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.