Do You Want the Bin Laden Photos Released?

Pakistani policemen stand guard outside the hideout house of slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 5, 2011

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, we took your calls on President Obama's decision not to release the photos of Osama bin Laden's dead body.

The recent decision by President Obama not to release the photographs of Osama bin Laden’s body has been met with mixed reaction. While many applauded the decision, some still seem to doubt his death. Today callers talked about their reaction to the decision. 

The president called the photos “very graphic” and said that releasing these photos “as an incitement to additional violence, as a propaganda tool – that’s not who we are.” Sarah Palin, on the other hand, sent out a tweet “Show photo as warning to others seeking America’s destruction.” 

Photos have been circulating of dead bodies lying inside the compound. Those photos were purchased by Reuters from a Pakistani security official who entered the compound just after the raid, but none of the bodies shown are bin Laden’s. The many bloody photos of bin Laden’s face, circulating wildly through Facebook and elsewhere, are fakes.

Agreement with the Decision

A caller from Westchester said releasing the pictures would not serve any purpose..

A photograph isn’t real evidence anymore, and the people doubting that this happened aren’t going to believe a photograph… Everyone knows you can Photoshop.

A Pakistani-American in Queens, said he vividly remembers being a high-school student on Tuesday September 11, 2001. 

I was new in the country, it was my first week in high school, and I could remember the smoke… Long story short, I’m a part of the 9/11 generation, and Pakistani American specifically.

The caller said any time some suspected terrorist or sympathizer was found in Pakistan, Pakistani-Americans faced scrutiny, even though culturally-assimilated into the United States and living so far removed. “But people are very understanding, also, in America.” He believes the pictures would cause a huge blowback and be a rallying point. He pointed, too, to the similarity of releasing the pictures of people praying for bin Laden, which represent only a small fringe population, but could ignite anti-Pakistan sentiment in the United States.

Is this a battle of the fringe elements?  Extremists who might be incensed by the photos are being weighed against extremists in the United States who will try to create doubt that the President spoke the truth.

Disagreement -- Release the Pictures!

A caller from Queens spoke to the power of the visual image.

I want to replace the image of bin Laden as a smiling, gun-toting terrorist, with what he ended up – dead at the hands of the American government.

The caller said it would not be the photo that would be used as the rallying point, but the killing itself.

A Matter of Perspective

A caller from Midwood who is from Karachi said she was split on whether the photo should be released.

As an American I really want to see the image… as a Pakistani, I wouldn’t want the image up, because I feel like there will always be retaliation.