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Coffins

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by MacBeth, Apr 23, 2004.

  1. MacBeth

    MacBeth Member

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    If this was covered while I was away, apologies. Looked back, didn't see anything, but could have missed it.


    There's a lot of discussion right now about the Pentagon's policy of making it illegal to show pictures of the coffins of returning soldiers. The official reason given is that it is insensitive to the familes of those fallen in combat. It is worth noting that this policy is not unique to this administration, but has been inacted by the Pentagon itself for a couple of decades, as I understand it. So this is not a partisan issue, at least not on the surface.


    I have a couple of questions:

    1) If the coffins themselves are unidentified, what exactly are we protecting the familes from? Are we supposed to pretend that there are no deaths over there...especially to those who realize that there are in a way most of us never will?

    See part of my belief about contemporary society is that we are increasingly insulated from the effects of our national policies. Couple that to the general disassociation endemic to people in the age of television, and I think that attempts to deny the lesser sides of reality, especially in mportant issues, does no one any good. I'm sure there are opposing views, but it seems like a vast oversimplication to illegalize those versions of reality which are more negative. These aren't offensive, these aren't inflammatory in and of themselves, and indeed many times people have been killed ( say Lincoln) in the past, one of the means of paying tribute to their sacrifice was acknowledging their coffins.


    2) Is it a coincidence that many Pentagon studies found that one of the factors which turned the support of the war in Vietnam around was the sight of the body bags and coffins on television, and that this policy was enacted not long after these findings?

    Again, do we not bear the responsibility of acknowledging the ramifications of our policies, so as to make our burden of responsibility more real? It's not enough that very few of us have to go to the wars we support, or that an increasing number of the people who vote for these wars have never seen one, and ensure that their sons and daughters won't either...now we can't even see one of the results, as it might offend those who have lost.

    I don;t mean to belittle the experience of their loss...and should point out that I understand that some of the organizations for families of fallen soldiers support the Pentagon's action...but is that the end of the discussion? Is there a balance between what they feel is the least painfull for them and our social responsibility?

    And before you say that seeing the coffins is irrelevent to that responsibility so long as we know the numbers, I disagree, and point to Nam as an example. Numbers are detached...coffins are real.
     
  2. FranchiseBlade

    FranchiseBlade Contributing Member
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    I don't think it takes much to see this for propoganda by omission.
     
  3. Uncle_Tim

    Uncle_Tim Member

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    Those aren't coffins on the planes. Those are transfer cases which are labeled. At Dover AFB, they do an autopsy on the bodies before releasing them to family selected funeral homes. If the family knows that their loved one is on that plane in that picture, they will not want it published. I have seen quite a few military funerals where media presence was forbidden. I have only seen a couple where the media was actually allowed to take part. Most families want their privacy.
     
  4. Mulder

    Mulder Contributing Member

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    Somehow I doubt that a picture of a row of coffins is going to make much of a difference right after you find out that your loved one has been killed in action. Seems like they are trying to hide the truth; soldiers are killed during war. Maybe they are relying on "out of sight is out of mind"....
     
  5. StupidMoniker

    StupidMoniker I lost a bet
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    Do you think that all war will cease if American's lose the stomach for it? There are still going to be bad guys out there doing bad things. How does it make the world a better place to have America lose the will to fight, unless you think only the most ruthless and barbaric should be out there prosecuting wars.
     
  6. giddyup

    giddyup Contributing Member

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    THe numbers of dead are in just about every paper every day. Who is hiding what exactly. Protecting the psyche is more like what the motivation is.
     
  7. Uncle_Tim

    Uncle_Tim Member

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    Or maybe you are making it out to be more than what it is. Families don't want their loved ones' death exploited by anyone via the media in any case, whether they are in a transfer case or lying on a street. There is no "cover up" or whatever you people are insisting.
     
  8. dc sports

    dc sports Member

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    The congressman who spoke on the issue was very convincing. The Pentagon's position is that that particular agency is charged with preparing the bodies for the families, and treating them with the utmost respect. They are forbidden from taking personal pictures, or releasing any pictures -- whether it be of the body preparation, the autopsies, the coffins on the plane, or anything else. It's a blanket policy that covers all employees, and all aspects of the process. They want to assure the families their loved ones are being treated with respect, while sparing them of pictures of unpleasant details.

    As far as the aircraft go, the Pentagon wanted to avoid the arrival of the aircraft becomming a media spectacle. They don't want the families to feel obligated to travel to meet the aircraft, conduct ceremonies at the arrival, or be subjected to unwanted media frenzies at the airport. They feel that while some families would welcome this, others could object or be further traumatized, so they have chosen to take a conservative approach.

    One key point he mentioned was that the Pentagon has no policy "preventing pictures of coffins." They only prohibit pictures during the preparation and transport process. Once the bodies are released to the families, they can hold any media event or ceremony they want. It's up to the families at that point, to determine if the media is "banned" from attending the funeral.
     
  9. pgabriel

    pgabriel Educated Negro

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    Then don't publicize the death of Pat Tillman or the ordeal of Jessica Lynch. The Pentagon has a lot of nerve using the excuse that the public doesn't have the stomach for these photos when they will gain as much support from a death of a guy like Pat Tillman as they can.
     
  10. Ender120

    Ender120 Contributing Member

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    I don't know if anyone else remembers, but I recall seeing several pictures of dead Iraqi soldiers in TIME Magazine.

    How is this acceptable, but not the impersonal coffins of American soldiers?

    Are we trying to dehumanize the Iraqis, making it almost acceptable to kill them, much as one would exterminate a household pest?
     
  11. mrpaige

    mrpaige Contributing Member

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    I'm not sure the Pat Tillman thing could've been avoided. The military releases the names of those killed in action. The media was going to run with that story no matter what the Pentagon did (and all I've personally seen regarding Tillman vis-a-vis the Administration was that they confirmed that he had died in action in Afghanistan).
     
  12. mrpaige

    mrpaige Contributing Member

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    Ask Time Magazine. They're the ones who took the photos and ran them. They would be the only people who would know what their agenda is.

    As far as I know, there's nothing preventing Time Magazine from publishing pictures of dead Americans. They simply are not being provided access to take photographs of returning coffins.
     
  13. Woofer

    Woofer Contributing Member

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    Somebody tell this family to quit exploiting this soldiers' death.
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/objec.../chronicle/pictures/2004/04/25/mn_krause2.jpg
     
  14. Woofer

    Woofer Contributing Member

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    It's a myth that pictures of the dead soured the nation on Vietnam. We lost a lot more in WW2, and in Korea there was little media coverage but opinion turned against Korea.



    Unrelated but interesting.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A44839-2004Apr26.html

    The Lasting Wounds of War
    Roadside Bombs Have Devastated Troops and Doctors Who Treat Them
    By Karl Vick
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Tuesday, April 27, 2004; Page A01


    BAGHDAD -- The soldiers were lifted into the helicopters under a moonless sky, their bandaged heads grossly swollen by trauma, their forms silhouetted by the glow from the row of medical monitors laid out across their bodies, from ankle to neck.



    An orange screen atop the feet registered blood pressure and heart rate. The blue screen at the knees announced the level of postoperative pressure on the brain. On the stomach, a small gray readout recorded the level of medicine pumping into the body. And the slender plastic box atop the chest signaled that a respirator still breathed for the lungs under it.

    At the door to the busiest hospital in Iraq, a wiry doctor bent over the worst-looking case, an Army gunner with coarse stitches holding his scalp together and a bolt protruding from the top of his head. Lt. Col. Jeff Poffenbarger checked a number on the blue screen, announced it dangerously high and quickly pushed a clear liquid through a syringe into the gunner's bloodstream. The number fell like a rock.

    "We're just preparing for something a brain-injured person should not do two days out, which is travel to Germany," the neurologist said. He smiled grimly and started toward the UH-60 Black Hawk thwump-thwumping out on the helipad, waiting to spirit out of Iraq one more of the hundreds of Americans wounded here this month.

    While attention remains riveted on the rising count of Americans killed in action -- more than 100 so far in April -- doctors at the main combat support hospital in Iraq are reeling from a stream of young soldiers with wounds so devastating that they probably would have been fatal in any previous war.


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    Accurate statistics are not yet available on recovery from this new round of battlefield brain injuries, an obstacle that frustrates combat surgeons. But judging by medical literature and surgeons' experience with their own patients "three or four months from now 50 to 60 percent will be functional and doing things," said Maj. Richard Gullick.

    "Functional," he said, means "up and around, but with pretty significant disabilities," including paralysis.

    The remaining 40 percent to 50 percent of patients include those whom the surgeons send to Europe, and on to the United States, with no prospect of regaining consciousness. The practice, subject to review after gathering feedback from families, assumes that loved ones will find value in holding the soldier's hand before confronting the decision to remove life support.

    "I'm actually glad I'm here and not at home, tending to all the social issues with all these broken soldiers," Carroll said.


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