It is not difficult to find photo- graphs of the bodies of Italy’s World War II fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, and his mistress, Clara Petacci, hanging upside down in a piazza in Milan.
Mussolini, Petacci and others in their party were executed April 28, 1945, by Communist partisans who had captured them a day earlier.
Their bodies were taken to Milan, where crowds kicked them and spat on them before hanging them on meat hooks from the roof of a gasoline station.
Mussolini was buried in an unmarked grave north of the city, but a year later, neo-fascist supporters dug it up so as to give it the respect they thought it deserved. After authorities recovered the body, it was held for 10 years before finally being reburied.
The bodies of men who have done evil things sometimes continue to have a power over us long after their deaths.
We have seen that in recent days — 68 years after Italian mobs abused Mussolini’s corpse — in the emotional response by some Americans over what to do with the body of one of the two Boston Marathon bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
We suspect that there are those who would have been happy to drag Tsarnaev’s body through the streets in much the way mobs desecrated the body of Libya’s dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, in October 2011.
But this is not a nation recovering from the horrors of World War II, nor is it a nation in revolution. As difficult as it may be to accept on an emotional level, it is only right that after a week of indecision, the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been quietly and secretly entombed.
Anonymity is best
We know it wasn’t in Boston, where he carried out his murderous plot. Or in Cambridge where he built his bombs. But somewhere — perhaps in Massachusetts, perhaps not — where he will hopefully lie in anonymity.
Tsarnaev was killed during a shootout with police April 19, and after three weeks it was time to be rid of his corpse.
There were other alternatives that could have been pursued if an anonymous donor had not provided a burial site. Osama bin Laden was buried at sea. There would have been red tap to cut through, but Tsarnaev’s body could have been handled similarly. And while cremation is not sanctioned by Islam, Islamic scholars also say that murderous attacks on innocent civilians are clearly contrary to their religion. So an argument could well have been made that Tsarnaev had surrendered his right to be seen as a practicing Muslim when he detonated his deadly bomb.
Those debates, however, are no longer necessary and Boston and the nation can move past the distraction of what to do with Tsarnaev’s body. More important is the work of continuing to administer to those wounded in body and mind by the brothers Tsarnaev. And, of course, to pursue the criminal prosecution of the surviving accused bomber, Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19.