Capping off the week in which American marked the death of Osama bin Laden is President Barack Obama’s decision to withhold from the public photos of the corpse in spite of vigorous demands for it.
In a geopolitical sense, it’s the right move. U.S. efforts in the war on terror were not exactly helped when the video of Saddam Hussein swinging at the end of a rope made its way around the world. It rallied the bad guys while forcing the good guys into the position of apologizing for an outcome that resulted from the most western of traditions, trial by a jury of one’s peers. [See photos of reactions to Osama bin Laden's death.]
It also helps make Osama more of a martyr than he already is. The last thing we need is, 10 or 20 years down the road, to have him celebrated on t-shirts and other apparel like Che Guevara is today by people who don’t really understand who he was or what he did.
What is interesting is the number of people who are insisting Obama release the photo, not so much out of a desire for closure as, I suspect, a real suspicion that the president is somehow not being truthful about Osama’s death. [Vote now: Which president deserves credit for Osama bin Laden’s demise?]
Don’t get me wrong: I believe Osama is dead and that he died largely in the time, place, and manner described by senior administration officials--even though the story has changed a bit each day since the news broke. But I also believe that Obama, like Richard Milhous Nixon, has acquired a trust issue among much of the American electorate. They simply find it hard to take him at his word--and with good reason.
Unemployment has increased, settling in at a level beyond what he promised it would. It turns out that, under Obamacare, you won’t necessarily be able to keep your current health plan even if you like it. He promised during the 2008 campaign that he would close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay which, at last check, remained open. He also kept in place many of the Bush anti-terror measures that he denounced in that same campaign.
The list goes on. The point being that people are now taking a “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude toward his presidency, which does not portend good news as far as his re-election goes. People want to see the picture to make sure Osama is dead. The president’s word, for right or wrong, is simply not enough.