Roughly two-thirds of the American public agree with President Obama’s decision not to make public photos of Osama bin Laden that were taken after he was killed, according to a new NBC News/Washington Post poll.
The decision was made after senior officials in the US national security establishment canvassed a wide range of dignitaries and government officials; including foreign leaders and ambassadors, US military commanders, US Ambassadors, and leading opinion and policy makers from around the world.
The key variable was whether the release of the “Osama dead” photos would make attacks on US military personnel (especially those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq) more likely. The consensus was that it would. That was all defence Secretary Robert Gates needed to know. He strongly argued that the photos not be released.
He was not alone. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mullen and AfPak War commander Gen. David Petraeus all argued against releasing the photos. The consensus at the top was shared by President Obama, who thought the release of the bin Laden’s corpse photos was ghoulish and stupid.
The decision disappointed some, who thought that incontrovertible proof of Osama bin Laden’s death would lay to rest the 10,000 conspiracy theories that have emerged since the Seal Team Six raid. It also disappointed the news media, which saw an expected (and dramatic) increase in viewership and traffic evaporate when the photos were not released.