Hastily dumping Osama bin Laden’s body into the sea was a critical mistake in an otherwise brilliant operation. The conspiracy theories are already spinning about why the corpse had to be gotten rid of so quickly.
The White House explained the sea burial as a way to avoid having Osama bin Laden’s burial place become a terrorist shrine, a worthy motive. It was the same thinking that led the Soviet Union to disinter and burn Adolf Hitler’s remains in the 1970s. The abrupt timing of the terror leader’s disposal is related to the administration’s desire to make certain all U.S. actions in the war on terrorism pass Muslim muster. The White House said that the body was “handled according to Islamic practice and tradition,” which is this case means interment in 24 hours.
But burial at sea is not an Islamic practice, and in fact according to Islamic law if a person dies at sea the 24-hour rule is waived unless there is absolutely no other alternative. The notion of a person’s remains being dropped into the ocean to be consumed by sea creatures is repugnant to Islam. In that sense, for those who wanted bin Laden’s corpse desecrated, mission accomplished.
Rushing a body to a sea burial to meet the 24 hour deadline when perfectly good land-based alternatives were available is not passing the smell test in the region. A media source in Pakistan told The Washington Times that speculation is already rampant regarding the haste with which the body was disposed. Our source said that people in Pakistan are wondering why there was a burial at sea when the area around Abbottabad is landlocked, as is Afghanistan. If bin Laden wound up in the ocean it had to be on purpose, and the “no shrine” argument isn’t cutting it in Pakistan. The fact that the DNA testing was not yet complete when the body was dumped adds another strange wrinkle to the story.
Conspiracy theorists will dissect every aspect of this operation, every administration statement, and every report that varies in even small ways from the stated facts. The peculiar burial at sea is just the beginning. The White House is reportedly debating how much information to release about the operation, but the best move is to quickly get as much out as possible. The “9/11 Truth” movement was fed by the Bush administration’s extreme caution in releasing information regarding the September 11 attacks. The world still waits to see photos from cameras the FBI confiscated at the Pentagon that morning, for example. The government should release video of the takedown, pictures, transcripts — everything from the start of the op. to the sea burial. Matters that will compromise sources and methods of course need to be excerpted, but in general more is definitely better. A story this big will spawn even greater conspiracy theories, and Mr. Obama’s attempted solicitude to Islam will be swept away in a tidal wave of mythmaking and unfounded speculation.
UPDATE: Looks like most Muslim scholars are now weighing in against the White House’s interpretation of permitted Islamic burial customs. See here and here. Ironic given the lengths to which they go to stay on the right side of Shariah.