Monday, April 26, 2004
Images of war: Last week the Web site The Memory Hole posted hundreds of photos of fallen soldiers in their coffins returning to Dover AFB. (Included in the photos were those of the fallen astronauts, mistakenly published by some newspapers.) Many newspapers ran the photos not because it was news that fallen soldiers were coming home, but because it was news that they had the photos.
Media organizations have been clamoring for years for the "right" to be present and take pictures of the returning fallen heroes. Anti-war, anti-Bush and anti-American activists claim the Bush administration is attempting to "hide" the human costs of the war, when the prohibition against the media has been in place since 1991.
The main reason the media has been clamoring for access to Dover AFB is that they don't have access to Dover AFB. The media are like little children, if you tell them they can't do something or they can't go somewhere, that just guarantees they'll want it more.
Photos of flag-draped coffins aren't that compelling visually. Granting the media access to Dover won't mean that you'll see those photos regularly on the front page -- they'll appear on A27, if at all.
The argument against allowing media access is the effect that could have on the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. You haven't heard much about that aspect of the debate, unless you saw Monday's Wall Street Journal. In an op-ed piece entitled "Our Honor, Our Grief" [subscribers only], Ronald R. Griffin, father of Spc. Kyle Griffin who was killed in Iraq, offers a view of that hasn't received much attention.
The arguments put forth to have the ban on media coverage lifted vary from allowing the American people to bear witness to the sacrifice of the soldiers and thus honor them, to the need to deny President Bush the opportunity to hide the real costs in human terms of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Steve Capus, executive producer of "NBC Nightly News," arrogantly and presumptuously spoke for me when he stated, "It would seem that the only reason somebody would come out against the use of these pictures is that they are worried about the political fallout." Well I am that SOMEBODY and as I looked at those pictures the tears were not running because of my worry about political fallout. In all the criticism there has never once been put forth a single argument of how having the media coverage lifted would be of benefit to the loved ones of these heroes. We are never taken into account. We are the collateral damage in this all so obvious ideological struggle.
Had the media ban not been in effect, we, the families of fallen soldiers, would not have had these moments to ourselves. Without the ban, it is conceivable that I could have viewed a procession of flag-draped coffins as they disembarked from the aircraft. But how would the families of those other fallen heroes, who would be unable to come to Dover because they lived in Iowa or North Dakota or Arizona, feel when they viewed on TV their loved ones arriving? Would they feel the honor that was being bestowed upon them from all those other Americans? Or would they suffer further when the pictures were used in the context of criticism?
The war's opponents, and some in the media, want to use these images to weaken American resolve in the war on terror. They don't want to honor the fallen for their valorious service, they want to condemn the cause for which they gave their lives.