During the Bush administration, journalists and liberal politicians were up in arms against a Defense Department policy that forbade the photographing of caskets coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that we have a Democrat as a commander in chief, however, the caskets are old news, and are getting little to no coverage.
Critics of the Bush Administration's policy of refusing to allow the photographing of caskets returning from the battlefield claimed that the Pentagon was attempting to hide the true cost of war from the American public to maintain support for the war efforts.
A lawsuit in April 2005 forced the release of hundreds of such photos. University of Delaware professor Ralph Begleiter, who brought the suit against the administration, citing the Freedom of Information Act, said of his victory that it was "an important victory for the American people, for the families of troops killed in the line of duty during wartime and for the honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country."
He added that the decision would "make it difficult, if not impossible, for any U.S. government in the future to hide the human cost of war from the American people."
As Byron York notes in today's Washington Examiner,
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.The journalists that rushed to show the country what two wars really can cost, and the pols that ceaselessly defended them, are silent now the country has an agreeable (liberal) president. That Obama allows the photographing of caskets seems to have taken all of the spice out of it. Coverage at Dover Air Force Base was seemingly more about Bush's policy of forbidding coverage of the return of fallen warriors than it was about the warriors themselves, as so many claimed.
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."
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.
With casualties mounting, the debate over U.S. policy in Afghanistan is sharp and heated. 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.