Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lifting the veil

Today Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the reversal of a policy he had to enforce during the Bush administration. Now, on a case-by-case basis, photos of the arrival of flag-draped caskets at Dover Air Force Base will be allowed. This new policy mirrors the same policy on funeral ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.

For many of us, we thought that the reason photos were not allowed at a Dignified Transfer Ceremony were political. If photos of flag-draped caskets were shown, support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would diminished. If that was the plan, it backfired.

In a day and age where pictures of the war itself can be transmitted instantly over the Internet, information about the wars were getting out, and in graphic detail. Support for the wars did diminish and mistrust in the government increased, something that should not happen in these times.

Actually, it was the first President Bush that was the one who implemented the ban, only because he was embarrassed. While that President Bush was having a press conference in 1989, engaging in a light moment with the reporters, a split-screen showed flag-draped caskets arriving at Dover, the casualties of the Panama conflict. While the timing was dubious, the reaction by the president was overreaching.

Now there are families that will be uncomfortable with the showing of flag-draped caskets of loved ones, but they will have the final say and protocols have been put in place to accommodate media outlets. We need to be reminded of the reality of war. That reality is that young men and women give their lives daily to defend our freedom.

We never should try to sanitize the truth of war. It is violent event, plain and simple. Unfortunately, as nation-states exist and diplomacy often breaks down, it is a part of the evolution of human society. We need to have a constant reminder to try harder to get along with each other and respect each others right to co-exist on this earth.

We need to see the Dignified Transfer Ceremony, in its precision-like glory, and act accordingly to minimize the need to have them. I am glad that veil has been lifted.