The military community is not happy and it has good reason not to be. What was feared by many has indeed come to pass. For years, the military did not allow pictures to be taken by the media when the bodies of the dead killed in battle were repatriated through Dover AFB, DE. It was, many considered, a private affair within the military. Held with the utmost solemnity, these ceremonies gave due honors to those who had made the ultimate sacrifice.
But the critics made the case that Americans should see the result of wars, the human cost and eventually they won the day. However warnings that such events could be used for political purposes as well seemed to fall on deaf ears. In the end, it was agreed that only if the families of the dead agreed would any media picture taking be allowed.
As you might imagine, no media was allowed to cover the solemn homecoming for those killed in the horrific helicopter incident in Afghanistan this past week. AP tells us why:
Under a Pentagon policy set in 2009, media coverage at the Dover base is allowed only when family members of the war dead approve. In the case of multiple sets of remains returning as a group, photographers take pictures of those approved caskets only and are ushered away before the remains of any troops whose families declined coverage are brought out of the plane.
The Pentagon said that in this case no family could give permission because any given case could contain the remains of troops whose families did not want coverage. The Pentagon said that during initial notification of next of kin, 19 of the 30 families said they did not want media coverage.
The AP and other media organizations argued that images could be taken of the tarmac, plane or dignitaries that would depict the occasion without showing a casket.
End of story, right? Wrong.
An official White House photo of a saluting Obama was distributed to news media and published widely. It also was posted on the White House website as the "Photo of the Day." It showed Obama and other officials in silhouette and did not depict caskets.
Doug Wilson, head of public affairs at the Pentagon, said the department did not know the White House photographer was present and had no idea a photo of the event was being released until it became public. He said the photographers who routinely travel with the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were not allowed to go to the event, and no official Pentagon photos were taken or released.
Argument for doing so?
When asked about the photo Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the picture was carefully taken so that it did not show the cases containing remains.
"The White House routinely releases photos taken by the White House photographers in specific circumstances where it would be inappropriate to include members of the media," Carney said. "In this case, the White House released the photo, in the interests of transparency, so that the American people could have as much insight as possible into this historic and sobering event."
Or, to heck with policy and the wants of the families, i.e. no media coverage, this “historic and sobering event” was just too much of an opportunity for Obama to bask in the reflected glory of men better than him to pass up. Jay Carney had to go into overdrive to try to spin this in a positive way. Transparency has become an excuse, not a goal, for when Obama wants to ignore the rules and do something most would deem inappropriate – like this.
This has caused a minor furor in the blogosphere. Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive, perhaps the premier milblog, vents his feelings:
Anyone with an dime’s worth of decency would have known better than to use such an event, but that is simply part of Obama’s lack of character. He couldn’t just attend, he had top make sure that all the voting public knew he was there. It is sad to watch such a complete tool use the military, and worse our war dead, to attempt to create an image of a serious Commander in Chief. I don’t doubt that on some level Obama cares about the dead troops, but just a whole lot less than he cares about himself.
Jimbo also reacts to Carney’s spin:
No sentient being believes that one of the least transparent administrations in our history was making sure we had insight. This was another pathetic example of our Campaigner in Chief doing the only thing he is even marginally competent at, promoting himself. I didn’t believe it was possible for Obama to debase himself and show his complete self-absorption any more than he already had. I was wrong.
Jonn Lilyea at “This Ain’t Hell” sums it up best:
So the White House doesn’t follow it’s own rules and doesn’t see a need to comply with the wishes of the family…especially when a great photo opportunity presents itself. When was the last time that the President went to Dover, anyway? I think it was when they first allowed photographers to snap pictures of the returning victims of war, wasn’t it?
I see the President still doesn’t know to salute properly, either.
He’s right – it actually looks like he’s preparing to thumb his nose. And in fact, he did just that to the 19 families that wanted no coverage.
If you want to see the photo, you’ll have to chase it down. I’m not posting it here.