Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 4, 2011

OBAMA WON'T RELEASE OBL PHOTOS.... President Obama told CBS's Steve Kroft today that his administration won't release post-mortem images of Osama bin Laden, taken to prove his death.

Mr. Obama said he concluded that images of Bin Laden, bloodied by gunshots, would do nothing to persuade skeptics, but could inflame tensions in the Muslim world and pose problems for America's national security.

He disclosed his decision in an interview for the CBS program "60 Minutes," part of which will be broadcast on the network's evening news programs Wednesday.

According to a transcript read aloud at a White House press briefing, Mr. Obama said that there was no doubt Bin Laden was dead and that "we don't trot this stuff out as trophies -- that's not who we are."

The president went on to say, "[I]t 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." He added, "We don't need to spike the football.... [G]iven the graphic nature of the photo it would create national security risk."

I don't have especially strong opinions on this, but on balance, this strikes me as the right call. There are conspiracy theorists who'll continue to demand proof, but the funny thing about conspiracy theorists is that no level of proof is ever enough. They'd very likely say the photographs were faked, just like the moon landing and the president birth certificate.

And given the potential risks associated with the dissemination of the photos, Obama's call seems entirely reasonable.

Of course, this is not to say the photos won't leak anyway. Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee have reportedly seen them, and one assumes Intelligence Committee members will soon follow, if this hasn't already happened. It only takes one staffer with brief access to send the image to a worldwide audience.

But so long as the president has a choice, I think he's making the right one.

Bolstering this judgment, Sarah Palin today argued that releasing the photo would serve as a "warning to others seeking America's destruction." She went on criticize "pussy-footing around."

For what it's worth, I find it hard to imagine dissemination of the images would discourage terrorists, and it's ludicrous on its face to suggest those who just killed bin Laden are guilty of "pussy-footing around."

Steve Benen 3:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (41)

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"it's ludicrous on its face to suggest those who just killed bin Laden are guilty of 'pussy-footing around.'"

You can always count on Palin to go for the capillaries.

Posted by: John B. on May 4, 2011 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Release some generic long shots of the Muslim 'ceremony' aboard the Carl Vincent and the burial at sea- that will satisfy 1.5 billion Muslims that their religious sensitivities were observed, and it will (bonus points!) also mightily piss off a few thousand Republicans.

Posted by: DAY on May 4, 2011 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think a shot of U.S. sailors preparing OBL's body is going to satisfy anyone wanting to see a bloody face. And it would show the faces of U.S. military personnel, which wouldn't help. The conspiracy whackos will go on conspiring anyway.

But then, I thought the video of Saddam Hussein's hanging and the dead images of his sons were unnecessary and in bad taste, too.

Posted by: Molly Weasley on May 4, 2011 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Run for President, Sarah, and rest assured that when you lose, your picture will be everywhere.

Posted by: SaintZak on May 4, 2011 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Obama has managed this whole affair with thoughtfulness and maturity. Expect Republicans to be outraged.

Posted by: jb on May 4, 2011 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

This is an excellent decision by the Prez - and one benchmark that he indeed made the right choice was that every Republican in sight was starting to crow loudly for the immediate release of the photos. (Morning Joe this morning was a circle jerk of Republicans calling for the release of the photo). Obama made the right call.

Oh, and Palin remains a disgraceful idiot.

Posted by: June on May 4, 2011 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with Princess Sarah and others of her ilk, is that they really have nothing to lose (at least with their cadre of loyal followers) by saying literally anything they feel will rile the crowd.

Try to imagine Palin, Bachmann, Huckabee, Trump and others on a world stage, basically saying anything that comes to mind...and the repercussions.

Rather scary to say the least.

Posted by: Dalton on May 4, 2011 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Dear God, Sarah Palin is an utter dolt.

Posted by: TR on May 4, 2011 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

PALINaroundwithterrorists is just pissed-off that he wasn't shot from a helicopter while running for cover in the woods.

Posted by: Stevio on May 4, 2011 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Palin just wanted her name associated with "pussy-foot."

Posted by: Dan on May 4, 2011 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Sarah Palin today argued that releasing the photo would serve as a "warning to others seeking America's destruction." She went on criticize "pussy-footing around."

The President stated correctly, "This is not who we are." Don't want to hear anymore from Ms. Palin about American values.

Posted by: quaker in a basement on May 4, 2011 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

We don't need a post mortem picture. The commandos were wearing helmet cams. Show us the frames showing who they shot before they shot him. No gore.

Oh, wait. They now say they "lost the video feed" for 20 minutes - 20 minutes which included the shooting. How convenient.

Posted by: Old Uncle Dave on May 4, 2011 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Finally, a Republican that makes sense:

House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) announced Wednesday that he opposed the photos' release because the action could complicate matters for U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The risks of release outweigh the benefits," Rogers said in a statement. "Conspiracy theorists around the world will just claim the photos are doctored anyway.”

He questioned how Americans would react if al Qaeda killed a top U.S. military leader and released photos of the body on the Internet. “Osama bin Laden is not a trophy,” he said. “He is dead and let’s now focus on continuing the fight until Al Qaida has been eliminated.”

...and finally a Republican with which I can agree.

Posted by: whichwitch on May 4, 2011 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Whatever Palin says, let's do the opposite - and we'll be doing the right thing 99 percent of the time. Still proud to be an Obama voter in 2008 and a 2012 supporter. Repubs, you were wrong yesterday, wrong today, and you will be wrong tomorrow.

Posted by: MuddyLee on May 4, 2011 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone knows that Osama bin Laden was a myth made up by Bill Clinton to distract attention from the Lewinsky affair. Obama is just trying to cover for his fellow democrat by pretending to kill him.

Posted by: Th on May 4, 2011 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Once again, I remind posters/readers to refer to the movie Little Big Man..........where Custer refers to him (Dustin Hoffman) as the perfect reverse baramoter.....Ladies and Gentleman...Sarah Palin.

Good call Obama

Posted by: Mike Reilly on May 4, 2011 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

She [Palin] went on criticize "pussy-footing around." -- Steve Benen

She only ever opens her mouth to change the foot. And it ain't a kitty-foot, either.

Posted by: exlibra on May 4, 2011 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

You just know the Bushies would have had it plastered on billboards up and down I-95, playing it for all it was worth , just like the Saddam execution.
Sarah - go have sex with a moose

Posted by: John R AKA Mr. Serf Man on May 4, 2011 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

"we don't trot this stuff out as trophies -- that's not who we are."

Since when?

Posted by: martin on May 4, 2011 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

When a nutcase like Mike Rogers R-MI is the adult repub, we are in trouble.

Posted by: G.Kerby on May 4, 2011 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

The conspiracy theorists on the right take the idea that the President is an unworthy liar who stole the office as a badge of honor. NOTHING he says can possibly be true, that's how fierce Obama Derangement Syndrome is. Thus any anti-Obama conspiracy can't be proven wrong, it can only not be disproven right. In other words, until they see video footage that bin Laden is alive, they have no choice...but to assume bin Laden is alive. Because Obama said he's dead, and he's a liar.

Of course, the thing they won't admit is, this means they're calling those Navy SEALs liars, too.

Posted by: slappy magoo on May 4, 2011 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

which witch, @3:38 PM;

I, too was struck by Mike Rogers's mature and responsible attitude; with the Repubs fighting for space on the outermost end of the loony perch, this was quite unexpected.

The only "but" I had was that he didn't need to build a hypothetical mirror situation (how Americans would react if al Qaeda killed a top U.S. military leader and released photos of the body on the Internet.); we actually *had* a mirror situation in Iraq, when those 4 contractors were captured, killed, burnt and paraded like rotten fruit around Baghdad. The fury here was unbelievable. And they weren't even "top military leaders"...

Posted by: exlibra on May 4, 2011 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

It might endanger troops in the field. There are margainally crazier people out there then Republicans. The President made a responsible call on this one.

Posted by: max on May 4, 2011 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Why doesn't this woman just go home to her kids and get out of our sight or hearing, she is a useless piece of trash.

Posted by: j on May 4, 2011 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

I am a huge Obama supporter, but I feel that he is making a mistake here.

If there is going to be retribution for the killing of OBL, it will happen anyway.

But for the american soul, it would be good to see those pictures, even if they are gruesome.

Posted by: bonncaruso on May 4, 2011 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

How does this argument "It might endanger troops in the field. There are margainally crazier people out there then [Democrats]. The President made a responsible call on this one," sound on not releasing the Abu Ghraib photos?

Posted by: Chris on May 4, 2011 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

From the world of 12-dimensional chess playing...some overly impressed part of me is wondering if Obama released his birth certificate last week as a test case in anticipation of the OBL death pix. After all, here we have firm documentation to counter a popular, paranoid conspiracy myth, which upon release does nearly nothing to dissuade the myth-holders.

Push comes to shove, Obama can cite the birthers as proof that releasing the OBL pix will be totally ineffective. Bonus is that he would, in doing this, associate the birthers with OBL apologists and mythologizers.

Posted by: Mark on May 4, 2011 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

"we don't trot this stuff out as trophies -- that's not who we are." - Since when?

Since 2008. Elections have consequences.

And now that we don't have a target for all those missiles and drones, can we retarget some of them on places like Crawford, Wasilla, and K Street?
(/snark)

Posted by: N. Wells on May 4, 2011 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

We have been lied to so much by our government in the past that to just have a press release informing us of what happened is always going to be suspect. We need confirmation and on an issue this large what did Obama expect.

However, when this information was first presented in "breaking news" there was no mention of photographs or any other confirmations. We were "told" OBL killed and then buried at sea. WTF?

I don't need to see any photos but I am glad to hear there were some taken and I am glad to hear that heads of the congressional committees saw evidence and that others not involved in the administration confirmed that it was OBL and that he was dead. If Bush would have made such an announcement without any photos or confirmation I would have been extremely skeptical...but Obama has shown himself to be a moral and honest statesman and certainly more believable.

I do want to make this point. Of the 2 of them- OBL and George Bush...Bush was the greater monster causing more death and needless destruction than OBL ever thought of. To me Bush/Cheney through their incompetence and greedy motivation are the greater monsters yet they walk around free.

Posted by: bjobotts on May 4, 2011 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

It is interesting to hear supposed Christians demand the modern equivalent of his "head on a silver platter."

Posted by: KenS on May 4, 2011 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Palin is the gal, if you remember, who shot an animal from a hehelicopter with a high powered rifle. A bloodthirsty stunt at bbest.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on May 4, 2011 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Very classy to not release the photos. Why gloat and risk antagonizing? Only a mind like Palin's would think this is a good idea.

Posted by: Classy Choice on May 4, 2011 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

"How does this argument "It might endanger troops in the field. There are margainally crazier people out there then [Democrats]. The President made a responsible call on this one," sound on not releasing the Abu Ghraib photos?"

@Chris: The Abu Garib photos were released via independent sources weren't they? Whether they were released by the Bush Administration or not I don't think anyone doubts they were a wonderful recruiting tool for the Iraqi insurgency which did get American soldiers killed.

Posted by: max on May 4, 2011 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

"I am a huge Obama supporter, but I feel that he is making a mistake here.

If there is going to be retribution for the killing of OBL, it will happen anyway.

But for the american soul, it would be good to see those pictures, even if they are gruesome.

Posted by: bonncaruso on May 4, 2011 at 4:07 PM "

I have to totally disagree with you on this one bonncaruso. I don't need this for my soul...it's perfectly fine not seeing such pictures.

Posted by: whichwitch on May 4, 2011 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Did we need to see pictures of Hitler's corpse to rest assured that the world was a safer place?

Posted by: Sasha on May 4, 2011 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

This is a good call. So many little children would end up seeing those pictures. There is already too much bloody mayhem in movies and tv.

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on May 4, 2011 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

The photos should be promptly released on May 1, 2111.

Sarah Palin is a horrible, horrible stupid shit-head.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on May 4, 2011 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

He should remind people that he does have some experience with the phenomenon of skeptics not being satisfied with the release of documentary proof.

You know they'd just ask for the long-form death photos...

Posted by: biggerbox on May 4, 2011 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Well, at least this way the birthers can slide right in to being deathers.

Posted by: doubtful on May 4, 2011 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is heading to New York to lay a wreath at the 9/11 memorial. His laying the wreath is the image the White House wants to dominate the news. That's why no pix of OBL.

Posted by: James Conner on May 4, 2011 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

If that picture does leak, will the leaker/s be subjected to the same treatment as Bradley Manning?

Posted by: Skip on May 4, 2011 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK
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