President Obama, speaking to interviewer Steve Kroft, of CBS News, and later speaking to a gathering of the press through White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, has announced a decision not to reveal to the press, or to the American public the photographs of terrorist Osama bin Laden, killed this week in Pakistan. The president also announced that he would not allow the public to see photos or videos of bin Laden’s burial at sea which, we are told, was done for a number of reasons, including the statement that “no nation would accept the body for burial,” and the assertion, somewhat baseless according to experts, that such a burial was consistent with Muslim tradition and respect for the dead. The refusal to release all photos and videos was deemed an effort to avoid the arousal of more intense hatred of the free world by the terrorist community.
Clearly, Muslim sensitivities have some merit, but we live in a world with a free press and we, as American victims of bin Laden’s destruction, have legitimate questions and concerns for closure. We were told repeatedly that the death photos reveal a man shot in the forehead; that is what we believed and accepted. We are not to express concern that the man was brought to death by a team of Navy Seals, armed with the most modern weapons and devices available, this in spite of the fact, as we were also told, bin Laden was not armed and was shot in the presence of wives and sons. Clearly, a live capture and a trial would be preferable to a brutal death and burial at sea. The burial at sea does not appear to have been authorized by anyone in the White House. We can only wonder from whom the order came. At the televised press conference March 4, the press secretary unintentionally misspoke, revealing that bin Laden may have been actually shot in the face; in Carney’s words, bin Laden was shot “above the neck.”
Looking at this affair objectively, we find it difficult not to have concerns and questions. What took place within that compound in Pakistan? Why wasn’t bin Laden captured and held for trial? Why was bin Laden shot simply on the strength of facial recognition? Why are we told in a mutter that there was some technical comparison recognition with photos from the past conducted at the scene, when there clearly was no time for such evidence to be developed?
The president also has announced that the DNA evidence, the final proof that the subject indeed was the master terrorist bin Laden, will not be available for scrutiny. That absence amounts nearly to an obstruction of sorts. Would a display of DNA evidence be in some matter disrespectful, or inflammatory?
In view of many questions, I believe that the people of the United States have some right to closure. I don’t rate the sensitivities of the terrorist community so highly as to overshadow our legitimate concerns. I doubt if I’m the only citizen with a diverging opinion. I believe there should be some outcry, and some demand for some or all of the related evidence in this incident to be made more readily available. While I have no doubt that bin Laden is dead, and with the assurance that if he is alive he surely will surface at some future time, to the discredit of our president and his staff, I hope for some demand from Americans and the global population for additional closure, as would be attained by the timely release of some or all of these materials.