FORT WORTH — If Gordon England was still in the inner circle of top defense officials, as he was for the entire Bush administration, he's pretty sure what advice he'd give when the subject turned to whether to release photos of Osama bin Laden's body.
He wouldn't be a Yes.
"I don't think it serves any purpose," the former deputy defense secretary said Tuesday. "I hope they don't release them. I don't see many benefits of showing his body with a bullet in his eye, but I can see several downsides."
That debate will, of course, go on without England, who left Washington in early 2009 and returned to his adopted hometown of Fort Worth.
A former top executive with the General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin aeronautics plant in Fort Worth, England served as long as anyone for President George W. Bush, beginning in May 2001 as Secretary of the Navy and ending as the No. 2 executive in the Department of Defense.
England, who was in Washington during the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, said the killing of bin Laden ranks as an "extraordinarily positive" message to terrorists, regardless of how much damage it does to al Qaida long-term.
"Part of the message to people like him is that we were persistent, determined and committed for 10 years," he said.
The Bush Administration team and top intelligence officials over the last 10 years deserve much credit as well, he said, since the effort to track and find bin Laden took years.
England was also the point person within the Defense Department for the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, where hundreds of men have been held for years for having suspected ties to terrorism.
Bin Laden will be replaced at the top of the terrorist organization, he said, but it still is "disheartening for al Qaida."
"This is a psychological blow more than a military blow," England said. "But the psychology of warfare is important too."
Giving the green light to the raid, carried out by an elite group of Navy SEALs, was a politically risky and courageous decision by President Barack Obama, England said.
"Think of the consequences if this had not worked," he said. "The intelligence was apparently only a 60-80 percent chance that he was there. If a helicopter had been shot down or SEALs had been killed and bin Laden wasn't there, the fallout would have been enormous, particularly because they were in Pakistan."
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