What the Pentagon doesn't want you to see

Published April 19, 2004 8:06PM (EDT)

As the Pentagon planned the Iraq invasion, it issued this directive, aimed at controlling the disturbing images of war: "There will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein (Germany) airbase or Dover (Del.) base, (and) to include interim stops."

Censoring media coverage of coffins at all military bases went beyond how other administrations controlled images of fallen soldiers. Coupled with the president's absence at funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in combat, the ban drew criticism that the White House sought to downplay the human toll of its mission in Iraq.

Today, the Seattle Times has run on its front page one of the few images seen in the United States of the flag-draped coffins of U.S. soldiers in Kuwait awaiting transport home. "On the April day depicted in the photograph that accompanies this story, more than 20 coffins went into a cargo plane bound for Germany," the Times reports.

Leon Espinoza, the Times' news editor, said, "The photo without question is a very powerful image, one seldom seen. It shows the great care taken to honor the fallen soldiers, and it can't help but show the toll a war takes."

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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