FORT WORTH (AP) – A former No. 2 Defense Department official in President George W. Bush’s administration said Tuesday that he sees no benefit to the United States making public photographs of Osama bin Laden’s corpse.
George England was Navy secretary and deputy Defense secretary under Bush. At a speaking engagement in Fort Worth, he said he hopes Obama does not release photos and videos the SEALs made of bin Laden’s corpse.
“I don’t think it serves any purpose. I hope they don’t release them. I don’t see many benefits of showing his body with a bullet in his eye, but I see several downsides,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
In a later interview with The Associated Press, he specified the main downside he sees. “Who knows how people would react to it? … It could be inflammatory.”
At the speaking engagement, he hailed as politically risky but courageous President Barack Obama’s decision to raid the walled compound where the al-Qaida leader was living.
“Think of the consequences if this had not worked,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “The intelligence was apparently only a 60-to-80 percent chance that he was there. If a helicopter had been shot down or (Navy) SEALs had been killed and bin Laden wasn’t there, the fallout would have been enormous, particularly because they were in Pakistan.”
However, the Bush administration team and intelligence officials over the past decade also deserve much credit for sustaining the search over 10 years.
Although he sees bin Laden’s death as providing “a political rationale” for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, he said a total withdrawal would be a bad idea. The U.S. must keep a long-term presence there to prevent re-establishment of terrorist training camps where al-Qaida was born.
“You can’t protect and defend America from inside America,” England told his audience. “You do have to take the fight to the enemy. If you are only on defense, you will ultimately lose. The president just has to make a case to the American people for why it’s important to be there.”
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