Lifting The Veil
Gulf War, February, 1991-George H.W. Bush gives a news conference while fallen troops are arriving at Dover Air Force Base. Three television networks play the events live on a split screen, with Bush speaking and even appearing to joke at times while coffins of American war casualties are unloaded from planes and carried by an honor guard to mortuary vans.
Known as the "dignified transfer of remains", the press has been banned from this ceremony by the Pentagon ever since.
Now President Obama is considering lifting the ban and allowing photographers and press media to photograph dead soldiers as they arrive home for the last time.
This policy change would carry political risk at a time when the Obama administration is ramping up the war effort in Afghanistan, increasing the likelihood that many more coffins can be expected to arrive very soon. For a President who staked his running campaign on "bringing the troops home", this sounds like a bait-and-switch.
Former CNN correspondent Ralph Begleiter has sued the US government in order to gain access to the ceremony under the Freedom of Information Act. Suddenly, America's bravest and brightest soldiers who gave their lives in service of freedom are simply information.
The war that started in 2001 has become political fodder for finger pointing on Capitol Hill. "What turns people against a war is not knowledge that Americans are dying, but the belief that they are not dying for something," says Robert Lichter, director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University.
Apparently, the reemerging Taliban in 70 percent of Afghanistan blowing up 125 girls' schools in the North West Frontier Province and spraying acid on children walking to class is not something worth fighting for. Well, at least the Taliban are picking on someone their own size for a change: little girls.
As a command change takes place in the White House and Democrats push to pass new legislation that would not have been heard under the Bush administration, it becomes a useful political tool to portray everything from the former Republican administrations in a negative light.
Since Obama is clearly and cautiously getting ready to go back on just about every promise he's made regarding conflict in the Middle East, racking up a lack of sentiment from the American people for the former Bush administration only makes Obama look even more sparkly and dazzling than pop culture already has him made out to be.
When he finally has to take off the pimp jacket and undertake the daunting job of actually being President of the most diversely opinionated country on the planet and make those hard decisions that turn people away from Presidents, the American people will be too busy being pissed off at Bush for reasons they can't quite put their fingers on to notice Obama's bait-and-switch. Genius.
The dignified transfer of remains should not be touted before the press simply for the political fodder of liberal politicians. These soldiers are returning home for the last time, let them be in the company of their families with the privacy that denotes a "dignified" transfer of remains.