The Death Photo of Osama bin Laden

Catchy title, isn’t it?

The world is all abuzz since the announcement was made that the man with the most recognizable name in global terrorism, Osama bin Laden, was shot and killed in a military raid on his compound in Pakistan. Some of the buzz centers on the degree of knowledge Pakistan had of bin Laden’s whereabouts. The overwhelming reaction was jubilation, tinged by a rather surprising dose of doubt and cynicism. That doubt and cynicism has coagulated into a strong demand for photographic evidence that bin Laden is actually dead, something the President of the US is unprepared to offer his constituents. Should he? And, why the hell are we so set on seeing the picture?

I’m not going to shed a tear for Osama bin Laden. It doesn’t bother me in the least that he’s dead. I can understand why so many people were hoping this would be the eventual outcome. He was an evil dude with a warped ideology, and having one less person fitting that description eating, breathing and defecating on this planet is a step in the right direction.


I feel it’s a little inappropriate and shocking that our collective bloodlust is so great that celebrations were held in the streets with singing, flag waving and cheering. And, in the US, chants of “USA!” People took to the Twitterverse with questions and answers to “What are you going to be doing to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden?”

Again, I get it that he was evil and did bad things, including the murder of innocent Americans and Canadians, but isn’t the degree of our jubilation just a little obscene? It’s one thing to feel glad that someone of his ilk is dead, but it’s something entirely of a different sort to dance amongst your fellows like it’s New Year’s.

I can’t help but remember how, on 9/11, so many teary-eyed Americans asked in genuine shock why the felling of the Twin Towers was met by cheering and singing in the streets in the Middle East. “How can they hate us so much? How can they be so happy?” Well, now you know, don’t you? Change the wardrobe and language being spoken, change the backdrop to something a little dustier and with more sand, and this week’s display of public joy doesn’t look a whole lot different to what the Americans had such a difficult time understanding back then.

Sure, the people killed on 9/11 were innocents. They certainly were not bin Laden’s. But, that’s a Western mindset, isn’t it. To a culture that has seen far more war and with a much longer history, the destruction of the symbols of the enemy is the same as our destruction of the person responsible for atrocity.

Anyways. We could have faced all of this with more grace as human beings, that’s all.

I also find it fascinating that all of those people who were so quick to deride and belittle the folks that presented conjecture that there was US involvement in the events of 9/11, using stupid labels like “conspiracy theorist,” are some of the same people who are demanding a photo to prove that bin Laden is dead. I can’t begin to count the number of times I have read or heard an expression of doubt about his death. “Do you think they really got him?”; I heard it yesterday, and all of these doubts imply that there’s a thought that maybe the government concocted the story. Maybe they didn’t find him, or want us to think that he’s dead so that we think they did their job, or maybe they captured him and spirited him away to some secret interrogation lair. The death of Osama bin Laden has made “conspiracy theorists” of a greater portion of American and Western society than the driving of passenger jets into the World Trade Center towers and the deaths of almost 3000 innocents on 9/11.

Would a photo of the body of Osama bin Laden really prove anything? Would it dispel the cynicism or the doubts? How could it? If the government can create this elaborate story, they can do something as simple as Photoshop a picture. I mean, seriously. I think a reasonable amount of the desire to see the picture goes beyond the desire to see if this story is really real. Some of it is a desire to continue the party, to see the trophy and to celebrate over the corpse of the individual that we have been made, not a little rightly, to hate and blame for so many things that have gone wrong. Hell, if it was possible to drag his body through the streets of Washington, I can only begin to imagine the crowd that would have turned out for the event and lined up to take a kick at the carcass. Sick and primitive, but try and convince me I’m wrong. Try and convince yourselves.

Face it, we may not drive jet liners into buildings or declare a jihad on our enemies, but we have our own ways of perpetrating violence in the name of ideology, and our desire to see our enemies tortured and dead is no less than our enemy’s. There isn’t very much separating us from them, and realizing that might be part of the solution to the messes we find ourselves in, if we can find the wisdom to recognize it and get past our pride to allow it.

Until then, the pictures of Osama bin Laden in health will haunt us as a symbol of all that is wrong, when the real hint lies a little closer to our mirrors.

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