Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wire Commentary: Without Bush, Media Lose Interest in War Caskets



WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2009 -- As part of the blog's ongoing coverage of military and national security issues, I'd like to bring attention to an editorial written by Byron York, The Washington Examiner's chief political correspondent.

With casualties mounting, the debate over U.S. policy in Afghanistan is sharp and heated. The number of casualties is increasing. But the journalists who once clamored to show the true human cost of war, York observes, are nowhere to be found.

Often times when researching news for the blog, I have found media reports of U.S. casualties buried behind unrelated headlines and listed within compilations. The life of these reports is but a brief flash in the news cycle.

On thing is true, however. While you cannot read the details journalists decide to edit or omit, the bias is actually very easy to read through their behavior.

Remember the controversy over the Pentagon policy of not allowing the press to take pictures of the flag-draped caskets of American war dead as they arrived in the United States? Critics accused President Bush of trying to hide the terrible human cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"These young men and women are heroes," Vice President Biden said in 2004, when he was senator from Delaware. "The idea that they are essentially snuck back into the country under the cover of night so no one can see that their casket has arrived, I just think is wrong."

In April of this year, the Obama administration lifted the press ban, which had been in place since the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Media outlets rushed to cover the first arrival of a fallen U.S. serviceman, and many photographers came back for the second arrival, and then the third.

But after that, the impassioned advocates of showing the true human cost of war grew tired of the story. Fewer and fewer photographers showed up. "It's really fallen off," says Lt. Joe Winter, spokesman for the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where all war dead are received. "The flurry of interest has subsided."

That's an understatement. When the casket bearing Air Force Tech. Sgt. Phillip Myers, of Hopewell, Va., arrived at Dover the night of April 5 -- the first arrival in which press coverage was allowed -- there were representatives of 35 media outlets on hand to cover the story.

[. . .]

Fast forward to today. On Sept. 2, when the casket bearing the body of Marine Lance Cpl. David Hall, of Elyria, Ohio, arrived at Dover, there was just one news outlet -- the Associated Press -- there to record it. The situation was pretty much the same when caskets arrived on Sept. 5, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, 22, 23 and 26. There has been no television coverage at all in September.

[. . .]

So far this month, 38 American troops have been killed in Afghanistan. For all of 2009, the number is 220 -- more than any other single year and more than died in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004 combined.

[. . .]

The number of arrivals at Dover is increasing. But the journalists who once clamored to show the true human cost of war are nowhere to be found.
See link below for the full article.

Source: Without Bush, media lose interest in war caskets

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