The country is still in a state of euphoric celebration from the May 1 assassination of Osama bin Laden, and America wants to see the photos of his corpse. Proof is required to put a dent in the still-popular 9/11 conspiracy theories and to maximize the demoralization of al-Qaeda and bin Laden’s sympathizers. The White House should not be deterred about concerns over Muslim “sensitivities” and should immediately release the photos that the world needs to see.
The White House has expressed fear that the publication of the photos could be “inflammatory” and has concerns over their “gruesome” nature. There are three sets of photos of Bin Laden’s corpse: one taken at the Pakistani compound, one at the airbase in Afghanistan after the raid, and one of his body prepared for burial at sea. The Obama administration is considering releasing video of the assault and is likely to release footage of bin Laden’s burial.
CIA Director Leon Panetta said, “I don’t think there was any question that ultimately a photograph would be presented to the public.” Chief counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan also said, “We are going to do everything we can to make sure that nobody has any basis to try to deny that we got Osama bin Laden.” The discussion right now appears to be about what photos to release and how to do it.
The Obama administration should not be spending so much time worrying about a backlash in reaction to the photos. There has yet to be anything near a major backlash in the Islamic world to bin Laden’s assassination. There are no mass protests or burnings of American flags, and there are few calls for retaliation. If the death of Osama bin Laden failed to cause an eruption in the Islamic world, it is highly doubtful a gory photo would be any more “inflammatory.”
The delay in releasing the photos fuels conspiracy theories. It is commonly believed in Abbottabad, where bin Laden was killed, that the entire incident has been staged. As one local lawyer said, “They’re just making it up. Nobody has seen the body.” The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the military wing of Fatah, is also expressing doubts. The chairman of the parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee in Iran is also skeptical, saying that the U.S. has reported bin Laden’s death before. Another Iranian legislator says that the U.S. government killed bin Laden to prevent the world from knowing about his secret collaboration with it.
“The West was fully satisfied with bin Laden’s performance during the past years and today … it was obliged to kill him to prevent possible leakage of the priceless intelligence he had,” the Iranian official said.
The deputy chairman of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee agreed, declaring: “Bin Laden, whom all Muslim nations despised, was simply a stooge in the hands of the Zionist regime [of Israel], to show a violent image of Islam following the 9/11 attacks.”
Iranian President Ahmadinejad has asserted that the U.S. government had a role in 9/11 and called on the UN to investigate the matter. He was ridiculed in the West, but such theories have a large amount of support in the Islamic world. In 2008, a poll was conducted of 17 countries. The majorities in only nine of them believed that al-Qaeda carried out 9/11. In Egypt, 43 percent blamed Israel, 12 percent blamed the U.S. government, and only 16 percent blamed Al-Qaeda. In Jordan, 31% said 9/11 was carried out by Israel, 17% said the U.S., and only 11% said it was al-Qaeda. In Turkey, 39% said al-Qaeda was responsible, 36% said the U.S., and 3% said Israel. Interestingly, 42% of those in the Palestinian territories blamed al-Qaeda, a higher percentage than in the other three Middle Eastern countries. The U.S. was blamed by about 27% and Israel by 19%.
These are alarming statistics that show why the Obama administration must release as much proof as possible of bin Laden’s death. It should also release evidence of his involvement in 9/11 and attacks on Muslims whenever it is safe to do so.
So far, there is more outrage about the burial of bin Laden than over the likely release of photos of his corpse. The grand imam of Al-Azhar Mosque said the burial at sea “runs contrary to the principles of Islamic laws, religious values and humanitarian customs.” The grand mufti of Dubai said “sea burials are permissible for Muslims in extraordinary circumstances: This is not one of them.” A scholar in Iraq said, “What was done by the Americans is forbidden by Islam and might provoke some Muslims. It is not acceptable and it is almost a crime to throw the body of a Muslim man into the sea.” An extremist cleric in Lebanon named Omar Bakri Mohammed claimed: “The Americans want to humiliate Muslims through his burial.”
The Obama administration must also think of the Americans who have suffered through 9/11 and the subsequent military operations, losing loved ones and living with injuries and painful memories.
“The photos should be released so those of us who lost so much on 9/11, including our brave soldiers and their families, can finally get a sense of justice that has been denied to us for nearly 10 years. Seeing the actual photos will help us recognize this important milestone has finally been reached,” Tim Brown, founder of TheBravest.com and New York City firefighter and first-responder on 9/11, told Pajamas Media. “Is that too much to ask after what he did to us?”
The Obama administration should wait no longer. America deserves, and the world needs, to see the photos and whatever footage of the raid that is safe for release. The U.S. should not be scared into inaction by those who would react more angrily to seeing a dead Osama bin Laden than to the actions of a living Osama bin Laden.
Update: President Obama says no, he will not release the photos.