resident Obama decided not to release graphic photos of Osama bin Laden's dead body, but he did allow lawmakers on the Senate and House armed services and intelligence committees to view the photos at CIA headquarters this week. Of those who took Obama up on his offer, several later described the photos to the press, sometimes in "gruesome" detail. All were convinced that the corpse was bin Laden's. Here, a sampling of what peeping lawmakers said, and a look at why a few opted out.
1. "Really bad graphic stuff"
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the first "gruesome" photos were taken about "30 seconds or so after the hit," and show "really bad graphic stuff." You can see "where actually one of the bullets went in through the left eye and out the right ear... It did blow some of the brains, some of the material, out of the left eye cavity.... Obviously I'm not a doctor, so I don't know what I was looking at, but it's pretty messy." He says Obama should release some of the "cleaned up" photos from bin Laden's burial at sea.
2. "His face was not distorted"
Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger (D-Md.) told The Baltimore Sun he found the shots less disturbing. "There was some blood, but his face was not distorted to the point where you couldn't really determine who he was." Ruppersberger supports Obama's decision to keep the photos classified.
3. "He sort of looked pathetic"
"My first reaction was, he sort of looked pathetic," Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) told The Palm Beach Post. A former Army prosecutor, Roomey added, "I got used to seeing some stuff like this. But this..." He says the "pretty graphic" photos should be released after a "cooling-off period."
4. "Quite gruesome"
"They were gruesome, quite gruesome," Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.) told McClatchy. "Some were clearly taken shortly after the event and others... were taken before burial after his body had been washed. They showed him from several different angles. The striking thing was the size of the wound on his head." There was also severe bruising, swelling, and brain matter, Chandler said. But he still thinks Obama should release the photos and DNA evidence to quash conspiracy theories.
5. "I'll just say this: He's dead"
Not all lawmakers offered details of the photo. "I'll just say this," Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif) told McClatchy. "He's dead." Nunes says the photos should be kept under lock and key, so as not to endanger U.S. troops.
6. "We got our man"
"I am convinced that this was bin Laden. We got our man," Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said in a statement. Without describing the photos, she said that Obama should keep them classified, but release other proof. "While these photos provide certainty of bin Laden's identity, I also believe the best evidence of bin Laden's identity is found through the release of the terrorist's DNA match."
Comments from four lawmakers who declined to see the photos:
1. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.): "I don't want to see it," Reid said, calling the opportunity "morbid." (McClatchy)
2. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): "I've lived a long life and I've seen enough dead bodies and pictures of them." (CNN)
3. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): "I can tell you that I know that Osama bin Laden is dead... al Qaeda has admitted it... We need to move beyond that right now." (CBS, via Palm Beach Post)
4. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.): "These photos should have been released within 24 hours of execution of the U.S. Navy SEAL raid operation. My focus is now on relations with Pakistan and the potential reprisal/retaliatory attacks by Islamic terrorist groups." (Palm Beach Post)
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why China's Communist Party is headed for collapse
- Why Antonin Scalia was right to defend a drug dealer
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- Why we need a maximum wage
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why Mindy Kaling — not Lena Dunham — is the body positive icon of the moment
- 10 things you need to know today: April 23, 2014
- Obama doesn't have a manhood problem — but conservatives certainly do
- The sexual politics of Game of Thrones just got enormously worse
- Why atheism doesn't have the upper hand over religion
Subscribe to the Week