This question which began to bubble several times since the Pentagon began clamping down on photos in 1991 is now boiling to the surface.
And it doesn't just involve niceties but it's a complex issue that involves questions about anguish, allegations of giving propaganda ops to the enemy, and concerns about political manipulation of the voting public.
The catalyst for shoving this issue to the forefront was a photo published April 18th in the Seattle Times in living color showing more than 20 flag-draped coffins in a cargo plane about to depart from Kuwait. It was taken by military contractor Tami Silicio, a Kuwait-based cargo worker — who on Monday was quickly fired by contractor Maytag Aircraft for violating U.S. government and company regulations.
The reason: since 1991 the Pentagon has discouraged photos of military coffins and funerals.Once this photo appeared, the floodgates opened on the Internet. The Memory Hole has a large collection of photos obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Photos of flag-draped coffins have also been published on the usually-Bush-administration-friendly Drudge Report as well as its liberal counterpart the Drudge Retort.
Why is this a big deal? Although the military has discouraged publication of these photos, the REAL strict clampdown by the Pentagon was imposed in March 2003, on the eve of Iraq War II. It stated: "There will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein (Germany) airbase or Dover (Del.) base, (and) to include interim stops."
A Newsday report noted this:
- A Pentagon spokeswoman said the military-wide policy actually dates from about November 2000 — the last days of the Clinton administration — but it apparently went unheeded and unenforced, as images of caskets returning from the Afghanistan war appeared on television broadcasts and in newspapers until early this year. Though Dover Air Force Base, which has the military's largest mortuary, has had restrictions for 12 years, others "may not have been familiar with the policy," the spokeswoman said. This year, "we've really tried to enforce it."
There are various views on this issue:
(1)The administration and Pentagon insist the rule is in force to protect grieving families and friends. The press interferes with their grief and photos splattered on newspaper front-pages and on television news are hurtful. A strict enforcement of this ban is vital.