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Saturday, October 25, 2003


See No Dead People

posted by Trammell at Saturday, October 25, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Well, it seems Bush and Co. have found a way to slow the ebb of dead soldiers arriving home in caskets, at least on television. From Dana Milbank, writing in The Washington Post:
Since the end of the Vietnam War, presidents have worried that their military actions would lose support once the public glimpsed the remains of U.S. soldiers arriving at air bases in flag-draped caskets. To this problem, the Bush administration has found a simple solution: It has ended the public dissemination of such images by banning news coverage and photography of dead soldiers' homecomings on all military bases.

In March, on the eve of the Iraq war, a directive arrived from the Pentagon at U.S. military bases. "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, to include interim stops," the Defense Department said, referring to the major ports for the returning remains. [...]

President Bush's opponents say he is trying to keep the spotlight off the fatalities in Iraq. "This administration manipulates information and takes great care to manage events, and sometimes that goes too far," said Joe Lockhart, who as White House press secretary joined President Bill Clinton at several ceremonies for returning remains. "For them to sit there and make a political decision because this hurts them politically -- I'm outraged."

Pentagon officials deny that. Speaking on condition of anonymity, they said the policy covering the entire military followed a victory over a civil liberties court challenge to the restrictions at Dover and relieves all bases of the difficult logistics of assembling family members and deciding which troops should get which types of ceremonies. [...]

A White House spokesman said Bush has not attended any memorials or funerals for soldiers killed in action during his presidency as his predecessors had done, although he has met with families of fallen soldiers and has marked the loss of soldiers in Memorial Day and Sept. 11, 2001, remembrances. [...]

President Jimmy Carter attended ceremonies for troops killed in Pakistan, Egypt and the failed hostage rescue mission in Iran. President Ronald Reagan participated in many memorable ceremonies, including a service at Camp Lejeune in 1983 for 241 Marines killed in Beirut. Among several events at military bases, he went to Andrews in 1985 to pin Purple Hearts to the caskets of marines killed in San Salvador, and, at Mayport Naval Station in Florida in 1987, he eulogized those killed aboard the USS Stark in the Persian Gulf. During President George H.W. Bush's term, there were ceremonies at Dover and Andrews for Americans killed in Panama, Lebanon and aboard the USS Iowa.

[P]hotos of coffins arriving at Andrews and elsewhere continued to appear through the Clinton administration. [...] The photos of coffins continued for the first two years of the current Bush administration, from Ramstein and other bases. Then, on the eve of the Iraq invasion, word came from the Pentagon that other bases were to adopt Dover's policy of making the arrival ceremonies off limits.

"Whenever we go into a conflict, there's a certain amount of guidance that comes down the pike," said Lt. Olivia Nelson, a spokeswoman for Dover. "It's a consistent policy across the board. Where it used to apply only to Dover, they've now made it very clear it applies to everyone."
It's rather odd, by the way. This story was published Tuesday, yet has only been picked up by a few lefty pubs such as Mother Jones -- I can't even find an AP story. It has not been blogged on Kos or Billmon so far as I can find. I heard Paul Begala mention this on Crossfire today, and I kinda figured it got quite a bit of play while I was on vacation. Well, if so, I'm missing it. Question: Why? Isn't this news?

Crossposted at Points West and Daily Kos.


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Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.