Jewish World Review April 26, 2004 / 5 Iyar, 5764
Flag-draped coffins are sadly part of the story
Pictures showing the coffins of fallen American heroes have created a media firestorm. Last week, a civilian employee working for the U.S. military snapped a photo of an American military coffin, in fact, of many. That photo violated a political directive that forbade the taking of such pictures. The image was then published by "The Seattle Times," while 350 other photos of flag-draped coffins made their way on the Internet.
Family members of those fallen heroes are understandably disturbed that their children's coffins have become the focus of a heated political debate and a First Amendment firestorm. And while those photos may offend some, the Pentagon policy offends others. The bottom line here is that everybody's just doing their job.
As a member of Congress and a member of the Armed Services Committee, I understood the importance of protecting families of the fallen, but also protecting troop morale.
As a newspaper publisher, I fought every attempt by elected officials, bureaucrats, corporations, and, yes, advertisers to tell me what to print. In fact, if you wanted a story to run in my newspaper, all you had to do was try to stop it through threat or intimidation.
If the Pentagon doesn't want photos of these flag-draped coffins released to the press, then they need to do a better job keeping the coffins in a secure location. And if First Amendment advocates want to squeal about how such regulations do violence to free speech, they need to remember they can still get a photo of that coffin at the funeral of a military hero.
We are a nation at war. And, sadly, we've got to all remember that flag-draped coffins are just a part of that story.
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