The bin Laden photos shouldn't be released. No matter how gruesome or not gruesome the photos are, images of a dead bin Laden would offend not only committed radicals, but would also likely inflame the passions of some who are not currently radicalized. This would not only be a threat to American troops, it could also unintentionally provide a resurgence of energy and new blood into a terrorist movement that has been rendered increasingly ineffective over the last 10 years. This is in nobody's interest.
The idea that the photos should be released as a way of providing proof of death is also a pretty faulty argument. I understand the view of folks like Krauthammer that conspiracy theories and hair-brained intrigue are not the sole property of the idiot fringe like the birthers on the Right or the truthers on the Left, but are in fact an integral part of mainstream thought and discourse on 'the Arab street'. Therefore, so the theory goes, releasing the photos would provide the kind of evidence that would dampen a potential conspiracy frenzy in the Arab world. I politely dissent.
Government policy, both foreign and domestic, has to accommodate and even at times 'condescend' to the level of the masses. But such accommodation needs to have reasonable limits. Government policy that accommodates and is even dictated by mass stupidity is dangerous, because it jeopardizes national interests, does nothing to elevate the discourse or national conversation, and in fact, concedes ground to the point where the inmates can start running the asylum.
Look, doubts about bin Laden's death aren't fueled by a lack of proof; they're fueled by a lack of thinking. When the United States openly tells the entire world that bin Laden is dead, that claim instantly becomes the easiest claim in the world to debunk if it isn't true. All bin Laden would have to do is record a video or audio that says, "Hey, I know the United States is telling the world that I was killed in a raid on April 30/May 1 2011 at a compound in Abbottabad Pakistan by Navy Seals. Well, this claim is obviously a lie, since I'm still here." This kind of verifiable statement is what Hitler gave in the aftermath of the Stauffenberg plot to assassinate him in 1944, and it's what any high profile person would do to set the record straight, 'reassure' his loyalists, and not allow a lie to demoralize his movement/forces. When the US makes a claim like this, the burden of proof is just as much on bin Laden to disprove the claim as it is on the US to provide reasonable evidence of the claim's veracity. If anyone doubts this, they might want to consult the religious leaders in Palestine in the 1st century, since all they had to do to stamp out Christianity forever was produce the corpse of Christ. As Jack Nicholson said in The Departed, "If you coulda, you woulda."
The bottom line is that we don't need potentially inflammatory photos to be evidentially satisfied that bin Laden is dead. bin Laden's silence since the episode is the most compelling proof of all. There's no accounting for stupidity, and US policy shouldn't be writing a blank check to such stupidity, particularly when lives could be lost and evil movements rejuvenated by doing so.