So, is Osama Bin Laden really dead? There are some, and they seem to be all over the political spectrum, who are questioning whether or not he is. They point to the fact that President Obama had Bin Laden buried at sea within 24 hours of his death and has decided against releasing photos of the body or video of the funeral.
Now, Obama gives various reasons for these actions. He ordered that Bin Laden’s body be treated according to Islamic customs. From what I’ve been able to read, Muslims are not big on embalming, which helps explain the speed of the burial. The burial took place at sea for two reasons. Saudi Arabia didn’t want Bin Laden’s body and it was determined that any grave on land would become a shrine for extremists. As for the decision to withhold photos and videos of the body, well, that decision was made by weighing the benefit of showing a gruesome body against the potential for inflaming extremists. The scales tipped against the display.
Critics and conspiracy theorists point to these facts as evidence of a cover up. I don’t. Beyond Obama’s reasoning making sense, the fact that these decisions all seem to feed the conspiracy theories is evidence to me that there is in fact no cover up. Think about this. Bin Laden was not on the radar. The political debate right now is all about the economy. So let’s start there.
There was no pressing need to turn the debate back toward terrorism. There’s no political benefit to Obama. Without the capture of Bin Laden, the terrorism issue leaves swing voters unconvinced, Republicans riled up and the liberal base upset that we’re still in Iraq, Afghanistan and attacking Libya. On April 30, terrorism was not a winning issue for Obama, so why raise it artificially?
That brings us to the actual timing of the operation and its revelation. Why do it now? A big national security/foreign policy victory a year and a half before the election is not a clincher. Ask George H.W. Bush. There’s no reason to do this except to take advantage of a real target of opportunity. And what of the risks? Obama was able to report to us about a successful operation, but what if it had failed? What if the helicopters had crashed or Bin Laden had gotten away? The operation had huge political risks, and failure would have been a death blow to the Obama presidency. But that didn’t happen. We got him.
So we got the body. Obama made sure he notified all the appropriate leaders before announcing it to the world. He has since proceeded to make decisions that do not put rumors and conspiracy theories to rest. Why would one do this if it were a lie? Why say Bin Laden’s dead if he can show up tomorrow in a video doing his best imitation of Harry Truman? Why dispose of the body and refuse to show it when you know people will cite those actions as evidence of a cover up. Those decisions do little more than diminish the political victory by introducing doubt.
That is precisely why I believe Obama. First, the risk of a lie being exposed would be too great. Second, it’s clear that Obama is not making these decisions using political calculous. The decisions are based on an analysis of the pros and conse of various options and then taking the one that best enhances our national security, not the one that scores the biggest political points.