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A dead terrorist, a president born in America, and a serving of slop for conspiracy theorists

The White House just made two big decisions on whether to release information to us — one no, one yes, one important, one ridiculous. Both bug me.

President Barack Obama decided against releasing photographs of a dead Osama bin Laden on the belief that the bloody pictures could inflame anti-American passions and endanger lives.

By now it is not news that bin Laden was killed. But maybe it's not a bad idea to take a breath between the stunning headlines about a mass murderer found after nearly 10 years and the public airing of evidence of his death.

But in the end, we have a right to see what happened, because bin Laden happened to us.

He was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans, for global war and for changing us. To many, his end is a measure of justice. We should be able to see images of it — not because we don't believe it, but because it marks an important moment that is ours.

Another reason less important: to quiet conspiracy theorists. Not that they will stop talking.

In the old days, they were the ones ranting that the moon landing was all Hollywood or space aliens crashed in Roswell, dismissed by the rest of us. But today, ours is a world hungry for slop to feed radio rants and incendiary bloggings regardless of truth, decency or common sense.

Already, the nut lobby is at it. Is bin Laden dead, or is that what the government wants you to think? Sounds like an elaborate lie, a huge hoax cooked up to bolster a president facing a vicious re-election battle. Pass it on.

Who would care about such yammerings? Now I'm thinking of a different so-called presidential controversy, one that should have been laughable.

After years of blowing off rumors that he was ineligible to be president because he was really born in Africa instead of the America he claims, Obama was finally goaded into releasing his original birth certificate.

I can see why officials would want to get past this — "We do not have time for this kind of silliness," the president said — but what a shame to have to comply with people who will say anything.

Hey, I'm in the skeptic business and all for a healthy conspiracy theory, given the litany of historical reasons you and I can come up with to distrust our government. But this "birther" claim, the one that has always seemed somehow rooted in racism? That's all you've got?

More sad commentary is that the birther business got its big boost from Donald Trump, that cartoon character blowhard rich guy with the bad hair and the ego the size of Manhattan. Trump's freakish brand of celebrity rendered the question of birthplace so big the White House could no longer afford to take the high road.

So of course the birth certificate said the president was indeed born in Hawaii, though even Hawaii may not be real America enough for some in that hard-core conspiracy crowd.

Trump as a major player in this reminds me of a bad TV show that's been on for so long the writers have to make up increasingly absurd scenarios. Such as: Donald Trump, contender for president!

Though, and you didn't hear it from me, I'm told he was up to his ears in that whole Roswell business. Pass it on.

A dead terrorist, a president born in America, and a serving of slop for conspiracy theorists 05/05/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 5, 2011 8:37pm]
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