To release the pictures or not?
That is the question of the moment regarding how to definitively prove to the world that Osama bin Laden is dead. While there is no serious doubt among Americans and many/most around the world, there are and will be doubters.
In my opinion, asking another question first will help answer the question over releasing the pictures. And that question is...
What of these two situations are worse...
Having large portions of the Middle East and terrorist groups literally bank on, recruit and appeal to anti-American sentiment based on the accusation that we really did not get bin Laden, he's still alive and appealing to the notion that we're unwilling to release pictures as their proof of argument?
Having large portions of the Middle East react in revolt and anti-American sentiment to the gruesome picture of the dead bin Laden - not to mention terrorists groups mythologizing bin Laden as a martyr and appealing to terrorists to avenge his death?
It's a close call because both situations result in terrorists using the death or non-death as recruitment and motivational purposes. Either way, they're going to twist things and use them for their advantage.
All that said, as gratifying as it would be to show the U.S. haters in the Middle East just what the U.S. will do to them if they try and/or actually attack our country...I think the answer is actually to not release the pictures unless or until a material situation develops where we can achieve something by doing so.
By this I mean I think it would be worse for the greater Middle East to see the pictures and react in horror to them. We would be generating more bad will and potentially enemies in the region than would be the case if we don't release the pictures. After all, pictures are very tangible and real. They are portable and could be used as quite compelling recruitment tools. From what I've read, the picture that best IDs bin Laden is quite horrific with a huge wound to his face. This would definitely elicit a negative response in the Middle East. And besides, who wants to see a t-shirt with the destroyed head of bin Laden on it? What? You don't think that would happen? Of course it would, and probably here in the States by Tea Partiers or worse.
No, I say don't release the pictures - at least not now. Go ahead, let terrorists spin theories that bin Laden is alive. He's not. And that fact alone, regardless of spin, means Al Qaeda and other groups are up shit creek. Meanwhile, we spare ourselves the negative reaction region-wide at a time when in many countries over there change is happening. And guess what? If we for some reason need to release the pictures to achieve something, we have them.