Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Osama's Assassination: a self portrait?

"A photograph of the violence you inflict is always, in very large measure, a self-portrait..."

This phrase struck me while I was reading a piece about the prudence of releasing photos of Osama's killing. I was surprisingly moved--because the issue of the public access to the pictures themselves seems comparatively insignificant in the grand scheme of everything going on. I did't expect the article to inspire reflection on goals that are pursued through violence--what that says about our crede and our policy.

The article concluded:

At Abu Ghraib, and in far too many theatres of our post-9/11 wars, we compounded the wound that bin Laden and Al Qaeda inflicted on us ten-years ago, with self-inflicted wounds, time and again abandoning our own best principles in the name of defending them. We stooped to fighting terror with terror, and confronting barbarism with barbarism. The assassination of bin Laden allows us to begin turning the page—but surely not if that page is printed with an official trophy photograph of his blasted head.

I came to a different conclusion. If the assassination of bin Laden is to allow us to begin turning a page--should we avoid looking at what we've done? Maybe we ought to look at our self-portrait and ask ourselves if we like what we see.