Senseless Obama Statement on OBL Photo

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For now at least, Obama isn’t releasing video or photos of the dead OBL. The reason he gives is “It is important to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool.”

There is no argument for government secrecy about an event like this in the democracy that Obama so admires. Shouldn’t the public in a democracy know what its government has done? What better way to show the public than by releasing the photos? Vast segments of the population are accustomed to seeing graphic materials in, for example, horror movies. Even if they were not, why should people be shielded from seeing the results of violent deaths? One can find books in libraries that show photos of gunshot wounds or victims of mustard gas or grenades. They are not pretty. Why shouldn’t people see what their elected government is doing? The answer is that the so-called democratic government wants to conceal the realities of its policies. It doesn’t want to enlarge the numbers of people who realize how horrible are the killings of their government.

Is it true that these photos are being concealed because they might stir up  terrorists or incite new ones? This reasoning contradicts far, far more major U.S. government incitements in the past and present that include invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan. They include videos of Iraqis being shot down for fun, tortured, photographed, made to do obscene things, and humiliated. They include a host of political-military actions in Lebanon, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. They include a long history involving Palestine and Israel. So what significant difference to terrorist motivations does it make if a photo of the claimed-t0-be dead OBL is released?

Can anyone take seriously Obama’s comment that “given the graphic nature of these photos it would create a national security risk.” National security risk is the lamest and emptiest umbrella excuse that our government officials always invoke when they wish to justify their misdeeds. In this case, they want to prevent Americans from fully realizing what this killing and any such killing mean. They don’t release graphic battlefield footage either. We are not treated to a steady diet of those who are wounded in American wars. The idea is to keep Americans insulated from the consequences of their actions. The idea is to prevent a guttural and emotional feeling against wars and such violence. The idea is to sanitize violence so that Americans do not feel that they in any way are responsible for it. Let the gore and violence be restricted to Hollywood blood bags, heads being blown apart, blood-spattered walls, and ever more graphic special effects that many young people idolize and expect in such films. But don’t let reality intrude.

For decades now, U.S. government officials have argued that they must punish (with sticks) the behavior of government officials in other nations when they don’t like it, and they must provide carrots when they behave as our government wants. I believe this carrot and stick approach dates at least to economist George P. Schultz. It takes economic reasoning into the political arena by assuming that other leaders will respond to the positive and negative inducements. However, its materialism overlooks the fact that many of us are not afraid to die and we are not afraid to triple our resistance rather than kowtow to the forces against us, even when they increase the punishments. Our determination to resist goes up, not down, in the face of sticks. The Schultz formula overlooks the spirit of man. It overestimates the material calculations made by people.

But if we follow out that line of carrot-stick reasoning, then the government would want to release the photos because they would say to terrorists “This is what is going to happen to you!” In fact, Hillary Clinton immediately threatened nameless terrorists and enemies with the same fate. Like Bush, she will hunt them down and she won’t hesitate to kill them. So it is contradictory for Obama to claim that the photos will be a propaganda tool while his Secretary of State makes such threats that would only be reinforced by showing the photos, not concealing them.

Certainly the photos are not going to incite the non-violent Muslims that make up virtually the entire population of Muslims in this world. They do not support al-Qaeda or its methods. That became very clear in Iraq when Iraqis deplored and acted against the violence being caused by al-Qaeda and/or similar elements.

These photos are not being released for another more general reason than to keep them from arousing American emotions. That reason is that the government prefers secrecy. That argument is presented at length here.

If OBL’s head was shattered by one or two gunshot wounds at close range, he may be unrecognizable in a photo. The photo after the shooting may be gruesome.  That means that photos need to be released that show him just prior to his being murdered in order to help make the case that indeed it was OBL that was killed. Why cannot that be done? What excuse is there for not doing that? There are several accounts of OBL’s death that date from 2001. Would you bet your life that it was OBL that was killed several days ago? That is one way to grasp how strongly you believe the official story. Burying him at sea should have been preceded by exhaustive proof that the man killed was OBL. The veil of government secrecy is currently preventing that proof from being released. We are asked to take the government’s word for it. That’s not good enough.

6:29 am on May 5, 2011