Politics

Pentagon Changes Policy on Media Photos of War Dead

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The Department of Defense has altered the policy concerning the photography of America’s returning war dead. Now, news organizations will be allowed to photograph and disseminate photos of flag-draped coffins — as long as the families of the fallen soldiers give permission.

While the no-photographs policy has been in place since 1991, the issue became contentious when President Bush put a total ban on the release of photos of coffins returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. Opponents contended Bush was trying to hide the true cost of the war while supporters of the policy argued such pictures are too easily exploited.

The new policy seems to be an acceptable compromise. While photos of flag-draped coffins lined up in the back of a plane might be dramatic, I don’t think they serve any notable purpose and don’t inform us nearly as much as the soldier obituaries run in papers across America and released regularly by the DoD. But, if news organizations feel compelled to print such photos and if the families of the deceased soldiers are amenable to having those photos published, I see no compelling reason to prohibit the act. Bush’s total ban always seemed too extreme of a policy.

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  • Skepticat

    “While photos of flag-draped coffins lined up in the back of a plane might be dramatic, I don’t think they serve any notable purpose and don’t inform us nearly as much as the soldier obituaries run in papers across America and released regularly by the DoD.”

    I disagree about their impact. The painful drumbeat of those photos had a notable effect on public perception of the toll of the Vietnam war. No one sees all the obituaries, but the coffins “row on row”,* day after day, can make a difference.
    (apologies to Lt.Col. McCrae)