Show the coffins?

Biased reporting from Iraq

Steven Den Beste has a post up about a Newsweek article by Martha Brant that claims the reason Americans aren’t up in arms about the casualties in Iraq is that we don’t know about them. If the American public just knew about the three to six US troops killed each week, we’d demand that we GET OUT NOW. Her solution is to show pictures of the coffins as the bodies come home. After all, showing the horror of the Vietnam War helped turn public opinion against our involvement there.

I’ll offer a different reason: there are no pictures. As much as I hate to admit this as a print reporter, images do sear into people’s mind more than words. Nick Ut’s photograph of 9-year-old Kim Phuc became synonymous with the Vietnam War. She was the terrified little girl running naked, covered in napalm. Television images of caskets and body bags also changed public opinion about the war.
But there are no images of flag-draped coffins in this war to remind people of the human price being paid.

Without question, the price paid by our soldiers and their families staggers the mind. Those that are killed or wounded have risked everything for me and my family. I cannot put into words the depth of my gratitude. I realize that this is all very easy for me to say while I sit in my office on my lunch hour.

Den Beste points out, however,

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to her that the majority of Americans fully understand that we’re taking casualties in this war, but also understand that it’s a price we must pay. It’s terrible and horrible and dreadful and awful but also unavoidable, and no matter how bad it might be it is not as bad as what would ultimately happen if we did what Brant clearly wants.

Brant seems to think that if Americans would just realize that war is hell, we would simply know better than to fight wars. In the world where people buy the world a home and furnish it with love and grow apple trees and honey bees, and snow white turtle doves while singing in perfect harmony, that just might work. In this world, where Coca-Cola isn’t the only thing that people want today, that’s just plain ignorance.

I think everyone knows that our soldiers are dying over in Iraq. I do not think that anyone anywhere is unaware of that, as she claims, or completely uncaring. But I think that most Americans support what we’re doing despite the cost. Obviously, things are different for those families that have members in Iraq or that have been killed or wounded. It’s far more personal to them, and I don’t think that anyone would deny them their grief or their questions. But why deny them their privacy or the respect they deserve by making their fallen sons’ return a media junket?

Martha Brant seems to be entirely in favor of using the media to whip up everyone’s emotions and to overtly affect policy, but only as long as it promotes the agenda she subscribes to. She’s not alone, for sure.

Absolutely, war is a horrible thing. Absolutely, every death, American or otherwise, is a tragedy. Those people are gone from this world forever, and their friends and family will never be the same because of it.

Think, for a moment, though. What if the press in the early 1860’s had been able to convince enough Americans that war was too bloody to wage, and that if those Southern states wanted to secede we should let them as long as no more soldiers died. Entire families were wiped out in the American Civil War. Death and destruction flowed across our land like a raging storm. The United States government could have survived the split with the Southern states, but our national identity, still so young and fragile in those days, could not have. Never mind the millions upon millions of slaves that would not have been freed at the time, for a moment. What would have happened to the REST OF THE WORLD in the years between then and now if the United States of America was just another little second-rate country? But in 1861, thousands of American soldiers could have been saved if we’d just stopped fighting. Should we have?

Den Beste writes

I don’t want our people to die in Iraq. I hate the fact that it’s happening. I wish it weren’t necessary. But I also think it is necessary that we take that risk, because I think it would be even worse if we didn’t do it. 103 American GIs dying in Iraq is a terrible thing. Thousands of Americans dying in the next major terrorist attack against us would be even worse.

Brant thinks we can get peace by ceasing to fight. I think that if we don’t take the war to our enemies, at a time and place of our choosing which is to our advantage, they’ll bring the war to us, at a time and place most to our disadvantage. The war won’t end just because we refuse to actively fight it.

If you don’t think our invasion of Iraq supports our cause against terror, fair enough. Let’s argue the case. But don’t try to use everyone’s very sensible aversion to death and destruction as an excuse to not do what’s right.