Release the Bin Laden photos

Obama and Rogers’ idea that news should be calibrated by the government to ease the job of the U.S. military makes for a First Amendment loophole you could drive a motorized regiment through. If al-Qaida and its supporters are more irate with the United States this week than they were last week, it’s because U.S. commandos killed Bin Laden. Obama should never have marked him for death if tending the “sensitivities” of al-Qaida and its allies was U.S. policy…

I don’t advocate the photos’ release because I think it will convince the unconvincible that Bin Laden is dead or because I desire a “trophy” or a football “spiked,” as Obama puts it in his 60 Minutes interview. I’m for the publication of the pictures because they’re an essential part of the war on al-Qaida. Withholding the photos and couching their suppression in the name of national security misjudges what makes al-Qaida tick and infantilizes the nation. It also sets a precedent for “news that’s too gruesome to reveal.”…

If a nation can be trusted to view the horrors of 9/11 in real time, flip through the Abu Ghraib picture book, witness the made-for-video murder of Daniel Pearl, see images of dead Uday and Qusay on the evening news, and gaze upon pictures of dead soldiers coming home as air freight (photos that President Bush, incidentally, tried to ban in the name of managing the news), then it can be trusted to stomach the last photos of Osama Bin Laden—and whatever turmoil those photos might cause. Why? Because that’s what sort of country the United States is.