Who We Are

Kevin Drum makes the case for releasing the photos of Osama's corpse:

These are public records of a very public operation against public enemy #1, and like it or not the public should have access to them. The only reason to withhold them would be for reasons of operational security, and I don't think that applies here.

Dave Krueger agrees:

What really galls me is the arrogant position permeating this debate that American’s need to be shielded from the gruesome truth for their own good.  In my humble opinion, if we don’t have the fortitude to see what they’ve done, then they probably had no business doing it.

I'm conflicted here but think the president's position is, in the end, motivated by exactly the right reasons:

"That’s not who we are. We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies."

We celebrate not the death of an individual as such but the blow to his wicked organization, and some closure and justice after his multiple mass murders. To put his head on a digital spike and display his mangled head is, indeed, not the Western way. We are better than that.

How do I square this with my usual unsparing policy of airing all and every image of war? Because this is a named individual and a victim of the war he waged, and we do not display these things like scalps on a wall. Seeing his face does not bring home to us anything we don't already know. It offers no insight into the horrors of war and violates some core Geneva notions of the dignity of captives and corpses.

This is a special case, it seems to me, for restraint as the flipside of a just war. We don't torture and we respect the human dignity of even our worst enemies. This is partly what we fought for – to reverse the barbarism of al Qaeda, not reflect it. We failed for years. We are now beginning to succeed. The right way.