(Unnecessary) Images of War
The controversy over the photo of flag-draped coffins containing the remains of U.S. troops was one of the feature segments on Friday’s “Today” show.
Host Matt Lauer interviewed Amy Katz, a friend of photographer Tami Silicio, the photographer who was fired after the photo she took appeared in Sunday’s Seattle Times. Katz is the one who sent the photo to the newspaper.
Katz, naturally trying to justify her friend’s right to take the photo and the motive behind it, claimed that Silicio wanted families to know that their loved ones’ remains were being treated with respect and to give them comfort.
A 1991 Department of Defense policy prohibits photographing the preparation of bodies. Lauer pointed out that the justification for the rule banning such photographs is that it protects the privacy of the families. Katz’s answer: “The military families are not having a choice. It’s not like anyone is going to them and saying, ‘Do you want these to be shown or not?'”
Of course, it’s not like Katz went to any of them and asked if they wanted the photo published in the Seattle Times, either, is it? How does her action give them this choice? It’s the same thing!
Asked about her reason for forwarding the image to the newspaper, Katz explained: “Up until the time I saw the photo, I knew that there was a conflict in Iraq. But when I saw that photo, I realized there was a war going on. I had no idea.”
Exactly where has she been for the past year? I’ve known there was a war. I’ve known that our soldiers have been dying in battle. And I didn’t need this one photo to “enlighten” me. No one else I know is walking around thinking that we haven’t been at war and paying a price for it.
Let’s be realistic, people.
Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, said photos of caskets coming home from Vietnam had a tremendous impact on the way Americans came to view that war. ”As people began to see the reality of it and see the 55,000 people who were killed coming back in body bags, they became more and more upset by the war,” he said. ”(The ban) is not about privacy. This is about trying to keep the country from facing the reality of war.’
Why do we need to see the bodies being prepared for the return home to realize the reality of war or to grieve for our troops? We don’t. If you want to honor the troops, publish the photos of the soldiers. Create a section of the local newspaper and show the photos of every one of them lost since the war began. Show us the faces of the troops, not the coffins. If you really want to honor them, tell us who they were, not how many bodies there were. I can count on my own.
Why do I need to see the bodies coming home before the families of the soldiers themselves? I don’t. I owe the soldiers a debt of thanks for defending my way of life. But I don’t need to see pictures of rows of caskets to remind me of that. Those who do need to stop for a moment and think about their priorities.
What is so reprehensible about this controversy is that most of the people calling for these photos to be made public aren’t trying to honor the soldiers; they’re trying to exploit the deaths to forward their own agenda by trying to parade the dead as a call to end a conflict they don’t agree with. It’s certainly an effective argument. But it also cheapens the sacrifice the soldiers have made by reducing the individuals to a political statement.
There’s nothing wrong with remembering our fallen soldiers. There’s something very wrong with using them as pawns.