Mailbag: Goodbye 'birthers,' hello 'deathers'
You can't say you didn't see this coming, especially since those less inclined to take the president at his word regarding his birthplace were (mostly) silenced last week: Some are already accusing the Obama administration of being less than truthful about the death Sunday of Osama bin Laden. Those who have written to email@example.com cite a number of factors that inform their skepticism, including the quick disposal of Bin Laden's body and the substantial political capital Bin Laden's killing would earn for President Obama.
Two things: First, you won't find any letters in the paper expressing such skepticism because, well, we don't print unfounded rumors and wild speculation; and second, though skepticism is a fine intellectual trait (and one that serves journalists well), exercising it properly requires a credible factual basis. That's the difference between, say, questioning the Bush administration's prewar claims of an Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program, when other governments and United Nations inspectors raised doubts, and embracing 9/11 "trutherism," which is informed by a pathological mistrust of all things government, despite all evidence to the contrary. I'd slot "deatherism" in the latter category.
Below are a few of the "deather" submissions (the names have been removed to protect the guilty) and, following them, several letters from writers who anticipated this new discipline of conspiracy theorizing. They have been edited only for style, grammar and spelling.
From the deathers:
Why all the rush to dispose of Osama bin Laden's body?
Doing so seems highly suspicious to me. You'd think they'd want to put his body on display to prove to the world beyond a doubt that he was dead. Our government's explanation of burying his body at sea to comply with Islamic customs seems pretty hokey to me.
Why should they care about such customs concerning a brutal mass murderer who was a sworn enemy of the United States?
Why should we believe he is dead? Where are the pictures? Where is the evidence? PLEASE SHOW ME PROOF.
Can we really just blindly trust the government?
The story has absolutely no legs and is highly suspicious, particularly since the body was conveniently buried at sea without a trace, without an opportunity for confirmation. This isn't justice (as we define it here); it is retribution. So, call it what it is. Don't lie. The DNA test is bogus. When did they do a DNA test? They killed him last night and already have results? We knew where he was all this time, and only today we got him? Give me a break. Obama needed a more solid basis for garnering votes of the unwashed masses by "fulfilling" at least one of his promises -- bringing the troops home. That's all this propaganda is about. I don't believe it for an instance, and I don't care -- al Qaeda is an idea, and ideas cannot be killed by killing the man. We've martyred him for his followers, which is more dangerous than keeping him alive.
Bin Laden buried respectfully at sea? That’s the best that the government PR machine can generate? I don’t believe it for a moment. After nearly a decade of hunting down this cockroach, you’d think the U.S. government would have had a well developed kill plan to bring Bin Laden’s body home for autopsy, brain study and extensive forensic analysis. But no, we're to believe, because the government tells us so, that sufficient DNA samples and photographs were obtained for positive identification and then his body buried at sea in accordance with Islamic law. Nonsense!
How about the likely possibility that his body will be comprehensively dissected and studied by U.S. scientists, then cremated, and the cremains stored deep in some secure unnamed government vault and forgotten? That's more plausible than what we're currently expected to believe, even though it does smack of "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
Two from the anti-deathers:
Regarding the May 2nd frontpage headline "U.S. Kills Bin Laden."
Now what are the tea-party birthers going to do, ask to see the death certificate?
Maybe Bin Laden shouldn't have been buried at sea. Donald Trump will ask for proof that Bin Laden was really killed.
-- Paul Thornton
Photo: Newspaper headlines reporting the death of Osama Bin Laden in front of the Newseum in Washington on May 2. Credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images