Since the announcement Sunday regarding the killing of Osama Bin Laden, there has been a less than subtle undercurrent to many of the conversations regarding this event. In particular, there have been vocal rumblings amongst more than a few that the event in question may not have happened unless the death photo is released.
But the kind of person who demands photographic proof that Bin Laden is dead to believe it is true is likely the same kind of person who would not accept such proof. Even before a decision was made about releasing the photos, there were elements who were discussing the fact that the photos were doctored, sight unseen. It seems safe to say that no matter what proof is provided to these individuals, they are not going to accept the veracity of that documentation.
To put this matter into perspective, think about those individuals who claim that the moon landings were a series of hoaxes. No matter how much evidence and how many first-person accounts these people are presented with, it is never enough. They are convinced in their mind that the events in question were fabricated, and nothing will dissuade them from that opinion. And the people who, in internet parlance, are basically saying "Pics or it didn't happen!" are the same way: they are predisposed not to believe that this event happened.
DNA evidence has freed innocent men and sent the guilty to prison, even years or decades after the crime has occurred. In a court of law, DNA evidence, along with an assortment of other scientific techniques, provides a greater chance of proving a case than a simple picture ever could. In fact, a plan to bomb the compound four months earlier was vetoed so that they could do that kind of post-mortem analysis (amongst other reasons).
I am sure that if given a choice, a prosecuting attorney would rather have the mountain of evidence that accompanied the identification of Bin Laden rather than one photo.
If in the American legal system, the steps taken in identifying the body would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was in fact Osama Bin Laden if this were a court case, why is this suddenly not acceptable in the court of public opinion?
I understand why certain members of the media may want a picture. After all, being the outlet that obtains them first would likely be a ratings coup. But why does the average person need to see them? I am not talking about those who lost loved ones in the September 11th attacks. I mean, why does everyone else need to see them when in general, the pictures of other criminals or terrorists killed after a raid are not shown to the general public?
In short, I respect the decision not to release the photos, as the reasoning for not doing so is in keeping with past precedent and given the other factors involved in the identification of the body, I am satisfied with the information I have been presented. Again, if this were a court case, the prosecution would have proven its case to me.
* Article first published as The Osama Death Photo: Why do You Need to See It? on Blogcritics.