Photos of Dead Terrorists

Written by Shiva Rodriguez (2011)
I just heard the news about Obama deciding not to release any of the post-mortem photos of Osama bin Laden after it was announced yesterday that at least one would be released. I could go on forever about the indecisiveness but I would rather spend the this time talking about history, suspicious natures, and who "we" are.

I personally would like very much to add Osama's deceased mug in that special folder of mine that I use for injury reference materials. But I understand that there are many people who have far greater reasons than I for wanting to see those photos, and I'd like to address that.

If you ask a roomful of honest people to raise their hand if they really trust absolutely everything that comes out of the White House, you probably won't see many hands raised. I've heard people whisper about not trusting the government all of my life but it's only been in the last ten years that I've seen people become extremely vocal about it. Of course, there are plenty of real nutcases out there to fan the flames, but there are plenty of clear-thinking Americans who have their eyebrows raised as well. This is something I take into consideration... why in the world would a government not want to release proof-positive on such a sensitive matter to a population that isn't exactly inclined to just take them at their word?

I really don't want to hear stories about how Osama and Obama have brunch together every Sunday in some secret bunker and laugh about how those stupid Americans "bought it".

We don't hear such stories about Saddam Hussein or Timothy McVeigh because there was hard evidence given to the people that those two enemies of the country were killed.

It's really not a blood-lust thing. It's actually an argument that has its roots in history. Want to know why famous heads were displayed at places like London Bridge? It wasn't someone's twisted sense of decorating. It was for identification purposes in the days before photography. The common folks could look up and see Thomas More's head on a pole, go back and tell their friends and families what they saw, and no one doubted that Mr. More was no longer among the living.

Many years ago when Daniel Pearl was murdered by terrorists and a video of his beheading was floating around on the internet, I had no less than six people ask me if I had seen it. They weren't asking it as they would inquire about a horror movie... they didn't want to see it for themselves but they wanted to know about it from someone they trusted. So I watched the video and let them know...yes, I saw it, and yes it actually happened.

I have never watched "Two Girls, One Cup" because I don't care to see that sort of thing... but I know what happened because of how many people I know who did watch it and told me all about it.

Which brings me to that whole "sensitive American" argument...

You are going to tell me that in a country where the two hottest-selling genres in entertainment are porn and horror, "most" Americans can't stomach a graphic war photo?

Well, we generally do have the common sense to keep potentially upsetting visuals in places where the people who want to see them can see them and those that don't can keep away from them. We don't see "Hostel" or "Bimbo Bangers" mixed in with the Saturday morning cartoons or afternoon soap operas.

If I want to find a particularly nasty photograph, I know exactly which websites to go to to start looking for it. I see no reason why the news media can't do likewise. "If you want to see the post-mort photos, visit our website and click here."

If you knew me around the time of the McVeigh execution, you already know my line about the media in these matters: "We've decided that a lethal injection video is too disturbing for Americans, but here's some dead babies for your viewing pleasure."

As far as the idea that we aren't vengeful trophy-hunters as a country... do these people at the White House ever pay attention to anything that goes on outside of their own social circles????

I watch the television every time I hear that a famous criminal is about to be executed. I know that they aren't going to let me see the needle go in the arm... but that's not why I watch. I tune in for the horse-and-pony show outside the prison gates. Serial killer Ted Bundy's execution is a particular favorite of mine because of how creative people got while celebrating his date with the electric chair. And I think they had every right to celebrate... the monster who scared the Hell out of them and took some of their friends in such a brutal way deserved to die. If someone like that was responsible for the death of one of my loved ones, I'd be right out there shaking pom-poms and cheering on the death squad too.

Osama bin Laden's actions managed to touch damned near every American's life... including those who hadn't even been born at the time of the 9/11 attacks. With as many people I saw who came out to celebrate in the middle of the night as soon as the news of his death came out, I don't think "we the people" have changed our minds about celebrating the death of our public enemies.

But even while caught up with the excitement of the news that night, there were (and still are) plenty of people who wished to see proof-positive that the man is dead. And to people who aren't familiar with the laws and customs of Islam, a very quick burial at sea sounds very fishy... no pun intended.

But we might upset the Muslim world and invite retaliation!

Ummm... I think that ship sailed a long time ago. I seriously doubt that folks who want to bring this country down to its knees are sitting around waiting to see if we release photos of a dead icon as a deciding factor to proceed. As it is with most bull-headed fundamentalist of any religion, they'll find a reason to be inflamed and offended no matter what we do. Why do we insist of trying to placate people who want us all dead?

Back to the trophy hunter argument...

Americans don't brag? Seriously???? How many freakin' "Good Guy Badges" does our government parade around whenever something awful happens around the world? Captain Democracy flies in to right the wrongs and give help to those less fortunate, to give them a taste of freedom... but we don't brag about it. We don't do cartwheels in the street when our forces take down a top terrorist. We're just not like that.

Yeah, right.

As I'm writing this, my mother just came in and told me that one of the news networks is reporting that they might show us some photos of the dead couriers in bin Laden's compound. So much for the "sensitive American" argument. And nice try at trying to dodge the issue about releasing photos of the dead man himself. Surely we won't clamor for Chateaubriand if they offer us hamburger.

I'm turning off the news. Would someone please whistle for me when the folks at the White House stop chasing their tails and start paying attention to the nature of the people they are supposed to be governing?

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