The Pentagon’s ban on photography of coffins containing remains of American soldiers killed in war has been a topic of debate among journalists, war opponents and war supporters since it first came into play during Gulf War I.
Many people thought this policy — for a variety of personal agendas — would be a good test for Obama in the first days of his presidency. After all, one of his promises was transparency, and being able to take picutres of flag-draped caskets is clearly the most important thing facing our country right this very minute.
Obama has decided to lift the ban, but there’s one important catch. It’s actually the one important catch that should have always been the deciding factor: photography of the soldiers’ final journey home must be cleared by the soldiers’ families.
The journalist in me sees some value in covering such events, because it is part of a bigger story. But the human being in me sees that it can be painfully intrusive for families who don’t want to see those images broadcast or printed in their morning paper.
The double-standard hater in me finds it repulsive that there are those on both sides of the war debate who’d argue that our soldiers deserve our respect but wouldn’t hesitate to use such images to further their own agenda about the war, thereby turning the war dead into little more than pawns in their own political agenda.
There will still be those people who hate the war who will gleefully use those images as an argument to stop it. There will also be those who are so caught up in the “war on terror” that they’ll use those images as justification to keep fighting so that they “will not have died in vain.”
Some things will never change.
The decision to remove the ban is a reasonable one; the decision to allow the soldiers’ families to have the final say is the best we could have possibly hoped for.