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April 24, 2004

The flag-draped coffin images are now everywhere, thanks largely to Tami Silicio, who lost her job for it, and Russ Kick of The Memory Hole, who obtained hundreds of them through a Freedom of Information Act request. His gallery is here and mirrored here.

I agree with Kevin Drum on this issue: I don't get why the government is so adamantly against showing these pictures. They are a sobering and emotional reminder of what is happening in our name thousands of miles away, but they also clearly show with how much care and respect these dead soldiers are treated. The crisp, neat flags on every coffin at every stage, the soldiers standing in formation and saluting, it shows how very seriously these deaths are taken, and I don't think showing them diminishes support for the war.

Support for the war -- it's rationale, it's execution -- is a separate matter. I personally do not support it. But these pictures strengthen my support for the troops and for their families, and give me deeper respect for their service. If we are truly to be proud of this war and it's mission, as the administration's rhetoric clearly suggests, then why are we hiding the honor we give to those who have sacrificed so much for that mission?

Most likely, they believe that it's the safer bet. Criticism for not allowing the images to be seen is politically far less risky than an endless parade of images of fallen soldiers would be. Imagine if every newspaper in the country ran one photo for every fallen soldier, or even one for every ten. The political calculus isn't hard to understand.

Still, the pictures are the truth, and the truth should be seen -- respectfully.

So, with utmost respect, some more:

flag draped coffin
flag draped coffin
flag draped coffin
flag draped coffin

I think it's also interesting to point out, as Ted Koppel did tonight, that the one time recently that a similar image -- one of a flag draped stretcher being carried out of Ground Zero -- has been used in what most people agree is a disrespectful way was in a campaign ad for George W. Bush.

bush grounds zero campaign ad

The message? Using images of fallen heroes to inform the public and to illustrate their sacrifice and our respect for their service is disrespectful to their families. Using those images to further one's political career, that's okay.


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