Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pictures of Dead Men

It was, back in the day, something law enforcement would do.  The triumphant lawmen would stand, posed with their guns prominent, alongside the propped-up bodies of the evildoers they had gunned down.  Or there would be a picture of the bad guy in his casket, with his face clearly visible.

The messages these pictures sent were pretty strong.  They were unambiguous: lawmen killed these guys.  They're dead.  Look at the pictures and you can see, he's not going to get up.  Something about the face, not reflected in the faces of the live men who might be in the picture too, grimly determined men with their hands near their guns.

As communication got better and news reporting had to become more mainstream, the intensity of the news was toned down, to be a bit less gritty.  Women might read the news, children.  As society became more advanced, the life-and-death conflicts of edgy pioneers became less and less.  Pictures of dead men became records in files, not something released to prove the sheriff was doing his duty.  Just held onto, to prove that the duty had been done.

Now Leon Panetta is saying that the CIA will release pictures of bin Laden, freshly dead, in no-longer-living color.  Panetta says that the ultimate decision as to whether to fully release those pictures shall rest with the White House, that the CIA will not be stand in the way of their publication.

It's not the proof that it used to be.  When taking a photograph meant exposing a treated plate of silver to the image's light for maybe minutes on end, only the dead man could be counted on not to blink.  And the technology of retouching photos, already under development even then, wasn't up to the task of making a photo of one man look like someone else entirely.  It was difficult to do, and expensive.

With computers and open source software, you can make any image do almost anything.  I've even done a little myself, and trust me I've precious little experience or skill at it.  But the point is, I already have the tools on hand to do it.  So do we really need to see such a gory picture?

I'm inclined to say yes.  There's a couple of reasons:

1 - Much as I hate to say it, Obama's presidency has been tainted by his reluctance to release his long form birth certificate.  Did I ever believe he was foreign born, no.  But now we've got that doubt - al it ever would have taken would have been a phone call.  Couldn't we have gotten this little sticking point out of the way a couple of years ago?  That would have been great.  And since we don't want to have to put up with any of that noise again, if you have pictures, release them now.  As fast as computers are, people still assume doing something like fudging a picture takes time.  The longer you wait, the less people will believe in the picture.

2 - The extremists have been perfectly happy to release pictures of American soldiers murdered while in custody, or even video of the murder taking place.  Have some back, guys.  You earned it.

The things people do to each other in the name of of their god makes me sick.  What god would want you, when you treat people in such fashion?  Didn't that same god make those other people too?  If not, might as well admit it straight away - if he didn't, then there has to be another god out there, too - a different god that made those other people.  And if that's the case, then how valid can your own god be?  What does it do your soul, to want to kill so many people all at once?  I think on some level Osama was pretty sure his god was no god at all.  All he had left was rage and hate.

So I won't look at it.  I already have a good idea what it looks like.  Osama shot in the head, huge pressure shockwave blows out the back of his head, facial features slack, blood.  I don't need to look at it to know what a dead man looks like.  He looks bad.  He looks empty.

Rage and hate go away when the body dies.

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