Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Flag-Draped Coffins, Revealed

The Washington Post reports today that President Barack Obama is thinking of reversing his stance on allowing photographs of dead soldier's coffins to be taken and published, reversing an 18-year-old policy, in place since the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

This is obviously a difficult space to negotiate; it's a balance of allowing respect of fallen soldier's families in grief while allowing images of the human cost of war to be publicly circulated. Policies about disloyalty and anti-war messaging bans have been in place since World War I but the defense department still sends a press release every time a soldier (or sometimes a group of soldiers) gets killed in action. It doesn't make sense for flag-draped coffins, an overall rather un-graphic image, to be banned from public discourse -- especially when the names of those contained in the coffins aren't shown to the public. It's sort of sad it took a freedom of information request to get access to these images.

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