Some of you know I’m working on a book about Afghanistan, so I’m in daily contact with a number of troops who served in a very dangerous corner of the country near the Pakistan border, as well as with a number of family members who lost a loved one serving there.
Today I asked some of them to weigh in on the president’s decision not to release the photograph.
It is completely unscientific in terms of sample size, but I thought it interesting that all the soldiers who got back to me supported the decision – and all the mothers opposed it.
Here are the reactions of the troops:
• “I think it was a prudent decision because our country doesn't need to glorify what had to be done. No amount of physical proof could convince the conspiracy theorists that UBL is out of the picture anyway. I am proud of our president and country. Others may have paraded similar images of our leadership all over the internet by now. I’m heartened the U.S. didn't go there.”
• "Doesn't matter. Long as he is dead.”
• “I glad he's dead but still don't understand the burial at sea. I'm pretty sure Islamic funerals end with a burial in the earth not chucked into the sea. So why didn't we just keep the body for more than 24hrs since we broke the custom anyway?”
• “If the issue is proof, I could see the release of a photo being reasonable. However, there does not seem to be any significant or contradictory claim that he is in fact alive. If release of the photo would only serve to satisfy morbid curiosity then it is unnecessary. That is just my longwinded opinion.”
• “While I would personally like to see the photos, I do not think it is appropriate to release them. The release of the photos will only cause more controversy and potentially more U.S. casualties in Muslim nations. Additionally, I agree with the process in which his remains were handled, and a photo release would negate the positive ground gained.”
Here are the reactions of the Gold Star moms:
• “I think we should be able to see it, the families of the fallen has seen things that they should never have to see and I feel it is owed to us. Our loved one gave all for this country, to me it's like proof it is real.”
• “Although we haven't heard of anybody disputing his death, I think we need to have proof. It is like Obama's birth certificate. People will question the validity of Bin Laden's death until there is proof. I also have personal reasons, like thousands of other people. If it wasn't for this man, my son would be alive. They allow victims to go to criminal's executions. Why can't the victims of Bin Laden's evil acts see his dead body? If it wasn't for him, my son would be alive… I just read the ‘spike the football’ comment. I take issue with that. I do not feel we are in end zone, feeling victorious. My son is dead. There is no victory in that. I just feel I would like to see the justice that was carried out. As I said before, then why can families of victims view the perpetrator's execution?”
• “It is 'BS.’ I need to see his photo and proof that it was his body wrapped and he that was dumped. I know it will help the healing for me anyway. They dont have to put it on national tv, but I know it will help the healing for me anyway. They dont have to put it on national tv, but at least let those with fallen hero’s and those from 9-1-1 see it if they choose too!! They can send it in a CD. Since they are not showing the photo… I’m starting to feel like, ‘maybe’ it wasn’t him…”
• “I do not feel like seeing the person's photo that was responsible for my son's death in Afghanistan 2007 as a football spike… I would not be celebrating… just looking at the photo.”
– Jake Tapper