With GOP contenders Herman Cain and Mitt Romney being the latest to rebuke those demanding the of release the photographic evidence of Osama Bin Laden’s demise, the issue has gone from being simply another in a list of PR follies by the Obama administration following Sunday’s announcement, to a fully bi-partisan denial of American's freedom to access information. Unfortunately for those who hold this position, their argument for withholding these photographs do not hold water.
Generally speaking, the arguments against the release of the photos falls into three categories, all of which are easily dismissed when subjected to scrutiny.
1. Jihadis will use the photographs for propaganda purposes.
This argument fails for two reasons.
First, if Jihadi propagandists want to use images of a dead bin Laden to stir up sentiment against America, they’ll simply manufacture one. They have done so in the past, and this time will be no different. There are no less than half a dozen images already floating around the internet purporting to be images of bin Laden’s corpse. They have all been proven to be photoshopped of course, but that hasn’t stopped them from spreading like wildfire. In fact, some of these photos have been so realistic, they have even fooled American officials. Is there any doubt that these pictures could be used if the propagandists desired to do so?
Secondly, what exactly is the propaganda value to a movement, of that movement’s leader with his brain matter spread across the floor? Is there anything about photographic evidence of a gruesome death that screams, “Join Us!”? I would argue that such images would have much less value than one of, for example, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, smiling and healthy at Guantanamo Bay. A simple investigation of history will show you that such images are far more effective and likely to be used than a snuff photo. Look, for example, at Nazi and Soviet propaganda and you are unlikely to see images of a dead soldiers, favoring instead the idealized images of the strong Aryan, or the hearty comrade. This principle doesn’t change, even for the martyrdom-obsessed jihadis.
2. Americans don’t want to see trophy images of their dead enemies.
Americans don’t want a trophy shot, we want photographic evidence of justice having been done. This is not, as some would say, inconsistent with American values. As a matter of fact it’s codified in American law.
Federal law allows for victims and the families of victims to view executions. For example, after the trial and conviction of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, 223 survivors and family members of victims watched on closed circuit television as he a fatal cocktail was administered. Is this, as critics suggest, evidence of a lust for vengeance on the part of the victims? Or could it be that the victims should be allowed the courtesy of seeing justice carried out?
Of course, it’s the latter.
Americans have been victimized by bin Laden and his minions on multiple occasions. Our government should extend the courtesy of allowing us the see justice being carried out.
3. Conspiracy theorists aren’t going to be satisfied no matter what we do.
As civil rights attorney Alan Dershowitz (hardly known as a wild eyed conspiracy theorist) said in a recent piece arguing for the release of the photos, "many reasonable people...will wonder whether the decision may also have been based on a desire to suppress the whole truth." This is not about satisfying fringe group of conspiracy theorists that bin Laden is dead, it’s about transparency.
Those who are arguing against the release of the bin Laden photos are being dishonest in their reasoning. This is not about your safety, this is not American values, and this is not about conspiracies; this is about our government controlling information. Our government, meant to be a porous institution answerable to its citizens, is openly keeping a secret from us and make no mistake about it; it’s a big deal.
Nick Rizzuto it the producer of The S.E. Cupp Show. You can watch The S.E. Cupp show at 1pm on Insider Extreme. Follow on Twitter @Nick_Rizzuto.