The emerging facts surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs have clouded what should have been a clearcut victory in the war on terrorism. With each passing day, the Obama Administration seems to be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The latest developments, including Obama’s decision not to release photos of a very dead OBL and CIA Director Leon Panetta’s stunning admission that there was a 25-minute gap in video coverage of the raid that killed bin Laden, have heightened the scrutiny behind the daring raid carried out this past Sunday.
I personally have no doubt that bin Laden was killed in a firefight inside his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. However, with an opportunity to practice transparency — something that President Obama promised prior to his election — and to definitively prove to the American people and the rest of the world that bin Laden is dead, this Administration has fumbled the football on the one inch line. Whether or not you agree that photos of the badly bloodied corpse of bin Laden should be released, the way in which this Administration has arrived at their decision not to release the photos shows a not-quite-ready-for-primetime atmosphere and an hypocrisy that seems to know no limits.
In a bow to Muslim sensitivities, the President has decided against releasing the photos of bin Laden. In an earlier bow to these same sensitivities, the body of Osama was disposed of at sea, apparently in accordance with some interpretations of Islamic law. In his speech on Sunday, the President further bowed to the Muslim world when he repeated the Bush Administration’s tired cliché that we are “not at war with Islam.” Some might get the idea that President Obama has a bowing problem.
We may not be at war with Islam, but it appears that a sizeable portion of the Islamic world is at war with America and the west. Are most Muslims terrorists or terrorist sympathizers? No. Are the overwhelming majority of American Muslims peace-loving citizens? Yes. But to try to pretend that a large segment of radicalized Muslims in some countries have less than flattering thoughts about the United States — regardless of whether we release photos or not — is to simply deny reality. In some parts of the world, the death of Osama bin Laden was enough to stir anti-American sentiment. Of course, America’s friendship with Israel is cause enough for some to hate America.
But, here’s the problem with Obama’s bows to these religious sensitivities — he appears not to apply the same standard to the American people. The President apparently has no problems allowing the coffins of our returning dead military heroes to be photographed at Dover. The President initially had no problems with the release of thousands of pictures from the Abu Ghraib mess (although he subsequently reversed course). When it comes to sensitivities and transparency, this President has shifting standards. Too bad that his shifts seem to be at the expense of the American people while benefitting a radicalized population that will never like America — unless we sit idly by while Israel is wiped off the face of the map. Even then, America will get no love from the more radicalized elements within the Arab world.
Did Osama bin Laden represent a relatively small group of radicalized Muslims who had hijacked Islam and its true tenants? Did bin Laden so twist Islam’s teachings that he would not be worthy to be considered a “good” Muslim? If bin Laden did not speak for “true” Muslims, then why would this Administration bow to the sensitivities of the Muslim world so as to decide to give him a “proper” Muslim burial or decide not to release photos of OBL?
You can’t have it both ways. Either bin Laden was a rogue Muslim (much like Timothy McVeigh was a rogue Christian) who did not nor could not represent true Islam in any form or fashion and therefore was considered a pariah OR he was a true Muslim who represented the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs of more than just a few members of Al-Qaeda. Which is it, Mr. President?
President Obama can choose to block the release of the photos and can keep changing the story about the historic raid that killed Osama bin Laden. But, the President cannot continue to redefine transparency. With the amateurish way that the political operatives within the Obama Administration have bungled the aftermath of this historic raid, is it any wonder why people continue to question Mr. Obama. And, if he thinks that laying a wreath at Ground Zero will put an end to the questions, he may not be as smart as he and others think.