Despite what Mr. Bush and his cohorts say, the war in Iraq is far from over. There have been some rumblings about it becoming another Vietnam. Perhaps one of the most significant factors in the defeat of the US in Vietnam was the constant stream of images (still and television) of America’s war-dead being brought back in body-bags. Some 57,000 soldiers died in that war.
Day in and day out as Americans supped by their television sets or broke open a newspaper, images of a distant war rumbled the psyches of all Americans. The images fueled the protests against that abysmal and ill-timed war. We weren’t winning the “hearts and minds” of people in Vietnam or back here in the US. As America’s international policy was coming unraveled, the administration clearly saw their failure in curtailing media access to “sensitive” areas of the war. Since the end of Vietnam war in 1975, administration after administration, save for perhaps Jimmy Carter’s, has practically hand-cuffed journalists to a line of thinking and delivery that prevents the general public from knowing the whole story. History has a funny way of repeating itself and the current administration knows it all too well.
As more and more Americans loose their lives in Iraq, I have been following the brewing controversy of showing or censoring images of American flag-draped coffins arriving on transport planes. The Seattle Times was perhaps the first newspaper to publish an image, shot by a contract worker for the Department of Defense, now distributed widely on the internet, showing soldiers busily tacking down the coffins in the bay of a transport plane. The response, according to Editor&Publisher, has been favorable. Mike Fancher, executive editor at The Seattle Times, defends his paper’s use of the image as newsworthy. And, I have to agree.
The New York Times today reported that, “The Web site, The Memory Hole, had filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year, seeking any pictures of coffins arriving from Iraq at the Dover base in Delaware, the destination for most of the bodies. The Pentagon yesterday labeled the Air Force Air Mobility Command’s decision to grant the request a mistake, but news organizations quickly used a selection of the 361 images taken by Defense Department photographers.”
How these images play out with the American public is yet to be seen. Despite the controlled and perhaps programmed nature of the news in the US we are hearing reports that things aren’t going well for the Iraqis and it is likely to only get worse as the US leaves at the end of June. Will they actually hand things off to the Iraqis? Will there be peace?