Personally I think they just launched the body out of a helicopter!
No, they did a proper burial at sea: the body was wrapped in a white cloth, and placed on a special platform over the side of an aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson. There’s a short ceremony which may or may not have been conducted, and then the platform was tilted and bin Laden’s remains slipped into the ocean, most likely with weights so that his body would sink rather than be carried by the tide. Simply taking his body out into the middle of the ocean and then throwing it out the side of a helicopter would have been disrespectful. One could easily make the case that bin Laden did not reserve any respect, but the entire point of giving him a burial at sea and doing their best to carry it out under Islamic law was to show to the Muslim world that even though Osama bin Laden was the West’s public enemy number one for over a decade (he was added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list in 1998), America was not going to desecrate his body as some petty act of revenge. They wanted to show that even if they had no respect for the man, they did have respect for his faith – or perhaps more fittingly, the concept of his faith – and by extension of that, they had respect for the Islamic world. By treating the body of their most hated enemy with respect becoming of the dead, America also weakened the position of fundamentalists who claim that America is some evil imperialist leper.
There’s also a certain separation of body and spirit that is common to all religions. When a person dies, body and spirit are separated. The spirit moves on while the body remains behind, and if we wanted to define the spirit, then we could say it is the sum of a person or their essence. Everything they did, everything they amounted to, was no longer in their body. So while it was bin Laden’s body, in the most important aspects (under religious philosophy), it was not Osama bin Laden. The part of him that was gone, the sense of self and identity – what we might commonly call the soul – no more. To attack the body, to desecrate it or disrespect it in some way (like launching it out of a helicopter) would be a meaningless act because it would not harm bin Laden’s soul. Instead, it would be a petty and disturbing act, and the West would lose respect in a lot of peoples’ eyes.
There is talk that al’Qaeda may retaliate for the death of bin Laden. And there has been the suggestion that some fundamentalists might strike out in anger as his body was not buried under exact Sharia law. But if something had been done that did not show the proper respect becoming of a dead body, retribution would come because all it would do is prove the idea that America is a ravenous imperialist dog.