Obama Won’t Count Coup with Usama

by Kevin Jon Heller

Following up on my previous post, Obama has announced that he will not release photos of Usama bin Laden’s body:

It is important to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool,” said the president.

“We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies,” Mr. Obama added. “The fact of the matter is, this is somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received.”

The president said he had discussed the issue with his intelligence team, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and that they agree with the decision. White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that Mr. Obama made the decision today.

In explaining his choice not to release the photo, Mr. Obama said that “we don’t need to spike the football.” He said that “given the graphic nature of these photos it would create a national security risk.”

This is the right call, and Obama deserves credit for it.  (As I predicted, the right-wing has been in a lather for the past couple of days over his decision to dispose of UBL’s remains in accordance with Islamic principles.)  The only non-frivolous counterargument is that photographic evidence is necessary to convince people that UBL is actually dead.  Obama addressed that concern, noting that there is no doubt among members of al Qaeda that the U.S. killed their leader.  (I’m sure most readers have seen footage of the various al Qaeda groups crying over the news.)  There will always be some people, Muslim and non-Muslim, who believe that UBL’s death is a hoax, but it’s silly to think that the U.S. would convince such people simply by releasing a photo.  If the birthers and the truthers have taught us anything, it’s that conspiracy theories are effectively impervious to rational argument.


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