Following the killing of Osama bin Laden, conservative media criticized the Obama administration's decision to treat bin Laden's body in accordance with Islamic custom while burying him at sea. In fact, Obama counterterrorism adviser John Brennan says bin Laden's body was handled "in the best interests of all involved," and even some conservatives have applauded the administration's handling of the body.
Bin Laden Buried At Sea, Following Islamic Traditions, But Denying His Followers A Shrine
NY Times: American Authorities Complied With Islamic Burial Traditions "While Denying [Bin Laden's] Followers A Shrine." From The New York Times:
"No Americans were harmed," Mr. Obama said in a late-night televised statement, adding that the American operatives "took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body."
Muslim tradition requires prompt burial, generally within 24 hours, but American authorities found a way to comply with that requirement while denying his followers a shrine. His body was washed in accordance with Islamic custom, placed in a white sheet and then inside a weighted bag, a senior defense official said. Aboard the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson in the North Arabian Sea, a military officer read religious rites -- translated into Arabic -- and then the body was placed on a board, tipped up and "eased into the sea," the official said. Mr. Brennan said that the raid was intended to capture Bin Laden, though those who planned it assumed he would resist. "If we had the opportunity to take him alive, we would have done that," he said. The killing ended any hope of prosecution. [The New York Times, 5/2/11]
Chief Counterterrorism Adviser: Handling Of Bin Laden's Body Was "In The Best Interests Of All Involved"
John Brennan: "It Was Determined That It Was In The Best Interests Of All Involved That This Burial Take Place" "According To Islamic Requirements, At Sea." In a press briefing, John Brennan, chief counterterrorism adviser to President Obama, stated: "[I]t was determined that it was in the best interests of all involved that this burial take place, again, according to Islamic requirements, at sea." From the May 2 White House press briefing on the death of Osama bin Laden:
Q John, can you tell us about the burial at sea? Where did it happen? When did it happen?
MR. BRENNAN: The disposal of -- the burial of bin Laden's remains was done in strict conformance with Islamist precepts and practices. It was prepared in accordance with the Islamic requirements. We early on made provisions for that type of burial, and we wanted to make sure that it was going to be done, again, in strict conformance.
So it was taken care of in the appropriate way. I'm not going to go into details about sort of the where, but that burial has taken place. It took place earlier today our time.
Q And why?
Q When was that decision made?
MR. BRENNAN: I'm sorry?
Q When was that decision made that he would be buried at sea if killed?
Q Can you explain why -
MR. CARNEY: One at a time.
Q Was it thought through years ago? Was this part of the plan all along?
MR. BRENNAN: The COAs -- the course of action and the subsequent decisions that would have to be made have been developed over the course of the last several months. Senior officials, and there was a working group that was working this on a regular basis, if not a daily basis, over the last several weeks, looking at every decision and based on what type of scenario would unfold, what actions and decisions would be made. It was looked at from the standpoint of if we captured him, what will we do with him? Where would he go? If he was killed, what will we do with him, and where would he go? And it was determined that it was in the best interests of all involved that this burial take place, again, according to Islamic requirements, at sea.
Q Why at sea?
Q Can you just tell us why that was a good idea?
MR. BRENNAN: It was determined that that -- there is the requirement in Islamic law that an individual be buried within 24 hours. Went inside of Pakistan, carried out the operation, he was killed, he was removed from Pakistan. There were certain steps that had to be taken because of the nature of the operation, and we wanted to make sure we were able to do that in the time period allotted for it. Going to another country, making those arrangements, requirements, would have exceeded that time period, in our view. And so, therefore, we thought that the best way to ensure that his body was given an appropriate Islamic burial was to take those actions that would allow us to do that burial at sea.
Q John, did you consult a Muslim expert on that?
MR. BRENNAN: We consulted the appropriate specialists and experts, and there was unanimity that this would be the best way to handle that. [WhiteHouse.gov, 5/2/11]
Rudy Giuliani: "This Was One Of Those Times Where They Did Everything Right." In a panel discussion on MSNBC's Morning Joe, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani stated: "This is one of those times where they did everything right, where the military did everything right. Everybody's reacting in the right way." From the May 3 edition of Morning Joe:
GIULIANI: I thought the decisions about getting rid of the body were exactly correct. I know there were people that feel --
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (co-host): Explain why.
GIULIANI: Because you don't want him around. We don't want a memorial built to him.
TOM BROKAW (NBC contributor): You don't want a martyr.
GIULIANI: Wherever you bury him there will be a memorial to him. If his body were taken back there would be all kinds of arguments and protests about how he's being treated, and where should he be taken, and should he be given to his family. And I mean I think that was a very tough decision. I think doing the Muslim --
JOE SCARBOROUGH (co-host): Sounds like they did everything right.
GIULIANI: Yeah. They did. They did. This is one of those times where they did everything right, where the military did everything right. Everybody's reacting in the right way. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 5/3/11]
Even Fox News' Gretchen Carlson Recognized The Significance Of Islamic Burial "For Diplomatic Reasons." In a conversation with her fellow co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson recognized the significance of burying bin Laden according to Islamic custom. Carlson stated an Islamic burial was the "correct move." From the May 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
CARLSON: They had to observe Muslim custom.
CARLSON: Oh, please.
KILMEADE: Who cares?
CARLSON: Who cares?
KILMEADE: Who cares about a Muslim custom on a terrorist?
DOOCY: He was a guy who killed 3,000 people.
CARLSON: Yes, I understand but I'm just talking about diplomatic relations for the rest of world.
KILMEADE: With Al-Qaeda?
CARLSON: No, with all the other Muslims who live in this country who are -- there are kazillions of them out there who would have been highly offended probably even with a terrorist -- I don't know. I am not a Muslim. But I'm assuming that that's why they did what they did -- because they did not want to inflame anything else.
DOOCY: I don't think, Gretchen, that Osama bin Laden lived the typical Muslim life. I don't think he even --
CARLSON: Well a lot of Christians don't either and they still get to go to heaven.
DOOCY: Alright. Alright --
KILMEADE: But let me ask you something, what did bin Laden do to worry about how Americans were buried?
CARLSON: I don't want to debate -- I am not going to get into a debate about this. I think for diplomatic relations around the world they disposed of the body. They gave him the ritual thing. Whether or not he practiced being a Muslim on a daily basis or not -- I don't know. But I think that that was the correct move to do what they were supposed to do according to Muslim custom. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/3/11 via Media Matters]
Karl Rove: "I Think The President Was Very Wise" "To Quickly Dispose Of [Bin Laden's] Body." From the May 2 edition of Fox & Friends:
KILMEADE: You brought up a good point. With a lot of the times they have these operations, as complicated as they are, they do tape them to learn from them. Do you think there is a good chance, from what you know, that we're going to see footage of this take down?
ROVE: I don't know. There might be a special concern about footage of this particular operation. I mean, I think the president was very wise and his people to quickly dispose of the body of Osama bin Laden by consigning it to a watery grave. And I suspect they would like to keep that -- not provide footage that could be used in building a case for martyrdom for this man. [Fox News,Fox & Friends, 5/2/11 via Media Matters]
Previously, Handling Of Saddam Hussein's Execution Reportedly Turned Him Into A Martyr
CNN: "Celebrations" And "Dancing" "Broke Out After The Former Dictator Died." In a December 29, 2006 article, CNN reported that a witness at Saddam Hussein's hanging reported seeing "dancing around [Saddam Hussein's] body." From CNN:
A witness to Saddam Hussein's execution in Baghdad said that celebrations broke out after the former dictator died, and that there was "dancing around the body."
"Saddam's body is in front me," said an official in the prime minister's office when CNN telephoned. "It's over."
In the background, Shiite chanting could be heard. When asked about the chanting, the official said "These are employees of the prime minister's office and government chanting in celebration." [CNN, 12/29/06]
NY Times: "Images Of Hanging Make Hussein A Martyr To Many." In a January 6, 2007 article headlined, "Images of Hanging Make Hussein a Martyr to Many," The New York Times reported:
In the week since Saddam Hussein was hanged in an execution steeped in sectarian overtones, his public image in the Arab world, formerly that of a convicted dictator, has undergone a resurgence of admiration and awe. On the streets, in newspapers and over the Internet, Mr. Hussein has emerged as a Sunni Arab hero who stood calm and composed as his Shiite executioners tormented and abused him.
In Morocco and the Palestinian territories, demonstrators held aloft photographs of Mr. Hussein and condemned the United States.
Here in Beirut, hundreds of members of the Lebanese Baath Party and Palestinian activists marched Friday in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood behind a symbolic coffin representing that of Mr. Hussein and later offered a funeral prayer. Photographs of Mr. Hussein standing up in court, against a backdrop of the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem, were pasted on city walls near Palestinian refugee camps, praising "Saddam the martyr."
"God damn America and its spies," a banner across one major Beirut thoroughfare read. "Our condolences to the nation for the assassination of Saddam, and victory to the Iraqi resistance."
By standing up to the United States and its client government in Baghdad and dying with seeming dignity, Mr. Hussein appears to have been virtually cleansed of his past.
"Suddenly we forgot that he was a dictator and that he killed thousands of people," said Roula Haddad, 33, a Lebanese Christian. "All our hatred for him suddenly turned into sympathy, sympathy with someone who was treated unjustly by an occupation force and its collaborators."
Just a month ago Mr. Hussein was widely dismissed as a criminal who deserved the death penalty, even if his trial was seen as flawed. Much of the Middle East reacted with a collective shrug when he was found guilty of crimes against humanity in November.
But shortly after his execution last Saturday, a video emerged that showed Shiite guards taunting Mr. Hussein, who responded calmly but firmly to them. From then on, many across the region began looking at him as a martyr. [The New York Times,1/6/07]
CNN: "Bush Upset [And Disturbed] By Hussein Hanging Video." From a January 10, 2007 CNN article headlined, "Officials: Bush upset by Hussein hanging video":
President Bush was upset after watching the video of Saddam Hussein's execution, comparing it to how he felt after seeing the photographs of Iraqi prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, White House officials said Wednesday.
Dark, grainy video -- apparently recorded on a cell phone -- of Hussein's December 30 hanging was leaked to the media soon after the execution.
In the video, taunts from Shiites can be heard moments before Hussein, a Sunni, is hanged.
Bush found the taunting of Hussein as he stood on the gallows with a noose around his neck disturbing, the officials said. Bush had a similar reaction when he saw the photos of U.S. military personnel abusing naked and restrained prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad in 2003. [CNN, 1/10/07]
Tony Blair: "Manner Of" Saddam Hussein Hanging "Unacceptable" And "Wrong." From a January 10, 2007 Reuters article:
British Prime Minister Tony Blair broke his silence on former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's hanging on Tuesday, calling the manner of the execution "unacceptable" and "wrong".
Other ministers in Blair's government had condemned the way Saddam was hanged, but Blair had not spoken out publicly until now, despite rising pressure to do so.
In unofficial video footage posted on the Internet, several men could be heard taunting Saddam as hangmen in black balaclavas slipped the noose around his neck.
"As everybody saw, the manner of the execution is unacceptable and it's wrong, but we should ... not allow that ... then to lurch into a position of forgetting the victims of Saddam, the people that he killed deliberately," Blair told a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. [Reuters, 1/10/07]
Gordon Brown: "We Can Sum This Up As A Deplorable Set Of Events." In an interview with BBC, then-British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, condemned the execution of Saddam Hussein, calling it "deplorable." He further stated, "Even those people unlike me who are in favour of capital punishment found this completely unacceptable." From BBC:
The chancellor told BBC One's Sunday AM the manner of the former Iraqi leader's hanging was "completely unacceptable".
Mr Brown, whose comments come after mobile phone footage of the hanging showed Saddam Hussein being taunted, said he was against the death penalty.
Mr Brown said: "Now that we know the full picture of what happened, we can sum this up as a deplorable set of events.
"It is something, of course, which the Iraqi government has now expressed its anxiety and shame at.
"It has done nothing to lessen tensions between the Shia and Sunni communities."
He added: "Even those people unlike me who are in favour of capital punishment found this completely unacceptable and I am pleased that there is now an inquiry into this and I hope lessons in this area will be learnt, as we learn other lessons about Iraq." [BBC, 1/7/07]
Nevertheless, Conservative Media Attack Obama Administration's Treatment Of Bin Laden's Body
Pamela Geller: "Would Bush Have Washed Bin Laden's Body?" In a May 2 post on her Atlas Shrugs blog, far-right blogger Pamela Geller wrote:
John Brennan, in an ongoing press conference at the White House, was quite insistent that all "Islamic precepts" were respected and adhered to in the burial at sea of Osama bin Laden. The first priority of the Obama adminstration was the Islamic burial of the man Obama claimed was "not a leader of the Muslim world."
Bush disposed of the remains of Iraqi terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi by burying him in a secret location. Did our soldiers wash al-Zarqawi's body? I am going to puke.
I think this is outrageous and sick. Such respect we give, not only to a mass murderer of Americans in the name of Islam, but deference to the very ideology that has fueled this war on America. [Atlas Shrugs, 5/2/11]
Glenn Beck: "I Have A Real Problem With The Way This Thing Has Been Handled." "I Really Would Have Put [Bin Laden] In A Meat Grinder With A Pig." On May 2, Glenn Beck stated: "I have a real problem with the way this thing has been handled." He later added: "My problem with this is is that we gave this guy a dignified burial at sea. Or at least that's what they said. I really would have put [bin Laden] in a meat grinder with a pig, honestly." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 5/2/11]
Tammy Bruce: "I Thought Bin Laden Had 'Hijacked' Islam So Why Was He Treated As A Muslim W A Quick Burial?" From a May 2 post on right-wing radio host Tammy Bruce's Twitter feed:
[Tammy Bruce's Twitter feed, 5/2/11]
S.E. Cupp Bemoans Bin Laden's Sea Burial. In a May 2 post on her Twitter feed, Fox News contributor and conservative writer S.E. Cupp wrote:
[S.E. Cupp's Twitter feed, 5/2/11]
Michelle Malkin: "Should Have Fed The Pigs Rather Than The Fish." From a May 2 post on Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin's Twitter feed:
[Michelle Malkin's Twitter feed, 5/2/11]
Laura Ingraham: "If OBL Was Not Representative Of Islam, Why Announce Islamic Burial?" In a May 2 post on her Twitter feed, conservative talk show host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham wrote:
[Laura Ingraham's Twitter feed, 5/2/11]