President Obama is adding another political hot potato to his inbox by considering whether to allow photos and video footage of the return to the United States of remains of those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He said last week he is looking at ending the ban, which was put in place during the 1991 Persian Gulf war and covers the solemn transfer of caskets at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, the first US stop on the journey to the final resting place for the military personnel.
The National Press Photographers Association is pushing for lifting the restrictions. "We believe that the Department of Defense ban on media coverage of the return of our fallen heroes, which in turn prevents the public from seeing images of these events, violates the very principles of free speech and free exchange of ideas, for which these very heroes have died," the group's president, Bob Carey, wrote to Obama.
But today, the American Legion came out strongly in opposition.
"From our point of view, there is nothing to discuss," the Legion's national commander, David K. Rehbein, said in a statement. "Photographing the caskets containing the remains of men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice on behalf of our country and its freedoms is little short of sacrilege. The practice would be intrusive and hurtful to the warriors' families. The return of fallen heroes is also a sacred moment for our armed forces, and should be respected.
"In The American Legion's opinion, our fallen warriors deserve to be honored without compromise and not made the object of a media event or be made vulnerable to exploitation for propagandistic purposes," Rehbein continued. "Unless a warrior's family expressly wishes media coverage of the return of their son or daughter in this fashion, and respectful accommodations can be made, we can see no good reason to allow it."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.