Dick Cheney is right that it is hard to get exercised about President Obama’s decision not to release photos of a dead Osama bin Laden—even if this will feed irresponsible conspiracy theories about how the leader of Al Qaeda died.
The White House decision to release videotapes seized from bin Laden’s compound, however, is praiseworthy. The videos show him as a dotty old man watching himself on TV and revealing that he was so vain he dyed his own beard. A major terrorist seeks to inspire many emotions, from fear to love. Derision isn’t one of them, and it is one of the most effective ways of breaking his spell, such as it was. Recall, for instance, the damage done to Saddam Hussein’s image when he he was shown as a bearded mountain man having to open his mouth to have his teeth examined after his capture. That undermined the mystique of power he had spent so many years cultivating. So too with the images of bin Laden which have recently been on frontpages around the world. Kudos to the administration for a smart “information operation.”