

  21. Jay Banks says:

    People have the right to be informed on what their government is doing and what their money is used for. They have the right to see all supporting materials. That is the only way for the government to win back the trust of American people.

    Reply

  22. JS says:

    I disagree with you on this one Steve. I don’t think we need to be in the business of convincing often conspiratorial people/countries of obvious occurrances. An FBI SA might have said that line about “not believing…” but serious people in the community, and most peope around the world knew he was alive until Sunday. High-level people in the UB-tracking business never thought he was dead… if they did, Sunday wouldnt have happened.
    There is not a lot to gain by releasing these pictures, but there is much to lose. Conspiracies in the Islamic world will not die if these are released… the same people who claim to not believe this news until they see a photo are the same people who would claim that we doctored the photo if it was released. These people will believe what they want to believe– I think he made the right choice.

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  23. Linda says:

    Obama made the correct decision on this. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda have killed far more Muslims than Americans. His burial at sea was not by Muslim custom because he did not die on the seas, but it was a good decision so that there would be no grave site to be either desecreated or honored.
    I don’t think most Muslims around the world need to see a photograph to believe he is dead. Many of them in the Middle East and North Africa are fighting for their own freedom and to govern themselves.
    The U.S. does not hold public beheadings or drag bodies of those we kill through the streets. Likewise we don’t need to show these pictures and set that brutal example for our children.
    Those who doubt bin Laden’s death will continue to do so. Al Qaeda will continue to try to attack the U.S. whether they believe it or not.
    It’s time to move on to issues of more importance like: Who in Pakistan knew what and when about
    bin Laden’s being there for the past six years? And how do we deal with Pakistan in the future?

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  24. Linda says:

    Obama made the correct decision on this. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda have killed far more Muslims than Americans. His burial at sea was not by Muslim custom because he did not die on the seas, but it was a good decision so that there would be no grave site to be either desecreated or honored.
    I don’t think most Muslims around the world need to see a photograph to believe he is dead. Many of them in the Middle East and North Africa are fighting for their own freedom and to govern themselves.
    The U.S. does not hold public beheadings or drag bodies of those we kill through the streets. Likewise we don’t need to show these pictures and set that brutal example for our children.
    Those who doubt bin Laden’s death will continue to do so. Al Qaeda will continue to try to attack the U.S. whether they believe it or not.
    It’s time to move on to issues of more importance like: Who in Pakistan knew what and when about
    bin Laden’s being there for the past six years? And how do we deal with Pakistan in the future?

    Reply

  25. Dan Kervick says:

    Not releasing a photo of some sort furthers a bad trend of governments — that the public doesn’t have a right to know, that governments are better stewards of the truth and of basic information than the public.
    That’s ridiculous. Isn’t it a violation of international law to display the remains of enemies killed in combat? It would be a good trend in government to start obeying the law.
    There is nothing the White House can do at this point to dispel doubt. If people believe the White House account is fake, they’ll believe the photo is faked. And if people believe the White house already, then they don’t need a photo.
    They could have asked family members to identify the remains. But once they disposed of the body at sea, they eliminated the possibility of providing confirmation for doubters.

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  26. karenk says:

    If there’s one thing we Americans haven’t got, it’s delicate sensibilities-SHOW US THE PHOTO!

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  27. John says:

    I think the same people who are inclined to think that this is a huge hoax which motivated thousands of people in the US to take to the streets on Sunday night would also be inclined to disbelieve “proof” as doctored. I really don’t think either side of this “debate” has enough of advantage to argue that the other’s position is a “mistake.”

    Reply

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