The debate over President Obama's decision to withhold Osama bin Laden's postmortem photograph will likely play out for years unless the president changes his mind or the photos are leaked online. But Obama's detractors aren't wasting any time throwing any and all arguments at the White House to put it on the defensive or throw it off guard. There are reasonable arguments to publish the photo, and not so reasonable arguments. Since cable news is filling up with heated debates, we thought we'd offer a score card. Happy haranguing, America!
How will the world know he's dead? The first U.S. senator to throw in this argument was Lindsey Graham. "I know bin Laden is dead. But the best way to protect and defend our interests overseas is to prove that fact to the rest of the world,” said the South Carolina Republican on Wednesday. “The whole purpose of sending our soldiers into the compound, rather than an aerial bombardment, was to obtain indisputable proof of bin Laden’s death."
How will the Middle East know he's dead? A couple fast headlines on Drudge Report point to stories of Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan refusing to believe the Al-Qaeda leader is dead. Ditto for the Taliban, which issued a statement saying "The Americans have not shown any credible evidence of Sheikh Usama's death, and his death has not been confirmed."
The mission requires it Sarah Palin took to her Twitter account in a flash after news came out. Releasing the photo is about showing who's boss: "Show photo as warning to others seeking America's destruction," she writes. "No pussy-footing around, no politicking, no drama;it's part of the mission."
The history books require it Considering all the grisly photos of the war on terror (9/11, Abu Ghraib, the murder of Daniel Pearl) Slate's Jack Shafer says the world can stomach a photo of bin Laden's corpse:
I don't advocate the photos' release because I think it will convince the unconvincible that Bin Laden is dead or because I desire a "trophy" or a football "spiked," as Obama puts it in his 60 Minutes interview. I'm for the publication of the pictures because they're an essential part of the war on al-Qaida. Withholding the photos and couching their suppression in the name of national security misjudges what makes al-Qaida tick and infantilizes the nation. It also sets a precedent for "news that's too gruesome to reveal."
The official narrative of bin Laden's death has changed too many times, we need photo evidence The White House's retraction of bin Laden being armed and using a female human shield has gotten Fox News' Shep Smith mighty skeptical. On camera today, Smith wondered aloud whether he could successfully file a Freedom of Information Request for the photo. After reflecting he told the Fox News lawyers to begin drafting one.
Taxpayers paid for it Sure bin Laden is dead, but this manhunt was expensive. To the victor go the spoils! writes The Daily Caller's Mike Riggs: "I can't be the only person who both believes that OBL is dead and that U.S. citizens deserve to see a photo for which they paid $1 trillion."
We can't kowtow to Muslim extremists Obama said the photo "will only serve to inflame public opinion in the Middle East." "So does the existence of free speech, America, Jews," writes Josh Treviño of the limited government think tank, Texas Public Policy Foundation.
The U.S. used to love this sort of thing "There Once Was A Time When The U.S. Military Enjoyed Spiking The Football," writes The Smoking Gun. The staff hauls out a series of WWII-era newsreel reports of U.S. officials killing Nazis via firing squad and hanging.
Obama is willing to show coffins of American soldiers, but not Osama Remember back in 2009 when the president lifted the 18-year-old military policy banning photographs of flag-draped coffins? Death-related photos didn't seem to bother him then! winks The Drudge Report headline: "FLASHBACK: Obama lifts photo ban on U.S. military coffins."
If you want Obama's side of things, here's a bit of his 60 Minutes interview in which he explains his decision:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.