Monday, March 28, 2005

Neocon Devotion: Indulge Murder & Repress Mourning

Every now and then a story like this manages to find itself on the radar. These stories of repressed public mourning must be broadcast widely to counter the pervasive censorship of the Pentagon.

QUOTE:Still fresh, like the soil churned behind her son's grave for another row of dead, is her anger. Anger at the way the Pentagon refused her sole wish when her son was killed by a sniper last May to photograph his casket returning from Iraq.
Meredith wanted to capture the way fellow soldiers respectfully draped the American flag across the casket, tucking the sides just so, and the way an honor guard watched over him as he was unloaded from a cargo plane.
But the Pentagon firmly said "no." It was against regulations and would violate the privacy of family members of other slain soldiers.
"It's dishonorable and disrespectful to the families," said Meredith. "They say it's for privacy, but it's really because they don't want the country to see how many people are coming back in caskets." END QUOTE.

And here is how the Pentagon answers for the policy.

QUOTE:The Department of Defense defends its policy, which was created in 1991 by then-secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. The policy protects the privacy of families who have lost loved ones in the war and who may not want their son or daughter's casket inadvertently photographed, said Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Defense Department spokesperson.
What families of dead soldiers really want is "the expeditious return of their remains," not photographs at Dover, Venable said.
The department strongly discourages family members from coming to Dover to watch the caskets of the dead unload. "It's a tarmac, not a parade ground," Venable said. The caskets arriving at Dover are similar to the "hearse pulling up to the back of a funeral home," he said. END QUOTE.

These are family members, and in the event of death, physical closeness to the corpse is a custom dating back at least two-hundred-fifty years.

QUOTE:Open government advocates are rallying behind Meredith and other family members who want to see photos of their loved ones at Dover. They view this as another attempt by the Bush administration to keep the actions of the government secret. They suspect that the ban is to prevent the public from getting too upset about the war in Iraq.
"I think it's a atrocious that they won't allow photos," said Rick Blum, executive director of, an umbrella organization of conservative and liberal organizations concerned about excessive secrecy in government. "The pictures show the true cost of war and the honor and the respect that the military gives to their sacrifice." END QUOTE.

War is a public event.
These soldiers didn't just die as soldiers, but as citizens of the United States. Therefore, they are entitled to some kind of public rather than secret homecoming.
This policy is unique to the Bush Regime and the Iraq War.

QUOTE:Other open government advocates suspect that there may be political reasons for denying the public access to photograph the caskets.
"The policy keeps these remarkable images off the front pages and off television as if out of sight could mean out of mind," said Tom Blanton, executive director of the National Security Archive, a nonpartisan research institute based in Washington. "The policy disguises this steady, mounting toll."
In 1996, Clinton personally oversaw the return of 33 caskets containing the remains from Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown's plane crash in Croatia. In 2000, the Pentagon allowed photos of caskets from the al-Qaida attack on the USS Cole in 2000.
The National Security Archive keeps its own tally of examples where the images of caskets were released to the public.
The organization cites eight other examples where photos of caskets arriving at military bases were allowed, including the return of Americans killed in the 1998 al-Qaida terrorist bombing in East Africa; the caskets of six dead soldiers who died in a training accident in Kuwait in March 2001 were photographed at Ramstein Air Base; and in September 2001, the the Air Force published a photograph of the casket carrying the remains of a victim of the al-Qaida attacks on the Pentagon.
Exceptions to the rule stopped when the war in Iraq began.END QUOTE.

The ban on photographs and observance of the homecomings is political in nature and designed to keep the public from knowing and, more important, feeling the cost of the war. Its price in dollars is everywhere, its cost is censored. To allow the public to mourn in ceremony would also add a trans-rational dimension to the opposition to the war, and irrationality is the basis of most of the Bush Regime's imperialist policy. If they can make the opposition to the war seem merely rational, merely calculation, and support of the war true devotion, they make a stronger case to most of the American people.
That is why this ban on media coverage of caskets exists. To deny an emotional or devotional element in the anti-war cause.

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