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Images of bin Laden's Abbottabad hideout

The White House is currently holding a press conference on the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces in Pakistan. (FP's David Kenner is liveblogging.) The images below are from a background briefing for reporters.

 

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After truthers and birthers, deathers?

There's a lot we still don't know about how the death of Osama bin Laden will impact the future of global terrorism and U.S. national security policies, but there's one prediction I feel pretty comfortable making: Large numbers of people are not going to accept that he is dead.

Considering the number of high-ranking officials who have questioned whether bin Laden is alive over the years, Bin Laden's own lies about his locations and activities in his public statements, the number of people who doubt the official story about his signature achievement, and the increasingly decentralized and online nature of al Qaeda supporters, this situation creates a perfect recipe for conspiracy theories. 

Bin Laden's burial at sea, which makes sense as a way to prevent his gravesite from becoming a shrine for supporters, is only going to fan the flames. The Pentagon says Bin Laden's body was identified by DNA fingerprinting as well as one of his wives who was present during the raid, but the absence of a physical body is going to raise doubts. 

Islamist message board posters already had their doubts in the hours following the announcement:

"The source of news that we trust is that which comes from the mujahideen (holy warrior)," a message on Ansar forum said. "Be patient and don't spread rumors...we've asked this repeatedly, so please do not write anything on the subject."

In a just concluded White House briefing, counterterrorism advisor John Brennan punted when a reporter asked whether a photo of Bin Laden's body would be released. A faked photo of Bin Laden's bloodied face has already circulated online and was printed on the front pages of several British newpapers including the Mail, Times, Telegraph, Sun and Mirror.

It's not clear where the faked image came from, but it's like chum for conspiracy theorists. Infowars, the website run by popular radio host Alex Jones -- a 9/11 Truther, Bilderberg Group investigator, and occasional Ron Paul interlocutor -- has weighed in:

The only evidence at this stage is an obviously doctored photo.

If true, there will be no DNA check to verify if the body was indeed that of Osama bin Laden. Once again, we will be forced to either accept the government’s version of events or be denounced as conspiracy theorists.

In another post, the site's authors discussed possible motives, placing the Osama killing in the context of a number of other popular conspiracy theories:

The supposed hit on Osama – without shred of evidence short of an image badly mangled in Photoshop that was debunked in short order like Obama’s birth certificate – will be used to reinvigorate the war on terror precisely at a time when new enemies are being manufactured in Africa.

Osama’s unverified assassination arrives on the heels of large protests in Pakistan over the CIA’s illegal drone attacks. More than a week ago, activists in Pakistan managed to blockade supplies headed to U.S. occupation forces in Afghanistan.

In addition to providing additional momentum for the flagging war on terror, the staged assassination of a terrorist with ties to the CIA who died almost ten years ago serves to distract the easily distracted masses away from serious economic dangers, most notably the engineered fall of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency and the related escalation of gas, food and commodity prices.

It is not certain if the government will use this unverified and unverifiable assassination – now that we are told Osama was buried at sea – as a pretext to engage in a false flag attack to further boost the wars and occupations abroad and expand the police state at home.

If the throng of chortling murder worshippers outside the White House last night is any indication of larger sentiment around the country in the wake of this fake assassination, it will not take much for the government to convince the people to support more mass murder in foreign lands and the continued debasement and destruction of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

As Daniel Drezner discussed recently in reference to the birth certificate mishigas, conspiracy theories are frustratingly difficult to refute and people of nearly all cultural backgrounds and educational levels are susceptible to them. Considering that we're discussing death of a man who, for the last ten years, has been more powerful as a symbol than a living-breathing person anyway, it's not outlandish to consider that Bin Laden may be able to continue his work, to a great extent, from beyond the grave. 

Update: Slate's Dave Weigel catches the most high-profile "deather" so far, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, who posted this to her Facebook page

I am sorry, but if you believe the newest death of OBL, you're stupid. Just think to yourself--they paraded Saddam's dead sons around to prove they were dead--why do you suppose they hastily buried this version of OBL at sea? This lying, murderous Empire can only exist with your brainwashed consent--just put your flags away and THINK!

Update 2: More from Think Progress and Politico

FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images