REASON 64: I support Obama because, despite enormous pressure, he refused to publicize a picture of Bin Laden’s corpse.
Once, when you killed an enemy, you’d cut off his head and impale it on the longest stick you could find. Nowadays, you can just upload a clip of the corpse on YouTube, or email a file to Fox News. I remember every single detail of the dead faces of Saddam Hussein’s sons looking out at me from my computer monitor during the second Gulf War, and also the blurry clip of their father being executed. I never got to see Bin Laden’s corpse, and that was only because of one man.
President Obama’s decision not to publicize a picture of Bin Laden’s dead body was totally unexpected, and even though it passed with relatively few reverberations in the media, it was not an easy decision to make. The voices calling for the pictures to be made public sounded very reasonable: the world wouldn’t believe it if they didn’t see it; America’s enemies would refuse to accept the facts; America’s friends would continue to secretly suspect conspiracies. Nothing, in fact, could bring closure if we couldn’t open our browsers and see the shattered, dead face of the bogeyman. But concealed beneath that seemingly sensible request was the unmistakable, vengeful subtext: “Let us see—let us see that bastard dead.”
During his first term, President Obama made decisions that were much more important to the future of America, but there was something about this minor decision that marked him as a true leader. Obama, after all, had much to lose from not publicizing that picture: not only because the “experts” explained that the President’s humane act would strengthen American’s enemies, who understand only force, but also because a substantial number of voters would be disappointed when their leader did not provide concrete proof of that military success, and if there were a bit of blood involved, so much the better.
On the other hand, he had nothing to gain from not publicizing the picture: clearly, there was no active lobby for the protection of the rights of mega-terrorists’ corpses. In fact, to be more precise, there was only one thing Obama had to gain: his integrity would remain intact. And as any political advisor will tell you, integrity is a value with close to zero electoral power.
President Obama’s decision to authorize the assassination of the al-Qaeda commander was important and courageous, but the courage required to make it is of the familiar, common kind that wins wars. Not to publicize the picture of dead Bin Laden—that required a different kind of courage altogether, the courage to adhere to your personal, humane principles in the face of enormous political and media pressure. And it is exactly that kind of rare courage that is needed to inspire hope.
Tel Aviv, Israel
(Translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston)