The killing of Osama bin Laden has resulted in many reactions. Some expected. Some not. Some thoughtful. Some crazy. The occasion of all this is just too much for an opinion writer to pass by. And I won’t.

First, the S-O-B is dead! Dead and buried at sea where only the fishes can profit from his demise. That’s a very good thing. I think most rational people have agreed on at least that one facet of the story.

He was unarmed when killed. Yeah, and so were 3,000 Americans in the Trade Towers when they died. The breast-beating by those who think he should have been brought back for a lengthy and unnecessary trial are wrong. Personally, I think if most Americans had been driving a Humvee in downtown Baghdad, and found bin Laden in a crosswalk, they’d have taken him out on the spot. Armed or not. Those high, wide steel bumpers are wonderful tools.

And, of course, the photos of bin Laden’s corpse. Show them? Not show them? As a military and media type, I’m curious. I’ve seen really bad pictures in my career – accidents, plane crashes, fires – and doubt I’d have a problem with the military pics of a dead terrorist. But – about the only reasons to show them are vengeance and curiosity. That’s not enough to jeopardize national security. And they would.

In this case, I’m with the president. To much of the world, death photos on our nation’s front pages would look like we were hanging up a trophy. As he said, “That’s not our style.” They likely would become rallying points for Islamic nut-jobs worldwide that would take it as their personal challenge to retaliate. Here. There. Somewhere else. Why should we light their fuses?

But there is an option. As in the case of the John Kennedy autopsy pictures and other sensitive national information, in a few years, make them available to researchers and scholars under circumstances that would assure they aren’t copied or transmitted publically. It’s done all the time.

Then there are the whiners – mostly on the right – who complain because George Bush didn’t go to ground zero when Pres. Obama went to see the families of some of those 3,000 dead. Bush was invited. Bush declined for his own reasons. End of story. Stop the whining.

And finally, criticism about conflicting “facts” in these first few days after the mission. I find some of that complaining justified. But only if you divide the issue of criticism into three areas: what the government is saying; eyewitness statements; how the media is reporting.

First, as tightly held as this mission was from the git-go, any statements from the administration should have been held off until the military team was fully debriefed. After an operation of nearly nine years, another 24-48 hours would have made it possible for facts to have been gathered, participant accounts to be authenticated, photos reviewed and a legitimate, factual basis established for information to be released. That was not done.

Second, I have a reporter’s working lifetime of dealing with eyewitness statements. Some are accurate. Some are somewhat accurate. Some are just plain wrong. No matter the issue. No two people will see an incident and subsequently describe it the same way. Much less 24 combatants on the field of battle with events changing instantly over and over and over again. Lacking complete photography of every detail, every moment, the best you can do is debrief all 24 and reconstruct what happened using the most remembered details that match. Then – maybe – you’ve got what happened. Mostly.

Then that media “reporting.” Over an hour before the president’s announcement of the mission, CNN, MSNBC, Fox and others were already proclaiming bin Laden’s demise and reporting “details.” In just an hour, all of them went from “something big is happening” to “bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan along with members of his family.” The second Obama was finished, off they went on all sorts of tangents with many “facts” they later had to correct. And still are.

A “developing story” is just that: developing. The size of this one was huge. The number of participants many. Distances involved great. The action fast and deadly. While all news organizations want to be “first” with the story, there is an accompanying responsibility to be “right” with the story. Right with the facts. Accurate.

This is one of those stories that will continue to change. To evolve. Some do that. It’s not always “cut-and-dried.” All media reporting on this one should make that clear repeatedly. There are a lot of parts – multiple government agencies, hundreds of direct participants and thousands who, over the years, were part of the intelligence, military and political facets. What we think we know today will probably change regularly for awhile. That’s just how it works.

So, all we can really say for sure, at this moment, is bin Laden is dead. Because he was the worldwide “trademark” for his terrorist cells, his absence will surely change conditions in many countries where they operate. About all we who want to stay abreast of this story can do is watch for the facts as they emerge. And change.

This story is not over yet. That’s life. And sometimes, death.

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