More on the Osama Bin Laden pics…

Hamid Mir interviewing Osama bin Laden for Dai...

Image via Wikipedia

The AP has joined the fray:

The US government may be forced to release photographs of Osama bin Laden‘s body after the Associated Press news agency lodged a request under the Freedom of Information Act asking to see them. The request, which was lodged on Monday, also asks for video taken by military personnel during the raid and on the USS Carl Vinson, the ship that conducted Bin Laden’s burial in the North Arabian Sea.

The Obama administration decided not to publish pictures of Bin Laden, with the president warning it could inflame tensions and the case could end up in court. The government has 20 days to respond to the request.

“I think it’s going to be a hard road,” said Scott Hodes, a former Freedom of Information and Privacy Act lawyer at the justice department.

Meanwhile, the St. Pete Times has provided the strongest editorial argument in favor of release:

Details of the courageous raid on the walled compound in Pakistan where bin Laden was hiding already have been released, and the administration promptly corrected its initial description. There is little doubt throughout the world that bin Laden has been killed, and it seems unlikely that photos of bin Laden’s body could further inflame animosity against the United States among al-Qaida members and others with such hatred toward democracy and freedom. The photographs of the corpse might serve as a clearer message that the United States remains committed to fighting terrorism and that there will be consequences for killing innocents like those Americans who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.

A veteran war reporter worries that withholding the photos could infantilize the nation when it comes to the realities of war:

I understand and support President Obama’s decision not to release the bloody images of Osama bin Laden, for valid fear of fanning flames, but I do think it’s a slippery slope from national security concerns to the infantilization of a nation. President Bush, by not allowing photos of dead American soldiers coming home for burial, acted no better than a Soviet apparatchik. That these newly released amateur photos crudely shot with a flash, of unidentified bodies littering the blood-covered floor of Osama’s compound have come to light through Reuters I find not only historically refreshing but journalistically vital, perhaps even an adolescent-to-adult turning point in the way we, as a nation, perceive war.

To stare at the toy gun, half-hidden behind one of the men’s shoulders, in a thick pool of blood crisscrossed with what looks like a couple of USB cords, is to stare into both the absurdity and utter mundanity of hatred and violence. Lest we forget, this was once a man, and maybe that fluorescent green gun belonged to his child, or maybe it belonged to someone else’s child who wiled away his days in that fortress of madness, and maybe the dead man was a really bad guy who deserved to die, or maybe he was just the guy there to fix the computer. We’ll never know, but the image forces us to construct a narrative, to ponder the effects of conflict and death on future generations, to see the face of death up close and personal so that maybe when we find ourselves slipping into jingoistic shouts of “USA! USA!” it might give us pause and see the raid on Osama’s compound for what it was: the long-awaited bitter beginning, one hopes, to the end of a sustained and brutal war.

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