The last photo shoot

US President Barack Obama has blocked the release of photo evidence of his al-Qaeda trophy because of its incendiary potential amongst terror extremists. He must now be hoping neither photo nor weighted corpse will surface any time soon. 

Do we really need to see the photos of a guy with two bullet wounds to the head to believe he’s dead? Well it seems some do, and it is a fair bet the conspiracy theories will build for both political and ideological gain.

No-one can be shocked by the conspiracy ‘tactic’ – for want of a better word. Politics survives on it, terror extremists who followed bin Laden thrived on it, and President Obama is certainly no stranger to the brunt of it.

It is a real conundrum for journalists to accept terrorism’s iconic figurehead has suffered the fatal blow, just because a politician told them so. That’s not normally the way the news game goes. Yet the doubters don’t seem to be the serious media. Pakistan appears to be the centre of their attention for possibly sheltering bin Laden. And there are those other two problems for the U.S. – breaching Pakistan’s sovereignty and shooting dead an unarmed man. Neither are in synch with international law, no matter how nasty the target. 

Obama has decided, in his Cool-Hand-Luke way, that he will not start gloating over the shooting – some would say assassination - of Osama bin Laden by releasing shots of his mutilated corpse. It would have been a good idea to have conveyed this thinking to CIA Director Leon Panetta before he told a press conference that he expected a photo of verification to be released.

Obama’s reasons for blocking publication are clear.

He does not want the photos distributed around the world – particularly the Muslim world – to incite more retaliation from bin-Laden followers than may already be the case.

By the sounds of things the photos would be highly unsuitable for the front pages of most newspapers, let alone for the 6 o’clock news.

Obama says everyone is just going to have to accept that bin Laden will not be wandering around on this earth again.

For Republican darling Sarah Palin, fading darling though she may well be, Obama is “pussy footing”. Of course she’s spent the last few years proudly displaying her kill trophies for reasons it is possibly not wise to get in to here. Perhaps she would have liked the al-Qaeda head – literally – on the wall of the Capitol?

Palin’s reasoning is that the photo would serve as a warning to anyone else seeking to destroy America. Well, it didn’t work that well in the case of Saddam Hussein if the number of repressive, autocratic bullies in the Middle East is anything to go by, particularly those like Syria’s Assad and Iran’s Ahmadinejad who are not exactly seeking a love-fest with the U.S.

Some other US politicians argue the reason for a snatch and grab operation as opposed obliterating the compound was surely to provide absolute ‘Gotcha’ evidence, so produce that evidence.

But they and Palin are looking pretty marginalized as top Republicans endorse Obama’s call.

Anyway many of them are too busy still working on how to claim credit for the successful raid.

Watching U.S. Cable news has provided a steady flow of Republican politicians, tacticians and lobbyists all touting the now proven benefits of torture and the great intelligence systems put in place by Obama’s predecessor.

The surefire way to stop this nonsense is to ask if they want to take credit for the intelligence legacy they bequeathed Obama, are they willing to take credit for the economic legacy too?

That shuts them up…for a little while anyway.

But back to the photos.  They are, like Abu Ghraib, likely to come to light at some stage, and maybe sooner rather than later.

The fake pics that went viral on the morning after the big announcement have been well and truly discredited as a fairly average amalgam of a picture of bin-Laden superimposed with a picture of a mutilated person. On a fuzzy telly at the gym they may have passed muster. Once forensic photographers got hold of them, they have all but disappeared.

But in the age of Wikileaks and super sophisticated technology, bin-Laden’s last photo shoot – literally – is likely to surface, which is something the White House will be hoping does not happen to his ‘buried’ corpse.