Defense Secretary Robert Gates has agreed to lift the ban on media coverage of our country’s returning military dead from Iraq and Afghanistan provided that the families of the fallen agree to the photographs being taken.
Gates said today at the Pentagon news conference:
We should not presume to make the decision for the families – we should actually let them make it.
This emerging policy mirrors one at Arlington National Cemetery, in which families largely decide whether they want media coverage. In his continuing quest for transparency in our federal government, President Barack Obama had earlier said he was considering lifting the controversial ban.
President George H.W. Bush, instituted the “Dover Ban” in 1991 prior to the Gulf War because he was worried that images of the returning military dead would affect support for the war. The media and photographers have been kept away from the coffins of our fallen from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The fallen are flown into Dover Air Force Base before being returned to the families.
Air Force cargo planes carrying our fallen land on the tarmac at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The anonymous coffins known as “transfer cases,” are covered with an American flag and marked with a tag, are unloaded with military honors, and delivered to the families for final disposition.
From The New York Times:
Mr. Gates, who said at the news conference that he was “never comfortable” with the ban, tried to get it overturned a year ago, but said he encountered resistance within the Pentagon and so, he said, “demurred.”
“I’ll be perfectly honest, there was a division in the building,” he said. But he said that a “very compelling memo” from the Army in favor of changing the policy was persuasive, particularly since most of the war dead in Iraq and Afghanistan served in the Army.
To date, 4,251 American military lives have been lost in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and 660 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
President Obama said in his address to Congress two days ago:
As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: We honor your service, we are inspired by your sacrifice, and you have our unyielding support.
Lifting the Dover Ban is a way to honor our fallen dead rather than hiding them behind the politics of approval ratings.
*NOTE: The pictures used here are the few that were taken by the Pentagon and released by former President George W. Bush in an attempt to satisfy the outcry by the media for continuing the Dover Ban during OIF and OEF. Details about these photos are very limited.