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Mailbag: Goodbye 'birthers,' hello 'deathers'

Osama 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 protected] 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.


Editorial: The end of Osama bin Laden

Gregory Rodriguez from ground zero: America reboots

Is it appropriate to rejoice at Osama bin Laden's death?

The conversation: Reactions to Osama bin Laden's death

President Obama closes one 'birther' chapter. Will another open?

-- 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


Comments () | Archives (91)

The comments to this entry are closed.


"well, we don't print unfounded rumors and wild speculation"

HaHaHaHaHa, thanks for the laugh!!!!!!

Steven M.

Show me his ears or what DOJ did to Dillinger- His member in a jar!!!

I hope someone gave him a "Farmer John" send-off, by suffing his mouth with pork sausage, so he won't go hungry.

Proud Deather

I for one will NOT believe that Osama is truly dead until I get to personally examine the body and conduct my own independent DNA tests!


To the ones who broke this article:

(I'm not on either side of the debate). I do have a question, though. I was always taught in school, by my family and in college that one should never trust anyone blindly. In other words, you should always question events and actions - it is simply logical, rational and intelligent to do so. Otherwise, you're not really thinking for yourself.

I'm a little offended that people have already been given a label of "deathers" and "anti-deathers". I don't think that's the point. Isn't it suspicious that there are mass amounts of people suspecting the same things? I could understand a few conspiracy nuts, but few in this case if more like a large chunk of the population. LA Times, do you guys report for the government or do you report for the people? Because the people have a lot to say and would really appreciate if you payed attention to them - you know, like you guys used to do. What's that term, "journalism"?

Getting the truth out, no matter what, right? I guess this article did that. I won't even poke my nose in the "birther" thing; I'm staying out of that. But why labels? Why division? Should your job as an American press be to work for the America people? At least that's how they did it a while back.

If it means anything: full-on democrat, here. I think Obama is doing much better than Bush... but one less fire does not equal an absence of fires.

Get back to me guys! Fantastic article!


I don't believe Osama bin Laden has been killed until I see PICTURES.

I do believe Osama bin Laden has been dead for a long time and the person that they "supposedly" killed was one of his sons.


Sure, bin Laden is dead. Yay for killing!
So the troops will be brought home from Afghanistan immediately, right? Since they are only there looking for bin Laden and that is done.


should have wrapped him in pig skins before dumping him for nemo to eat


Conservative internet gossip Andrew Breitbart and conservative Washington Times reporter Emily Miller are giving new birthers plenty of fuel for their conspiracy theories. Conservatives must turn to conspiracies when reality doesn't agree with their predetermined vision of the world.


I read a comment that said Osama was killed in 2003. The deathers are born and already posting.

Marty from Modesto

Burying at sea is NOT Islamic tradition. Look it up on the internet. They must not be cremated and they must be buried in soil with their heads toward Mecca.

This is my opinion only:

The US was told by the Saudi Royal Family "HANDS OFF OSAMA" He was already dead by the time they all got there from Kidney failure. The U.S. has known all along where he was all the time.

OBAMA is just basking in the limelight, taking credit. I really like that the real photos are too graphic for America to see. We spent a lot of money under the guise of getting Osama Bin Laden. We all need proof positive and just because our President got on TV and said so, that ain't gonna fly with me. He may be dead, but not by special forces from the US. How bout just natural causes. Do you also think the Royals would allow the U.S. to dispose of his body in a non-muslim way?

Opec owns 40% of the American Dollar and China owns the other 60%. Let's just stick our heads in the sand and keep thinking everything is gonna be OK.

Americas future, what a terrible thing to waste.

Bob Huard

For some people, no amount of evidence will be sufficiently convincing. If the photograph is produced, they will say this fate. If the DNA results are produced, they will want to do their own "independent" analysis. If no DNA is available, that would be evidence of a cover-up. If DNA were made available, some expert with the same delusions would find the results inconclusive. If the body were preserved and put on tour around the United States, they would claim it was made of wax or some other nonsense. For these conspiracy theorists there is absolutely no evidence that will convince them.


Im glad you can find humor in our government lying to us... the REAL bosses.

They work for us the American people but all we get are lies and cheerleading from the sellout media. Truther, birther, deather... I am proud to be in those classes.. as long as I will not be remembered as a push over sheep that bought every lie thrown at me by Big Brother.


First you state you won't print any of the "Deathers" letters, then go ahead and make an entire column doing just that.

Second - regarding the "Deathers": You aren't just insulting President Obama, you're accusing the US Military of fraud. I'd like you to find one Navy Seal and say that to their face.




Hey Deathers:

Why don't you go down to San Diego, and take this up personally with The Navy Seals if you feel that strongly about it?



Wow hard to read this piece...chalked full of lies. I guess the main point of the article is : BELIEVE EVERY WORD YOU ARE TOLD BY YOUR GOVERNMENT...what a joke...read my last LA times piece...cya.

john Kary



"I for one will NOT believe that Osama is truly dead until I get to personally examine the body and conduct my own independent DNA tests!"

You probably also still believe Obama isn't an American citizen. Let's hope they invent that time machine and put you in the delivery room.


What is wrong with you people? You are on the internet? It is not that hard to Google "bin laden death pictures" and see the dead body. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?


To paraphrase Maude Flanders: "Won't somebody think of those with minds like children???"

My only hope is that there's enough sand to bury the heads of both the Birthers AND the Deathers.


What do "birthers" have to do with this exactly? It is perfectly plausible to question the government about this. When we caught Saddam Hussein there was tons of video, and picture evidence to prove it. Why is that evidence lacking in this regard? Stop trying to label the people who are questioning the government about this as the same as the "birthers" or "conservatives." Plenty of people from any background who have any ability to use critical thinking skills would question this.


To keep the balance and remain a neutral party in this argument regarding whether or not Osama Bin Laden was killed, I present the following: Originally, the report is that Bin Laden was killed by a gunshot to the head. I present the theory that Bin Laden was so disfigured by the automatic fire, our government decided to bury him at sea immediately after determining his identity; "Osama Bin Laden."


If Bin Laden is not dead, we have him alive! That is OK as long as we have him.

The photo is... photoshoped

Yes that photo of a dead Osama is PHOTOSHOPPED... give me a break.


It's all a big joke now, isn't it? Not only do people just blindly accept that he's dead without even a body, but that he was even guilty -- are you aware that he was never even charged with the 9/11 crime?

"We know this: Bin Laden always denied any ties to 9/11 and, in fact, has never been charged in relation to 9/11. He not only denied involvement, but had done so, while alive, 4 times and had vigorously condemned those who were involved in the attack."

If Osama really has been dead for several years (many say December 2001 he died of kidney failure), this fraud can be seen as treason, that the American people have been lied to for so long in order to support wars and draconian bills. But that's right, make a joke about it and maybe it will go away (like they're hoping the first responders will go away who question what really happened on 9-11...)

Rules of the Internet

Pictures or it didn't happen.

Knowing the rules, who would authorize a head-shot kill?


Why, when people are skeptical of the government, are they automatically put in a "they are totally wrong and should be ridiculed" category, just because their opinions differ from yours? I want to believe wholeheartedly that Osama bin Laden is dead. I didn't think otherwise, until I started reading what people on the other side of the fence started to say. The timing does seem rather opportunistic, and the lack of evidence bothers me. However, I will believe Osama bin Laden was killed, until proven otherwise.

It is apparent here that if you don't back Obama 100%, you're immediately labeled an idiot, Republican, or whatever other label the accuser finds most distasteful.

I'm an American. I grew up in a time where we all questioned authority. I still do. It's my right, my privilege, and my responsibility. I don't blindly follow anyone, and base my opinions on the facts before me.

I was singing the praises of the military, and both Bush for authorizing the start of the investigation, and Obama for authorizing the kill, but, since I wouldn't agree that "Obama got Osama" but just gave the okay after meeting with his advisors, I'm immediately a "birther" or "deather." Our military did an awesome job at a time when Obama needed to prove he wasn't powerless. To believe he planned the mission is preposterous. He may be "commander in chief" but, without any military experience, his decisions are influenced by people who have served, and/or still do.

Did I vote him into office? Of course. I didn't vote for him because I was a blind follower. He was the candidate I found the least repugnant. I hoped for some bit of change that he promised. And, like the rest of the country, I'm still waiting.

I hope they do release photos, or some other form of concrete evidence that OBL is truly dead. Not to put down Obama's detractors, but to prove to the entire world that America is true to her word.


I wonder why OBL was not captured so that President OBAMA could have the opportunity to speak with him and learn more about Bin Laden's and his own thinking.

Julian Gonzalez

If he wasn't dead, I am pretty sure he would make a video saying that we are lying. That is what I would do so that I could expose the U.S. as liars, but what do I know?

Mekhong Kurt

I didn't know about our guys nailing bin Laden until I logged on about 9 o'clock this morning and saw that as the lead story on the news web page that I use as a homepage.

My first thought after I cheered the news was, "Wonder how long it'll be before the loons start honking for 'proof' that the team that went in really killed ObL???"

I had to wait but little to run across the first instance of it (first that *I* saw, I mean).

What other proof will they demand? that The team really went there? That a member of the team was the one who fired the killing shot? That President Obama REALLY was the one to give the okay on the mission? Or maybe the "deathers" will demand 'proof' any photos weren't shot in a studio right here in the US?"

The possibilities are mind-numbingly endless.

Mekhong Kurt

I didn't know about our guys nailing bin Laden until I logged on about 9 o'clock this morning and saw that as the lead story on the news web page that I use as a homepage.

My first thought after I cheered the news was, "Wonder how long it'll be before the loons start honking for 'proof' that the team that went in really killed ObL???"

I had to wait but little to run across the first instance of it (first that *I* saw, I mean).

What other proof will they demand? that The team really went there? That a member of the team was the one who fired the killing shot? That President Obama REALLY was the one to give the okay on the mission? Or maybe the "deathers" will demand 'proof' any photos weren't shot in a studio right here in the US?"

The possibilities are mind-numbingly endless.


I do not think a "derogatory label" should be applied for some one who has a question or a different point of view. People have always differed in opinion.

There are many proven incidents where those in authority in other countries (and even this country) have manipulated the truth.
If we all believed the mantra the earth is flat years ago and were called 'flatters", today we would not have GPS, satellite or anything that comes with knowing the earth is round.

Let us all keep an open mind and resolve through respectful dialog and debate.

Julian Gonzalez

And I agree that photo of osama dead is photoshopped, and poorly, my 8 year old nephew could have done a better job.


I am a medical doctor.

I would like to see the autopsy report. I would like to see the report of the kidneys since he was on dialysis. As a physician it is not possible for someone to survive 8-10 years needing dialysis in caves and such. He had no dialysis machine in this compound.

So please it is not unreasonable at all to wonder about all of this since the facts to not add up.

The initial death photos were proven fakes...they had been on internet years earlier...so media has made a terrible mistake ...this does not mean his death was faked but it again raises questions. Madam Albright said in 2002 that Osama was on ice...he would be used when it was politically expedient.

it makes sense....

If you think about how the govt must have thought about what to do with the body, it makes sense. They prepared the body according to Islamic tradition and buried it within 24 hours. Even if he is the worst man on the planet, or the most hated terrorist, whatever it is, they have to follow those procedures, and let their God deal with it, not us. We're only humans, God will punish him. And, really, what other option was there?

Burial? Where? No country would want him. Cremation? Against Islamic tradition. Where would you put the ashes? They have to get rid of the body, and they think he doesn't deserve to be on land, so burial at sea is the only option.

If this escalates more, maybe then will the government release pictures. But doing so is more likely to just anger his followers. People, think about this rationally! I think this is one time that we just have to trust our government.

Just putting this out there, I'm a Democrat and in high school... even young people can view this rationally... you should too.

Coffs Harbour

2 things:

1) Was this the reason why Obama didn't attend Prince Williams and Kates' wedding?

2) Hearsay, is it out of respect to the buddhist religion that his body be committed within 24 hours?

I am glad that USA had gotten the result they wanted. Now I am weary about the up and coming events.


Journalism 101 consists even of confirming that your own mother loves you. Is the LA Times writer serious in dismissing skeptics' claims as if they are wrong to ask questions that don't accept the basic premises of government. This is clear evidence that the Times and mainstream media are simply allies of the state. Any worthy journalist would withhold judgement and ask for solid, documented proof of the killing of bin Laden. The citizens have become the real journalists, and the journalists have crawled into the loving arms of the state that they should be demanding an accounting from. The bin Laden case and the media's invention of new twisted terms, like "deather," will be the death of the regular media's credibility.


"Truther, birther, deather... I am proud to be in those classes.."

Proud to be wrong on all three counts? Proud to be wasting your precious time on this planet chasing pointless rumors on the internet? Go for it playboy.


Lets not forget the saying:

"Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public"

It's how the republican party stays in business.


I am Osama Bin Laden


And why exactly would Barack Obama put his political fortunes in Osama bin Ladin's hands? For that is precisely what he would be doing if, in fact, bin Ladin has not been killed and the reported death is simply a politically expediant lie designed to give the President a bump in the polls. Bin Ladin would then hold the key to Obama's future, able at any moment to destroy the president (and likely the slate of Democratic candidates) by simply producing a new videotape while holding a copy of a current issue of the New York Times. No, he's dead. And Obama's a natural born American. And if Donald Trump is as good as you can do, you've got no shot in '12.


I know he's not dead, because the Government built a space-port in Pakistan so that he could be lifted off the planet before 12/21/2012 by little green aliens from Mars. They have a secret base inside the hollowed out earth, where they make terrorists out of reptiles, and control the weather with their minds. Everyone knows the Federal Reserve is putting LSD on our money, and keeping us subservient so we won't figure that Obama is one of them. Don't believe me? Take a $100 bill and burn it at 11:11:11 on November 11th and see what happens! Personally, I'm buy an old missil silo, and barricading myself in side. You people are all fools!


Lsia says:

"What is wrong with you people? You are on the internet? It is not that hard to Google "bin laden death pictures" and see the dead body. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?"

That photo is proven to be a fake.
The real question is what the hell is wrong with YOU?

Ann Onny Mouse

I was very saddened to realize that I miss-read about the death of Obama Sin Laden.

Bret C.

You forgot another wild claim to list - original deather. You know, those on the left who felt that Bush had killed Obama long ago and was holding him for the right political moment. Guess those neo-deathers just aren't that original; they do have long memories, though!


All I can say is that we've seen some great "geo-political art" in the last 10 years.

I voted Obama in '08, even donated money to his campaign, but I wouldn't be surprised if his paperwork is all a first-rate forgery.

Frankly, this doesn't matter to me so much -- it means Obama and his people had the "juice" to successfully levitate themselves above the rather strict dictates of the U.S. constitution. Frankly, in my book, that means Obama and Co. are pretty darn good.

In my opinion, 9/11, Osama Bin Laden and everything to do with the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan in the last decade have all been bull. The only thing real is the US death toll and the dozens of new military bases we have in the aforementioned countries. I can live with that.


Do y'all realize how pathetic it is to post crazy, irrational comments on an op-ed about crazy, irrational commenters? Do you not possess an iota of self-awareness? Self-respect?

So Sleepy

While it would be nice to have a dead body to gawk at or poke with a stick or something, I do understand the idea of not releasing pictures of dead combatants, enemy or otherwise. This "deather" thing is a non-starter to me. After all, I don't have to prove any point to anyone who thinks otherwise on this. He's dead -- so if someone wants to continue believing he's alive somewhere then I'm fine with that. It's like if you believed that the Oklahoma City bomber was still alive -- scary for you, but not for me. Besides, we all know that the -erisms are mostly just bigotry under the thin veil of "skepticism".


I think Osama died of natural causes years ago, and that we were keeping it a secret for strategic reasons. The problem was that Obama could not begin a drawdown out of Afghanistan while Osama was still "alive" to do a victory dance at having outlasted the Americans just like he did with the Soviets. So he had to "die" in a public spectacle.

Now we get this event, with a limited number of participants who are used to dealing in secrecy (no witnesses), an anonymous compound that was stripped clean (no evidence), and the corpse being dumped in the middle of the ocean (no body). The only thing we have for sure out of this whole thing is an exit face-saving strategy out of Afghanistan.


What you condescending media seem to miss is that doubt is sown by factual sources: In the case of Obama's birth, there are newspaper articles from before his run for President, stating he was born in Kenya. There is the Kenyan government stating he was born there. There is the undisputed fact that his father was not a U.S. citizen and some interpretations of the constitutional wording "natural-born citizen" require that the parents be citizens. As for Bin Laden, we have Benazir Bhutto stating before her death that Osama died in 2003. These are published facts yet you ignore them in favor of drinking the cool aid. You deserve the complete lack of respect that is growing among the american populace. I have a Ph.D. from Stanford university, hold a pretty good high tech job, and grew up the liberal child of liberal parents. I'm not a "racist" or "fascist" or a "wingnut" or a "bagger" (the epithets liberals like to throw at anyone who suggests a different idea). I'm embarassed to be a liberal now and have switched to Independent.

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