As the debate simmers about whether the White House should release photos of Osama bin Laden’s body as proof of his death, there is, so far, no effort to make it a partisan debate on Capitol Hill. At least, not from one of the president’s usual political antagonists.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says he has no opinion on whether the White House should release photos of bin Laden to establish that his body was in U.S. custody and he died as a result of gunshot wounds inflicted by the Special Operations unit that invaded his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
“That’s a decision for the administration to make,” Boehner said when asked if it was necessary to release any of the bin Laden photos, which U.S. officials have described as carrying the gory imprint of a gunshot wound to the head. “They have to decide what to do. I’m convinced. I have no doubts.”
The White House is expected to decide Wednesday whether to allow the CIA to release the photos. CIA Director Leon Panetta has said that he expects that they will be released. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are worried about a backlash. ABC News is reporting that the president is leaning away from a release of the photos, seeing no compelling reason to do so.
Boehner said President Obama telephoned him at his Capitol Hill apartment on Sunday night and briefed him through the key points of the operation that led to bin Laden’s death. The phone call lasted about 10 minutes, Boehner said.
“He walked me through the steps that were taken, and I have no doubts,” Boehner said of bin Laden’s death.
Boehner described the operation as an important step in America’s “war on terrorism,” but he sounded decidedly downcast about the prospect of that military and intelligence campaign ending any time soon.
“Psychologically, bringing bin Laden to justice is a big step in the war against terrorists,” Boehner said. “The thing that I would want to underscore is that al-Qaida has a history of replacing their leaders and moving people up. Our efforts have to be just as strong today as they were a week ago. This issue is not going to go away.”
Asked how America will know the war on terror is over, Boehner offered a definition that may never be achieved and might not be achievable in a literal sense.
“When there are no longer threats to Americans here or abroad. Then, we’ll know. This vigilance is going to have to last for a long time. I don’t see this [the war on terrorism] being resolved any time soon. We’re talking about a radical philosophy that has spread far and wide. You cannot look the other way. You cannot hope this just goes away, because it’s not going to go away.”