Leavening the nation’s collective relief (if not outright joy) at the news that noted terror enthusiast Osama Bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan last week was the controversy over whether the Obama Administration will publicly release photos of Bin Laden’s corpse.
Why, one might reasonably ask, would anyone want to see photos of someone reportedly shot in the face? Bin Laden was a singularly un-handsome fellow to begin with, and I can’t imagine a wound the size of an ashtray in his forehead has improved his appearance. But apparently, some people feel they’d like to see the pictures simply because they represent proof that what the president told us is true: that Osama Bin Laden was shot by American soldiers.
Personally, I don’t care if they release these photos or not. I don’t have any desire to see them, but if the government published them, it wouldn’t upset me. I might look at them, but I might not. I really don’t know and I truly don’t care.
Some have argued that the photos are too grisly to publish, and I’m sure they are not for the squeamish. I’ve also read that publication of these pictures might inflame the Muslim world to take action against us. I would argue that that train left the station about 20 years ago — but that’s not an argument, just an observation.
Those on the other side of the argument seem to feel that it would provide us all with some closure to see the guy’s head on a stick. Maybe it would. He killed 3,000 people and completely ruined the aughts for everybody. I’ve even seen him blamed for the current recession via the following logic: interest rates fell to historic lows after 9/11 as a means of keeping the economy moving, which led to the housing bubble, which led to the crash and the current recession. It might feel good, on a primal level, to see him dead, but it’s not going to undo the cultural wreckage of the financial crisis, the Iraq War, or reggaeton.
Though this argument, like so many others, seems to break along partly lines (with right-wingers demanding to see the photos and left-wingers favoring discretion), Jon Stewart broke ranks and argued that maybe we should see pictures of everything that happens in a war, including this, so that we as citizens make more informed decisions about whether or not we engage in one. I take that point… but I still don’t care. Show them, don’t show them, it makes no difference to me. Put them in lights in Times Square, or consign them to the same drawer the photos of the guys firing from the grassy knoll are in — either way, I’m good.
But I would like to address the part of the argument that seems the most senseless to me, which is the idea that we can’t really be certain that Bin Laden is dead unless we see these photos. I heard a guy on an NPR call-in show saying that he had assumed that Bin Laden was killed years ago but the Bush Administration had kept it secret, so he wanted to see some proof. First of all, the notion that George W. Bush (whom you might remember from such blockbusters as “Mission Accomplished”) presided over the killing of Bin Laden and didn’t shout it from the roof of the White House every night until the end of his presidency — at which point he would shout it from the end of his driveway in Texas every night — is laughable.
But the idea that a photograph is going to serve as definitive proof doesn’t hold much water either. If it does, well, I just found definitive proof that Bin Laden likes to unwind in a bubble bath with a can of malt liquor; that he wears that turban in order to conceal the fact that his head is distinctly phallic from the forehead up; that he attended a State Dinner as a guest of Condoleezza Rice; that he plays keyboard in Britney Spears’ band; and that he had inappropriate relations with a sheep while riding a motorcycle.
Any evidence can be faked, and more to the point, everyone knows any evidence can be faked so no evidence is definitive, at least not to someone who is skeptical to begin with. If you doubt this notion, may I refer you to State of California vs. Simpson, Orenthal James.
I have read and watched and listened to quite a bit of debate on this topic, but there’s one point I haven’t heard anyone raise yet, which is why I’m weighing in on the matter an unthinkable three news cycles after the fact.
You know what I would do if I was Osama Bin Laden, alive and well even after the infidels were claiming to the entire world that they had killed me? I would do exactly the same thing I had been doing for the past ten years: I would release a tape taunting the world that they hadn’t found me, hadn’t killed me, and threatening more attacks, thereby pantsing the U.S. government in front of the whole school and humiliating them for going so far out on a limb with such an easily disprovable lie.
Every time Bin Laden released a tape to the world, spewing all his stupid hateful crap about jihad and Mohammed and durka-durka, CNN and MSNBC and Fox News rolled out their voice recognition experts and their forensic videotape experts to confirm that yes, this tape really was Bin Laden, and no, he really hasn’t died of kidney failure yet because here he is talking about the presidential election and scientific analysis of the tape stock reveals that this tape was recorded less than a month ago. Does anyone think that if Navy SEAL Team 6 hadn’t really just popped this dude that a new tape of his psycho crap wouldn’t be on al-Jazeera by now?
There seems to be a certain segment of Americans that has folded its arms and decided that nothing our president says can be believed, and that nothing he does is good enough. I can relate to that to a certain degree, because I felt that way — to a point — about his predecessor. (Although I was a big fan of what I consider his greatest achievement: the Do Not Call Registry.)
But at a certain point, don’t you have to listen to common sense? Even Barack Obama’s bitterest critics concede that whatever ideological differences they have with him, he is a very intelligent guy and a master politician. Would a master politician risk the global embarrassment of lying about this? Saying you got a media whore like Bin Laden when you didn’t would be like claiming you got the prom queen pregnant; people might believe you at first, but when her belly doesn’t get any bigger they’re going to know you were lying. (Or that she got an abortion. Slut.)