Shooting to Kill

As a tyrant falls, images of his corpse become virtual trophies

Photo-Illustration by Jesse Lenz for TIME

After Navy seals killed Osama Bin Laden in May, the U.S. government could have released photos of him shot through the head (and thus refuted the inevitable conspiracy theories about whether the al-Qaeda leader had actually died). It did not, partly to avoid inflaming tensions or creating a martyr. But beyond those concerns, President Obama told 60 Minutes, there was a principle: "We don't trot this stuff out as trophies."

That may be true, where "we" = secure first-world governments concerned with messaging, world reaction and appearances. (Though it's not an eternal rule: the Bush Administration released graphic death photos of...

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