We have requested assistance from some etiquette experts as to our Bin Laden problem, but for some inexplicable reason we have not received an answer. Therefore we chose to write to you, as you live in an area where you unfortunately have much experience with delicate matters of this sort. Can you help us? We are so very confused about the right thing to do. As you know we debated about what to do with the deceased, and came up with a solution that we thought was both practical and, frankly, elegant. Now we don’t know how to deal with the public relations aspect. Can you please give us some advice?
Wondering in Washington
Gentle reader, please note that as admirable as it is to try to apply the rules of etiquette to all situations, dealing with an arch terrorist that killed nearly 3,000 of your citizens and threatened to kill more is not one of them.
As to your “public relations” problem, I am genuinely confused. What exactly is the message that you want to project and to whom? If you are concerned about appearing polite and sensitive to the terrorist himself and to his friends, then shooting the individual in question was certainly not the way to go about it. If you want to appear strong and deter other terrorists from killing Americans, then excessively worrying about how to treat the resulting body sends the wrong message.
As to the message you want to convey to the American people, I must say that so far it has been a complete muddle. Perhaps you should learn from the Israelis, who don’t publicize operations of this sort until weeks, and sometimes months afterwards, so that they can protect their intelligence sources. In addition, when they do come out with details, they are consistent, having given the experts time to debrief those involved in order to get the complete picture and all of the facts straight.
As to your current dilemma about publishing the picture of Bin Laden’s body, think of it this way. In the past an enemy’s head would be cut off and placed on a spike in front of the castle. Admittedly this was somewhat messy and malodorous, but surprisingly effective at convincing the public that the enemy was indeed gone. By publishing the picture you will be able to do the same thing, in a more hygienic way. This will help many people achieve what is currently called “closure”. The victims’ families will know that the terrorist is actually dead. The terrorist’s friends and families will know that he is actually dead. And the American people will know that he is actually dead – saving quite a lot of time in mulling unnecessary conspiracy theories.
If the liberals are shocked and dismayed at the picture, then tell them to use a simple imaginatory exercise. Ask them to imagine that it is not Bin Laden they are looking at, but Sarah Palin (who I sincerely love dearly, and am sure that if she were in your position she would not be wasting my time asking silly questions!). Your liberals will undoubtadly calm down right away.