On the way back from the store, I managed to catch the last few minutes of a prolonged rant by radio talk host Mark Lavin. He was all worked up in his typical lather, this time because President Obama decided not to release photos of Osama Bin Laden taken after the recent raid leading to his death.
Among other things, Mr. Lavin alleged that we wouldn’t have hesitated to post such photos in World War II or worry about hurting the feelings of the Japanese or the Germans in that war, saying “I don’t give a damn!” in regards to any offense caused to combatant Muslim fundamentalists who qualify as terrorists.
While I am in agreement about not worrying about offending terrorists, and while not wanting to make anything akin to a ‘moral equivalence‘ argument, I have to disagree with the nature of his comments in regards to the photos. I will avoid making it a moral equivalence argument by refraining from phrasing it as ‘how can we say…’ type statements but instead focusing on ‘why’ we have made some arguments in the past in support of my view as to why we ‘should not‘ release any photos of Bin Laden’s dead body.
Almost exactly 7 years ago on May 7th, 2004 we learned of the gruesome death of Nicholas Evan Berg when not only was the news released of his being captured and held by terrorists, but the terrorists themselves released a video of his being beheaded that went viral on the internet. At the time we were outraged not only by the act itself but by the superfluous act of releasing the footage.
Then of course there was 9/11, when we saw Palestinians celebrating in the streets of Israel with reports of celebration in other regions known to be less friendly to the US and western nations.
We expressed outrage at news sources like Al Jazeera for continuing to be a mouthpiece for Bin Laden and other pro-terror leaders who were doing little less than gloating following various attacks on pro-western targets.
It’s not Moral Equivalence.
I am not making an argument that ‘we are no better than them’. We clearly are. There are ongoing complaints that we often go ‘too far’ in trying to promote the ‘rights’ or at least to take great care in protecting the rights of innocents in our efforts to put an end to terrorism. (Mark Lavin’s argument is just another example of one of these) We are better because we do not act without reasonable cause and without seeking input and even assistance from our allies and the international community in general.
And, as I already stated, I am not going to frame this from the perspective of ‘how can we possibly …. in the future if…‘. Instead, look at why we were outraged by the prior events mentioned. We do follow reason and there were reasons to be outraged.
Our leaders may use reason and consultation in coming to solutions, but our leaders are practically guaranteed airtime whenever they speak of our achievements to destroy our enemies. Because our leaders use reason and wisdom, and because our nation bears global influence, there is nothing wrong with that. And we support freedom of the press. And our leader has already spoken of the death of this enemy to our freedoms.
Again, Obama was far more justified to go on media sources to break the news. Our action was a response to specific acts recognized worldwide as unprovoked attacks on innocent citizens. While an Islamic extremist could probably raise many events relating to specific acts of the west that are worthy of question and even condemnation, they do not seek acceptance or agreement with their ideas in the global community but instead act hastily and recklessly and cheer the deaths of innocents and combatants alike.
We’ve already seen footage that has made the news wires of celebrations in Washington DC and New York city following the announcement by our president. Many news sources and political figures are quickly trying to point out that the celebrations ‘probably’ reflect a celebration of justice having been done. And whether or not there are vindictive, vengeful faces in those crowds, I do not think it wholly unreasonable that most in the crowd would concur with that assessment of their motives.
(consequently, there were also large scale celebrations in the Arabic community here in Dearborn, MI – and they are essentially saying the same thing, that they are celebrating justice having been done. They point out the fact that Bin Laden has killed more Muslims than Americans. But additionally many of the former middle eastern Muslims here are also saying they are glad to see him gone because of the damage he has done to the reputation of non-extremist followers of Islam)
Finally, do we really want to cross the last border of those things we have previously condemned (with good reason) by making public the pictures of a dead leader of our enemies? What would it achieve? Lavin eluded to things such as ‘showing our resolve’ or making it clear to our enemies ‘what we are capable of’. But was not tracking down and killing him sufficient to do that? What necessity is there to release the photos that would not qualify as braggadocio or overkill?
Justice was served when we sent in the seals and they got the job done. There is no necessity of heaping on gratuitous releases of macabre photos and putting us in the same camp as our enemies when it comes to how we behave as a civilized nation.