That’s super, but it’s also a dodge. Bin Laden wasn’t given a dignified burial replete with Islamic rituals so that Americans could high-five each other over their moral superiority to Al Qaeda. The reason he got better than he deserved aboard the carrier is that O and his team aren’t sure how wide the backlash would be in the Middle East if OBL’s remains were desecrated. Jihadis and their Islamist enablers would be outraged, but their outrage and calls for revenge were already priced into the decision to kill him. The real fear was that the humiliation of a devout Muslim by non-Muslims would lead to a surge in anti-Americanism in the region at a precarious moment in the Arab Spring. That would mean more jihadist recruits, which in turns would mean more threats against America. After eight years of Bin Laden’s crew killing Shiites in Baghdad and then Sunnis in Anbar province, one would think he’s sufficiently reviled in the Muslim world that denying him Islamic rituals before burial would post a minor risk of a backlash, but evidently it wasn’t minor enough. Too bad Steve Kroft didn’t press him on that.
It’s also too bad that he didn’t ask which “experts in Islamic law and ritual” the White House consulted with before deciding that burial at sea was okay, because plenty of top clerics seem to disagree. But then that just takes us back to the previous point: Obama knows full well that Bin Laden, for all his crimes and cretinism, is still a figure that holds appeal for some small but not insignificant percentage of Muslims. The U.S. was going to be demagogued by his acolytes no matter what it did and where it buried him, which explains why some sympathizers have already taken to calling the Arabian Sea … “Martyrs’ Sea.” The White House couldn’t win with them, no matter what it did, so it tried to lose as little as possible. Mission accomplished, I guess.