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Bin Laden's death does not need to be proved with a photographOne need only look to the al-Qaida leader's surviving family to confirm the reality they witnessed

Alexander Chancellor The Guardian, Friday 6 May 2011 Article history

President Obama is right to stop publication of any of the "gruesome" death photos of Osama bin Laden. If there are people who believe that Bin Laden is still alive, no photograph will make them accept that he is not. They will assume it is a fake, just as the Americans who believe Obama was born outside the United States and is therefore ineligible to be president assume that his birth certificate is a fake. Nothing will persuade a conspiracy theorist to change his mind, especially not a photograph; for everyone today believes that photographs are easily doctored. So while the US would gain nothing by publishing one, it might have quite a lot to lose by it.

Obama has already pointed out that a photograph of Bin Laden's blood-soaked body could be used "as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool". But it also might provoke America's friends almost as much as its enemies. The operation in which Bin Laden died was conducted with great courage and efficiency, but it has already given rise to an unwelcome degree of American triumphalism. The publication of a photograph of Bin Laden with half his head blown away would make this worse: it would add an impression of gloating malevolence.

In Britain, America's closest ally, there is also a strong distaste for any photographs of this kind. While sexual images no longer give much offence, pictures of violent death still do. The position here is roughly the opposite of that on the continent of Europe, where newspapers are much more likely to publish shots of bodies in pools of blood than they are of naked women.

Anyway, Obama has grasped most of these points. He has said that releasing "very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head" is "not who we are"; "We don't trot out this stuff as trophies." He has also said that he doesn't believe a photograph would make any difference to people's attitudes: "The fact of the matter is, you will not see Bin Laden walking on this Earth again." To be honest, we haven't seen a lot of Bin Laden doing anything at all during the past 10 years, which is why some people speculated that he died long ago.

But there is much stronger evidence that he was killed this week than any photograph could provide. Despite the varying accounts of what happened in Abbottabad that night, there were many survivors of the commando raid, including Bin Laden's youngest wife, Amal Ahmed al-Sadah, now in a Pakistani hospital with a leg wound, and their 12-year-old daughter. Both appear to have witnessed his death, and it would be most surprising if they were to deny the reality of what they saw.

A bunker, complete with obligatory smoking ban
It is not unusual for people who commit mass murder to be fastidious about their own health. Adolf Hitler had a horror of smoking and forbade it among his staff, even in April 1945 when the Russian army was closing in on his bunker in Berlin. As it appeared in Downfall, the excellent film about Hitler's final days, the first thing his aides did after his suicide was to light up. Now it seems that Bin Laden may have shared Hitler's hatred of cigarettes.

Mohammad Usman, a shopkeeper in Abbottabad, says the courier who reportedly led the CIA and US special forces to Bin Laden's compound – a man called Arshad Khan – used to visit the shop with his brother once a week to buy basic household essentials. They also purchased one or two cigarettes for themselves – their preference being John Player Gold Leaf – and smoked them in the street outside the shop before returning home to the compound. They never bought a whole packet, Usman said.

This strongly suggests that a smoking ban was in force at Bin Laden's home. This is less surprising today than it would have been in Hitler's time: but you'd have thought that, even so, Bin Laden might have permitted his loyal followers to relieve the boredom and tension of life in the compound with the occasional fag. You might have expected similar indulgence to be granted to the (as far as we know) still smoking president of the United States, but even Obama doesn't smoke indoors. He has said that he continues to respect the smoking ban first imposed in the White House by his secretary of state Hillary Clinton when she was First Lady. This seems unusually fearful of him.

Not-so-common ground
Obama found time amid this week's excitements to receive Prince Charles at the White House and congratulate him on the wedding of his son William to Catherine Middleton. Americans, he said, had been "mesmerised" by the event; and while this sounds like something of an exaggeration, it is estimated that about 23 million Americans got up very early in the morning to watch the live television coverage.

It seems improbable that Obama was among them, but he would appear to have seen at least some of the proceedings, for he said he had been impressed by the way in which the young couple had handled the pressure. He was right to be impressed, for neither William nor Catherine showed any sign of nerves – nor any member of the Middleton family, who seemed to find it quite normal that a girl from their lowly background should be marrying a future king in Westminster Abbey. So, as a matter of fact, did I; there seemed to be no detectable class difference between the Middletons and the Windsors.
Yeah!! Total B.S.!!!!!!
What an incredible PILE!
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