No bin-Laden Pictures. Well, There Goes My Screensaver


Obama: I won’t release bin Laden death photos – Political Hotsheet – CBS News.

The only really rational argument for releasing these pictures was that in many parts of the world – I’m thinking Pakistan, Afghanistan and the mountains of West Virginia, in particular – DNA testing would not have sufficed as evidence of bin-Laden’s death. To the extent that releasing the images would have mollified such deniers, I would have been fine with releasing the images. I don’t have to look at them, after all.

But as Jon Stewart rightly pointed out last night, there really is no level of proof that will satisfy everybody. So cultural preferences aside, people will have to either take the president at his word – that, and the remarkable paucity of bin-Laden videos that is to come – or they won’t. There’s really no reason for the United States to cater to the rather barbaric ritual of bringing the head of our victims out for public display.


Worth Worrying About

To the extent that Barack Obama is spreading his wings on the foreign policy front and taking the fight to John McCain, it is a good thing.  To the extent that the real mission in the Middle East should have been about Osama bin-Laden – seven freaking years ago – Obama’s insistence that Afghanistan is where we should be expending our resources is a good thing.

But any good student of history – particularly Eurasian history – knows that many a good army was brought to its knees trying to accomplish anything in Afghanistan.  Many a national economy has been brought to ruin in trying to unseat an insurgency in those impenatrable hills.  This is not an esoteric exercise in statistics, nor a historical footnote of no consequence to modern armies: no less than the Russian army has succumbed to the pitfalls in Afghanistan.  It is true that the United States funded the war in Afghanistan to harrass the Soviet Union, but money while helpful does not keep armies alive.  The unforgiving, labyrinthine mountains and caves and decades of hard fighting did that.

So, when Barack Obama says we need to leave Iraq and send more brigades to Afghanistan, I do sometimes worry if we aren’t trading one albatross for another.  It’s worth worrying about.