Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hidden servicemen and women in shipping containers

Hidden servicemen and women in shipping containers
By Walter Haan,

Government officials reconsidering the ban on American news coverage of coffins arriving at Dover Air Force Base from Iraq and Afghanistan are studying the media policies of other countries such as Britain and Canada. These two important allies in our war in Afghanistan allow far more news media access to the return of a fallen soldier to his or her country than does the United States.

In a recent HBO movie, (more a docudrama) actor Kevin Bacon, playing the part of Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, escorts the body of Chance Phelps, 19, a fellow Marine killed in Iraq, home to his parents in Wyoming. There’s no real plot to the movie other than following Colonel Strobl through his solemn rituals as he watched over Private Phelps. Phelps’ body was moved in a shipping container through various airports and from cargo hold to cargo hold as it wended its way to his family and friends.

Almost 5,000 American servicemen and women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. But the photographic record documents only a small fraction of those who have given their lives for their country, meaning us.

Propaganda is part of waging every war, but the Bush (43) administration went to extraordinary lengths to cover up the human cost of these conflicts. It aggressively enforced the ban on photographic coverage of the coffins of our military casualties.

It looks as if this dishonest policy, which I believe dishonors the war dead, may be changing. And it’s about time. At a news conference recently, President Obama promised to review the ban, first imposed during the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

Let us hope that Obama follows through and reverses the ban. A lot of these men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan were National Guard caught up in a hidden draft. Our news media have stopped covering the war in Iraq, again making our servicemen hidden from us but in plain sight over there and in danger. Then if they lose their lives, they come home in shipping containers hidden from the American people, the very people who should want to know what is happening to those who serve our country and make the ultimate sacrifices.

It may be distressing to Americans to see flag draped coffins coming home every week. But more distressing and dishonest is to ignore these men and women in shipping cartons. It was dishonest of previous presidents (Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43) to enforce the hiding of the shipping cartons to further their military adventures and deceive the American people. I hope we don’t have to add President Obama’s name to the list of the other three presidential deceivers. Copyright © 2009 by Walter Haan,


Blogger Grace said...

I so agree with you. The longer we keep hiding our war dead, the longer we can ignore the real cost. I want America to be distressed. I'm distressed. Until we are collectively distressed, we will not find the courage and time to rise up and force the end of these wasteful campaigns. And yes, I am a veteran myself.

Graciela Tiscareno-Sato
Captain, US Air Force Reserves

1:11 AM  

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