Osama bin Laden
A video grab from an undated footage from the Internet shows Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden making statements from an unknown location. REUTERS

Osama bin Laden’s dead pictures shouldn’t be released because it will incite violence and be used as a recruitment tool by al-Qaeda.

Those who argue otherwise don’t understand what motivates Muslim extremists and human beings in general. They don’t understand that imagery and symbolism matter.

They forget that mere cartoons deemed offensive by Muslims incited Muslim extremists to burn Danish embassies and make serious attempts to kill the cartoonists.

They forget that a Florida pastor’s decision to burn copies of the Quran incited Muslim extremists thousands of miles away to kill innocent UN staff members in Afghanistan.

The fact is that imageries and symbolisms change opinions and incite actions.

For example, although doubts already swirled in the West about Ngo Dinh Diem’s government in Vietnam by 1963, it was the image of the self-immolation of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc that decidedly turned Western public perceptions against Diem.

Diem soon lost US support and died of from an assassination by Vietnamese army personnel.

While certain Muslim extremists will indeed hate the US no matter what happens, they’ll hate the US more and act on that hate if they’re incited by a compelling imagery or symbol.

On May 1, the US scored a major victory by killing Osama bin Laden. The strategic benefits of his elimination outweigh whatever backlash the killing itself may incite.

Now that he’s killed, the US government made a another good decision to not release a gruesome photo of his corpse – which if publicly available will undoubtedly become an iconic and rallying photo to Muslim extremists.