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The political effect of Obama's decision to withhold Bin Laden death photos over fear of foreign reaction

May 4, 2011 |  2:12 pm

Osama bin laden housing Compound in Pakistan 5-3-11

President Obama, who recently expressed uncomprehending bemusement that a desire by some in the public to see his sealed birth certificate would endure and distract debate for four years, has decided to seal the post-mortem photos of the world's most wanted murderer, Osama bin Laden.

The president, who has seen the graphic photos, likened their once-promised release to spiking the football after a touchdown. In a taped interview with CBS News, which itself will not be released until network broadcast in four days, Obama reportedly said, "That's not who we are."an unidentified 9-11 victim falls to his death from the World Trade Center

The Democrat suggested the world should take his word that it really was Bin Laden who was fatally shot in an early morning SEAL raid on his comfortable living compound in Pakistan after a 10-year manhunt.

Bin Laden was the mastermind of numerous deadly terrorism assaults on Americans and others, including the bombing of the destroyer Cole and the 9/11 attacks that produced so many graphic images of the deaths of nearly 3,000 people.

Obama, who once bragged that his administration would be the most transparent in American history, said he had all the proof necessary to convince him it was the real Bin Laden who was shot in the chest and forehead after maybe or maybe not being given an opportunity to surrender in his bedroom early Monday morning Pakistan time.

"We don't think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference," the chief executive is reported to say.

The presumed reason is fear of inflaming Islamic jihadists over their leader's violent demise and the hope that maybe perhaps they might relent in their so far relentless war on nonbelievers.

Obama, however, reveals an unusual priority in the interview: He says there is no doubt of Bin Laden's death among the Saudi's followers.

Who was concerned about that?

In the leaked interview portion, Obama does not mention the concerns of his own countrymen, who saw countless gruesome photographs of deaths on 9/11. Obama's profound primary concern seems to be to ameliorate reactions among a foreign audience of terror extremists. To minimize public criticism at home, Obama's team has shown the allegedly secret photos to members of Congress, presumably grownups.

Start the timers on how long until an alleged death photo appears somewhere.

The decision to withhold photographic proof was only the latest flipflop by the Democrat's administration in what has become a constantly changing story of the precise SEAL raid, and Bin Laden's demise and the disposal of his body, as detailed here earlier Wedne Leon Panetta, left, and Robert Gates 4-28-11 sday morning.

Late Tuesday Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA and future secretary of Defense, said he was sure the photos would ultimately be released.

However, in a less-than-shocking claim Wednesday, Obama said that now all of his subordinates agree with his decision to keep the photos secret.

Although he made no reference to consulting other governments, such as friendly but nervous Muslim regimes in the Middle East, Obama may also have sought and received advice from them to withhold the photos as inflammatory. But Obama does not wish to appear back home to be abiding by the secrecy suggestions of governments he's been so publicly and constantly lecturing about democracy and openness.

Obama also says that Bin Laden received the justice he deserved.

This Obama decision, like so many others, including his vow to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is, of course, subject to impatient reversal over time.

Politically, it will certainly prove difficult for Obama to sustain at home, where critics have long suggested he's too often an apologist abroad for his own nation. Whatever Obama's real motives, his publicly expressed ones appear to put fears of adverse foreign reactions ahead of his countrymen's reactions over a thwarted desire for closure by seeing the ultimate modern villain dead after losing so many American lives to Bin Laden and his hench-persons.

If there was any doubt about the pent-up nature of these emotions, they were killed Sunday night when so many spontaneous jubilant public celebrations broke out in this country over Obama's announcement of Bin Laden's death.

These street demonstrations involving flag waving, cheering and group sings of the "Star-Spangled Banner" occurred, among other places, in front of the White House, in New York's Times Square and, most symbolically, at ground zero in Lower Manhattan.

As it happens, Obama will travel there Thursday as part of his Bin Laden victory lap, which will now most likely include the first of many explanations over a silly photograph he's decided to keep secret.

On the other hand, 552 days before the presidential election, if political critics are discussing a secret photo, they're not talking of unemployment or amazingly high gas prices.

Which can't be sealed by this president.


Osama bin Laden's death: Clarifying the Obama administration's cnoufison and missteaks

Yes, the SEALs were in the raid, but aides hail Obama's office bravery

Rush Limbaugh on Osama Bin Laden's death: "Thank God for President Obama"

Donald Trump praises Obama on Osama bin Laden's death

The death of Osama bin Laden: Statements by two presidents who hunted him

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: The Bin Laden compound in Pakistan (credit: AFP / Getty Images); a 9/11 victim falling from the burning World Trade Center (credit: Associated Press); CIA Director Leon Panetta, left, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. (credit: Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)