Ever since Osama bin Laden's death was announced on Sunday night, we've heard a lot of debate over the White House's decision not to release bin Laden death photos. Then, on last night's Daily Show, Jon Stewart weighed in and seemed to be all for showing the photos. His rationale?
Aside from the fact that he joked that reporters should get to see the photos and then vouch for them ... hey, while they're at it, even turn it into a haunted house, and "feel" brains and such. (Gross.) That was the funny part. But then Stewart launched into an argument in which he made some valid points. Like: Having zero photo evidence of the tens of thousands of Iraqis as well as U.S. soldiers who have died in the Middle East conflicts prevents us from actually understanding war.
Maybe we should always show pictures. Bin Laden, pictures of our wounded service people, pictures of maimed innocent civilians ... We can only make decisions about war if we see what war actually is.
You know, because otherwise, we just think of a dead body as disappearing and leaving behind a "shiny gold coin." Cuz we're that dense.
I definitely get where he's coming from, and it makes me think of how this country's only real wake-up call about Vietnam didn't come until we were seeing footage of the war on TV. It was a historical moment for photographic proof of war.
Now, after 10 years of war in the Middle East, where reporters have been shut out of documenting certain horrors and realities of war again and again -- sure, there's a reason to turn that around. To start showing what troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan are encountering day in and out. It may be the wake-up call we need now in 2011 to put our collective foot down as Americans and say, "Enough is enough, time to get out of there!"
But at the same time, I'm still not convinced that showing photos of Osama bin Laden's dead body would be as useful in the way Stewart asserts. That Americans need to see that specifically in order to "fully understand war." And seeing that photo wouldn't be a wake-up call. Sadly, actually, the photos seem like something people want to cheer about; not something that will make most people think twice about war. It's a "victory," so it just doesn't have the power to sting like watching us lose the Vietnam war during primetime. To quote President Obama, I'm not sure the benefit of seeing those photos is really there to take the risk of "spiking the football."
Watch Jon Stewart's entire argument for yourself:
Do you agree with Jon Stewart?
Image via Comedy Central