The Pentagon continues to prevent the media from covering the return of America’s fallen soldiers, denying the country a collective reckoning of the human cost of these wars as well as a chance to grieve and honor those soldiers as a national family.
Anyone who has ever seen a flag-draped casket arrive at Dover, Del., can testify that it is a moving and sobering experience and not a publicity stunt. It is a sharing of, rather than an intrusion into, a family’s grief. To his credit, President Reagan recognized the importance of letting the nation see the sacrifice, not to mention the power such images convey to the world about the price of service.
But since 1991 and continuing under the Bush Administration, such coverage has been banned, with a couple of exceptions. Broadcasters have sought to overturn the prohibition on First Amendment grounds but have lost twice in the courts.
If the administration is trying to shield the country from the grim reality of war, it is a mistake. If the motive is to keep the people in lockstep with the policy, it is a travesty.
The soldiers’ repatriation following the sacrifice of their last full measure of devotion should not be hidden from view.
Since grief, honor and remembrance is what Memorial Day is all about, Nightline and former Vietnam War correspondent Ted Koppel are stepping into the breech once more. By the time most of you have read this, Nightline will have broadcast a combined roll call of Iraq and Afghan war dead in a single Memorial Day tribute. Ironically, when Nightline did this last year (but not on Memorial Day) it became something of a media circus when Sinclair Broadcasting refused to carry it, suggesting it was an anti-war statement or sweeps stunt.
This year’s show apparently will be free of that baggage, with Nightline and Sinclair agreeing that the memorial belongs on Memorial Day. Now if only the Pentagon would recognize that all Americans are already personally invested, whether they know it or not and whether they support the war or not, in the sacrifice of these soldiers.
While we are honoring the war dead, we’d like to include the 18 journalists who have died covering our war in Iraq since last May including journalists working for Associated Press TV News and foreign TV channels Al-Iraqiya and Al-Hurriya, Kirkuk TV, and Kyber TV (according to the Committee to Protect Journalists).
You may not know their names, but their sacrifice, too, should not be forgotten.