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Bin Laden alive? To debunk latest myth, White House near release of photo.

The US had reasons to bury Osama bin Laden at sea. But now conspiracy theories are cropping up that he is not dead, adding to domestic pressure on the US to release a photo of his body.

By Staff writer / May 3, 2011



Washington

The decision to quickly bury Osama bin Laden at sea was made for two overriding reasons: to avoid a burial site on land becoming a shrine while demonstrating respect for Muslim burial customs.

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But now the inability of the United States to produce a body is raising doubts around the world about the death of Al Qaeda’s leader. At the same time, interested parties ranging from members of Congress to family members of 9/11 victims are calling for a release of photos the US military possesses of Mr. bin Laden’s body to allow for a sense of closure.

As a result, a White House that only last week was grappling with whether or not to release President Obama’s birth certificate to quell stubborn doubts about his birthplace now appears on the verge of releasing photos – pictures White House officials admit are “gruesome” – to answer the Doubting Thomases who want graphic proof of bin Laden’s death.

Controversy in death: Seven questions about Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea

“This needs to be done thoughtfully,” said White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, appearing Tuesday on morning television. Speaking to reporters, White House spokesman Jay Carney said officials up to the president are weighing demands for the photos’ release against the potentially “inflammatory” nature of such an action.

Some Middle East experts warn that the US could lose the “moral high ground” by releasing pictures. The US could blemish the perception of a sensitive military operation – the fact that soldiers were used to go after the US target rather than a missile strike that could have endangered civilians – by doing the very thing it criticized in the past, says Bernd Kaussler, an expert in Middle East policy at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.

“It happened in 2003 when US servicemen were killed and [it was] broadcast by Al Jazeera, which Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld rightly condemned,” Professor Kaussler told WHSV-TV in Harrisonburg. Adding that the US was criticized for releasing photos of Saddam Hussein in his underwear when he was apprehended by US soldiers, he says, “What’s at stake is a moral high ground which the US has maintained” in the bin Laden case.

Consensus on photo release forming

But by Tuesday afternoon a consensus appeared to be forming around releasing at least a photo of a dead bin Laden.

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