The Washington Examiner is running a very pertinent story today about the media and our American war dead. I'm sure you remember the controversy last year over the Pentagon not allowing the press to take photos of the flag-draped caskets as they arrived back in the U.S.? Many critics were very vocal about this issue and accused President Bush of hiding the human cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"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.
Now fast forward to this month. On September 2, when the body of Marine Lance Cpl. David Hall, of Elyria, Ohio, arrived at Dover, there was only one news outlet covering the event - the Associated Press. Furthermore, the "situation was 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."
I should point out that the media can only cover arrivals when the family has granted permission. However, in all the above cases, the families approved, and according to the Mortuary Affairs Office, 60 percent of families have said yes to media coverage. Most of the time, the Associated Press is the only news outlet to cover these arrivals, and they have made a commitment to cover each and every arrival.
The Associated Press, which supplies photos to 1,500 U.S. newspapers and 4,000 Web sites, has had a photographer at every arrival for which permission was granted. "It's our belief that this is important, that surely somewhere there is a paper, an audience, a readership, a family and a community for whom this homecoming is indeed news," says Paul Colford, director of media relations for AP. "It's been agreed internally that this is a responsibility for the AP to be there each and every time it is welcome."
My question is, where is the outrage over the true human cost of war now that Bush is out of office? The human cost is the same, but the journalistic clamor to cover it has apparently subsided for most news outlets. Perhaps the very fact that Bush is now out of office and the media no longer feels the need to undermine his efforts is the main reason these casket arrivals are no longer covered.