Just saying no to the world's rubbernecks


After they fatally shot Osama bin Laden around the face or eyes, and before they dumped him to sleep with the fish, our elite troops took a photograph of the dead body.

It is said that the image, while gruesome, provides fairly clear evidence that this body indeed is bin Laden's and that indeed he is dead.

So we have endured several days of debate about whether the United States of America, this supposedly compassionate country, should put this picture out for all the world to behold.

Being such a devoutly religious people, we have been pondering that Old Testament commandment that says thou shalt not kill, but, if thou doest kill, thou shouldest brag about it.

Because the body was dumped overboard, we have been spared debate about whether we should bring in taxidermists so that we might mount this big game in the Smithsonian.

To be serious: There would be three conceivable reasons for releasing this image:

1. To prove to doubters and naysayers that indeed we killed this guy and are not simply lying about it.

2. To send a message to others interested in inflicting terror on us that this gruesome image reflects the very kind of thing that would happen to them.

3. To oblige otherwise decent people who, as the usually dear woman told me the other day, simply want to see. She's sorry, but she also cranes her neck as she maneuvers around car wrecks.

Let us take those in order and reject each of them forthwith.

First, we can never satisfy the more insanely conspiratorial among us. They think the Holocaust didn't happen and that we didn't walk on the moon and that Barack Obama is Kenyan and that Fox News is fair and balanced.

Some will insist that the entire military, intelligence and government hierarchy of the United States would concoct such an elaborate fraud. If you start trying to convince these people otherwise, you simply invite frustration. They will tell you that the photo is doctored, a fake.

Anyway, the point was to impose justice, not to celebrate the taking of human life. Wasn't it? The guy making the lethal injection to impose a death penalty -- do we want him high-fiving and then posting pictures on his blog?

Second, is there any terrorist or potential terrorist who, absent viewing of this image of a blown-up face and head, would seriously question that the United States can get tough?

Do they not see us plainly rolling our big tanks and carrying our big weapons into their very cities? Do they not see and hear the missiles soaring overhead? Did they not see that Saddam Hussein got hanged for messing with us?

How would you possibly use the threat of potential physical harm to scare a kid who is brainwashed by religious extremism into a willingness to blow his own self up? He is prepared to make infinitely more pieces of his own body than we made of bin Laden's. He surely would scoff at our understatement, our delicacy.

Finally, the mere curiosity of otherwise fine people is, alas, prurient and inappropriate, even if benign, and must not be obliged. Just because people might like a little porn now and then is no reason for the government to give it to them.

While we're at it, let us address this counter-argument that we should not release this image because it would inflame persons.

Chances are these people are inflamed already. Anyway, it matters more what we think of ourselves than what others think of us. This is about conscience, not tactics.

President Obama made the right call in saying the photograph would not be released. But he might have chosen a better metaphor than the one about how we shouldn't spike the ball.

John Brummett is an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock and author of "High Wire," a book about Bill Clinton's first year as president. His e-mail address is jbrummett@ arkansasnews.com.

 

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