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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: America has a right to see the bin Laden photos

By Brian Kratzer
May 6, 2011 | 5:10 p.m. CDT

Photos have been made showing Osama bin Laden dead. We think the photos show blood, a bullet hole somewhere around the left eye, maybe some brain matter. Only a handful of people know for sure.

Who doesn't know? The residents of countries, including the United States, who have footed the bill in lives, injury and money in the quest to kill public enemy No. 1.


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Now President Barack Obama has the results in hand.

"It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence, as a propaganda tool. That's not who we are," President Obama said during an interview on "60 Minutes" and replayed on and transcribed on the Poynter Institute's website.

We need these images. America needs these images. The world needs them, too. Closure is a bit trite because closure is unobtainable. But the images are a period on a long, rambling story of hurt and destruction. A bloody mug of a terrorist seems like a rather appropriate ending to this chapter. One less bad guy in a world with no shortage of others.

Newspapers and websites may publish the image because of the newsworthiness of the death. They will have to consider the gruesomeness of the image along with what is in the best interests of readers. The Navy SEALs will get attribution. The public will get confirmation. The ugliness of war will be reinforced yet again. Every time I view an image of a body, I stop. I contemplate the last moments of that person's life. The visual helps place other aspects into context. The proof of the image shows just how much blood, how much swelling and the positioning of the body. No filter. It becomes more real.

Leaders and citizens of the world are already worried about retaliation in the wake of bin Laden's death. The release of the image will only join the chorus of other images used in protests. I don't discount the power of an image. If someone has a message, they will find a way to visually communicate it, with or without the bin Laden image. We should expect to see the image crop up on sticks during protests and rallies for years to come.

Still, the image should be released. President Obama says "We don't need to spike the football." But what we're asking is to see the actual touchdown. The spiking of the football has already happened in wild, flag-waving celebrations across the country.

I expect the image to be offensive to some. I also expect it to be informative and enlightening. Don't forget this is the culmination of nearly 10 years of battle. That is massive news. Yet, what have we seen so far?

I hope our country gets the chance to see the results of this war.

Brian Kratzer is director of photography for the Columbia Missourian.