Thingish Things

What to Do with a Photo?

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - May• 04•11

I was entirely convinced yesterday that it was necessary to release a post mortem photo of Osama bin Laden. DNA evidence is the proof, but photos pack a wallop. I thought it important for the final image of bin Laden to be as unromantic as possible. (Although a post mortem photo of Che Guevera didn’t prevent that murderer from being romanticized.)

But my wife, who is smarter than I am, made good arguments last night for why that might be unnecessary, indeed, unhelpful. Despite some of our fashion trends, we are  a more tasteful nation than that, she pointed out. In other words, releasing the photo might diminish us.

Then I thought about a compromise. What if a photo was shown to select Arab leaders who could visually verify that the body in the photo is bin Laden. They could vouch for its authenticity, at least on face value. Anything can be faked. But what if one of them questioned it? What if one said he was unsure? And even if all of them said that the man in the photo indeed appeared like a deceased bin Laden, there surely would be doubters and conspiracy theorists anyway.

Some say showing the photo would rile up Islamic extremist fervor. I laugh when I hear that. As though Islamic extremists aren’t riled already. I don’t see that as a factor.

I am not alone in my vacillations, of course.  The most disturbing thing of this whole controversy may be the Administration’s very public internal debate on the matter. The CIA director says the photo will be released, while the Secretary of State and Defense Secretary say it shouldn’t be. All publicly. The Obama Administration had a good victory in taking out bin Laden. It made an administration with questionable competence look professional.  They shouldn’t squander that by airing internal rifts in the action’s aftermath.

So what to do about the photo?

I say show the thing and move on. Anyone who doesn’t want to look at it doesn’t have to.


You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Me says:

    I’m so tired of conspiracy theorists. Bin Laden is dead. Done. Let’s move on.

  2. Who are you? I don’t believe you are my sister.

  3. Your Friend says:

    You two are hysterical. I think Billy should post a piece that’s just the two of you exchanging comments.

    I think the photo is is rubbing salt in a wound and low class, a further celebration of death, which this world hardly needs. I think the sooner we move on the better. Then again, if we move on we’ll have to start hearing all of that deficit nonsense again.

    • Put it that way, Dwight, and I’m ready to go!

      In the end, I think the President probably did the right thing. I’ve been arguing it back and forth in my head for two days and I’m tired of the noise. Glad he put the issue to bed.

  4. Me says:

    Thought you might find this interesting–a perspective from a member of the “9/11 generation”:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.