"The government has taken the position in this case that the more outrageously the behavior exhibited by American troops, the less the public has a right to know about it," complained RCFP executive director Lucy Dalglish. So far, in the first day since the White House announced it would not release the photos, there's no objection from the RCFP.
Liberal journalists have favored gruesome images when the dead are American troops. In both wars with Iraq, in 1991 and 2003, former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite insisted it was terrible (even "criminal") that "we're still not seeing the bloodletting." In 2006, CNN chose to show video, apparently made by Iraqi insurgents, of American soldiers being shot by a sniper. I don't recall the liberal journalists or Sen. Obama raising objections to that.
Under the liberal standard here, it seems political: The "right to know" matches neatly with the need to embarrass (or "hold accountable") the Bush administration. Embarrassment or accountability isn't so urgent at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in the Osama case.
Team Obama also faces a curious controversy over Osama's quick burial at sea, achieved so as to satisfy Muslim religious traditions.
Once again, unlike many conservatives, I didn't have an early objection to showing that respect -- not to Osama, but to the faith he supposedly upheld. A quick glance at American military procedures for the burial of internees suggests a burial according to the religious rites of the deceased. That's simple American decency.
But if it will help, upset conservatives can go to Al Jazeera and discover they've found Muslims who think the burial at sea was horrendous. Yahya Hendi, Muslim chaplain of Georgetown University, called the sea burial an "absolute violation" of Islamic traditions and an unwise decision that (naturally) mars America's image.
"Islamic law traditionally allows disposing of a corpse at sea only if the person dies on board ship and there is no possibility of getting the body to dry land before it decomposes," added Marion Katz, professor of "Islamic law, gender and ritual" at New York University.
Patriotic Americans could surely unite around the notion that we can treat the enemy dead with respect, as we would want our dead respected. We shouldn't do that as a deep bow to Islam, and Obama should stop this foolishness of stating that bin Laden wasn't really a Muslim leader.
I don't care what he was. He's dead. Hooray.