It’s been so long my fingers are unsure.
I saw a sign in the Times that was a sign of the times. Obama 1, Osama 0. Nice. I certainly did not feel the urge to run out and chant “U.S.A., U.S.A.” in the streets. That seemed crass, to so vocally celebrate the assassination of a man, regardless of his crimes. I did feel that justice had been served. The question now is should the United States release pictures of the slain Bin Laden?
Displaying pictures of a man shot in his head reduces us a nation. I recall when so called Iraqi insurgents gathered cheering around the dead bodies of U.S. contractors hanging from a bridge. It was barbaric. It seemed to be a lack of civility from a different era. It was reminiscent of white slave holders chopping off the feet of runaway slaves and displaying the severed limbs as a message to others. I’m sure the insurgents felt that they were exacting justice on the contractors and sending a message to others, “You invaders are not welcome here!” Publicizing the pictures of Bin Laden’s body would be an act in the same vein.
What purpose would it really serve? Those members of Al Qaeda and other extremists who believe that the announcement of Bin Laden’s assassination is propaganda will believe what they want to believe regardless of any evidence to the contrary. They are in the category of Donald Trump, a mindless lot for whom evidence and reason are just irritants. Showing pictures of Bin Laden’s body will not change the minds of that group. Not only would it not change their minds, but it raises the question of what the best outcome would be. Do we really think they will say, “The U.S. killed Osama, I guess it’s time to focus on democracy and Jesus.”? Surely not. Fundamental beliefs thrive on adversity. The pictures will serve as fuel, as a renewal of the fight.
On these shores, showing the pictures will invigorate American’s like those who destroyed a Mosque and left a sign, “Osama down, Islam is next.” That fraction of the American public is larger than we like to admit. They thrive on ignorance and violence is ever near. Like Trump and the birthers, they would have black people show our freedom papers for inspection to prove we’re Americans. They would bludgeon immigrants crossing the southern border and display their broken bodies as deterrents. This behavior in the United States is already here. It does not need encouragement.
Showing Bin Laden’s picture would be a mistake. President Obama’s order to assassinate Bin Laden was a clear display that the arms of American justice will get you. No doubt. His message to the nation and the world was what it ought to have been, Presidential. He should leave it at that.