Early in April 2005, I wrote of how we tentatively support our troops. I shared the odd ways in which we honor those that we love. I questioned Department of Defense policies. The Pentagon does not accurately report the actual number of war casualties. “Casualties” are considered persons that are “hurt directly by the bullets and the bombs of the enemy.” If an ally wounds a soldier, if a soldier is injured in an accident, or if a serviceperson hurts him/herself, s/he is not “counted’ as a casualty!
I wrote of how the government fears losing support for the war effort. They do not wish to expose the truth of our conflicts. They fear the “Dover test.” When our war wounded and fallen soldiers are flown back into the States, they arrive at Air Force Bases, such as, Dover. When citizens see images of these, when they are forced to face the reality of war, they often withdraw their support. It is difficult to tolerate the loss of young lives. Equally troublesome is the loss of an eye or a limb; the cruelty of war-imposed pain is not a welcome sight. Therefore, our government has chosen to screen what we see; they want us to feel good about our wars.
However, on April 2004 photographs of flag-draped American coffins were taken. These were acquired illegally and yet they found their way into the public forum. The Whitehouse was livid. Nonetheless, the images survived. In my earlier discussion of the Dover test, I did post these ill-gotten photographs.
Now, on April 28, 2005, I discover others questioning and actively conquering military conventions, and more pictures. After an extensive legal battle, the Pentagon was forced to reveal 360 photographs of United States soldiers killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflicts.
National Public Radio offers audio coverage of the story and a Gallery of photographs for viewing. ”Photos of Caskets Bearing War Dead Released”, April 29, 2005.
Delawareonline.com also bestows complete coverage, photographs, an article, and video.
Those that advocate an open government requested these images under the Freedom of Information Act. Professor Ralph Begleiter, former CNN correspondent, and now faculty lecturer in the Communications Department at the University of Delaware, led the call. Ultimately, under great pressure, the Defense Department made these images available.
These newly released photographs were acquired legally; military photographers took them. However, these images were not meant for public viewing. They were taken to document the historic return of our troops.
As of this week, citizens will be able to view hundreds of legal photographs that represent the effects of war. All of these photographs show the flag-draped caskets of American troops. In some images, soldiers are carrying coffins, in others saluting the caskets of our fallen. A few show soldiers putting coffins onto military cargo aircraft, and then there were those that show them taking them off. The Dover test is in progress. Will Americans still support the war after seeing image upon image of their fallen youth?
Though the images were made public, the Department of Defense chose to place black markings on the faces of the fallen. They decided that showing the faces of our troops was not warranted. They considered the blackening of soldiers’ faces “a show of honor.” However, I wonder. Again, I am prompted to ask, “Is this the way we honor our troops?”
When will we pay tribute to our wounded soldiers? At what point will we acknowledge their presence and their plight? Will we ever bring them back during the light of day and let the nation see their faces? What will have to transpire before we count our casualties in full? When will the Pentagon stop “playing” with the numbers, playing with war? War is not a game!
Please visit my earlier writing and consider the ways in which we do not honor the troops that we say we support. SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, TENTATIVELY! ©
As mentioned in my previous post Operation Truth helps to honor what is. This organization actively supports our troops. You may wish to visit them.