Incidents of the War – A Harvest of Death

Union Dead; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Union Dead; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

The DOD is closing the door on wartime photography in Afghanistan. From Editor and Publisher:

The U.S. military in eastern Afghanistan recently changed its media embed rules to ban pictures of troops killed in the war.

“Media will not be allowed to photograph or record video of U.S. personnel killed in action,” says a ground rules document issued Sept. 15 by Regional Command East at Bagram Air Field.

This language is new. A version of the same document dated July 23 says, “Media will not be prohibited from covering casualties” as long as a series of conditions are met.

Pictures of American military deaths are rare, but until now they have not been officially banned during either of the ongoing wars.

Actually, pictures of American military deaths have not always been rare:

In 1862, [Matthew] Brady shocked America by displaying his photographs of battlefield corpses from Antietam, posting a sign on the door of his New York gallery that read, “The Dead of Antietam.” This exhibition marked the first time most people witnessed the carnage of war. The New York Times said that Brady had brought “home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war.”

This is why this rule is being put in place. No more photos like this and this from the Civil War [sorry for the broken links — poke around here and you’ll see plenty of images] or this and this from WWI or this from WWII or . . .

Why no photos in Afghanistan? I suspect it is because if word gets out that US military people actually die, the US public may start asking really hard questions. You know, questions like “why?”

That’s a damned important question to ask.

I’m not a pacifist, but if we’re going to be in a war, let’s not sugar coat it. And if the DOD can’t take the heat generated by images of the harvest of death, then maybe that’s an indication that we shouldn’t be fighting that war in the first place. God forbid that the reality of war comes home to people.

I don’t use this word lightly, but it’s the only one that comes to mind when I think of those who produced this policy: cowards.

Comments are closed.