Earlier this week, I found myself in perfect agreement with Allahpundit on the question of releasing the photo of Osama bin Laden’s corpse after the raid. I don’t buy for a moment that its release would stoke any more or less hatred and thirst for revenge than did the killing itself, but it wouldn’t have proven anything to anyone, either. In the end, al-Qaeda ended up confirming the kill anyway by, er, stating their thirst for revenge over our successful operation in Abbottabad. The Obama administration made a good call on the photo, probably betting that AQ couldn’t help but confirm bin Laden’s death.
However, the White House rested its case on the notion that releasing the photo would generate enough outrage to motivate terror networks into new operations and better recruiting. If that’s the case, then this decision seems rather strange, emphasis mine:
Americans are expected to get a glimpse of Osama bin Laden’s daily life with the disclosure of home videos that show him strolling around his secret compound, along with propaganda tapes that have never been made public.
The footage shot at the terror leader’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and the propaganda tapes are expected to be released to the news media Saturday, U.S. officials said.
They are among the wealth of information collected during the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden and four others. The information suggests bin Laden played a strong role in planning and directing attacks by al-Qaida and its affiliates in Yemen and Somalia, two senior officials said.
And it further demonstrates to the U.S. that top al-Qaida commanders and other key insurgents are scattered throughout Pakistan, not just in the rugged border areas, and are being supported and given sanctuary by Pakistanis.
Help me out with this one, please. If we didn’t release the photo because of its potential propaganda value for AQ and other terrorist networks, why exactly do we plan on publishing Osama bin Laden’s propaganda tapes? From where I sit, one of the benefits of bin Laden’s sudden commitment to room temperature is that he doesn’t get to do any more recruiting. I’d like to hear an explanation from the Obama administration on why they think the propaganda value of a picture of bin Laden’s corpse after meeting a few highly motivated Navy SEALs is that much higher than bin Laden’s own propaganda.
For that matter, I’m not sure why we need to see bin Laden’s funniest home videos, either. I suppose that they will help corroborate that we got the right man in last week’s raid … but as I noted at first, AQ has already helpfully confirmed that anyway. Unless it shows him eating pulled pork sandwiches and drinking a few Heinekens with his closest jihadi buddies, it’s not newsworthy and probably not helpful at all.
This is one dumb idea that the White House should rethink, and quickly.
Update: The White House has begun to release the videos without sound — wisely — and perhaps we can understand why they see the release as valuable. As it turns out, OBL is a vain little man who had himself videotaped watching news reports of himself on TV, and who dyed his hair and beard to hide the gray (via Rob Port):
“This is going to be fascinating!” Er, not really. My guess about the second video is that it was intended to provide evidence of his existence on certain dates for later videos he intended to release so that the US couldn’t falsely claim that he’d been killed. Either that, or OBL loved watching himself on TV so much that he took it to the next level of watching himself watching himself on TV. The vanity of dyeing the beard is amusing but not terribly fascinating, either. All this really tells us is that we actually did get bin Laden last weekend — which, again, al-Qaeda already helpfully confirmed.