RANGER AGAINST WAR: A Matter of Honor <

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Matter of Honor

--Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2,
Marcel Duchamps

Shapes of things before my eyes,
Just teach me to despise.

Will time make men more wise?

--Shapes of Things, The Yardbirds

If you can see, look.

If you can look, observe
, Jose Saramago

With George H. W. Bush's 1991 camera ban on military caskets partially lifted, we may feel like rights are being restored, but it is still provisional on obtaining the family's approval (Ban on Photos of War Dead to End).

The Spartan women gave injunctions to their soldiers -- come back carrying or on your shield. Americans hypocritically call their soldiers "warriors," yet when their bodies return we are afraid to see them on the metaphorical equivalent of their shield.

as The Guardian suggests, any photos are unlikely to make it into the press.

"In January, Iraq accounted for only 1.25% of stories in the US, and it has
completely disappeared from headlines this month, as the economy has come to dominate the news cycle (Photographing America's War Dead)."

"Reversing the ban is an easy way for Barack Obama
to fulfill his commitment to transparency, score points with supporters. . . even as he quietly maintains other, more significant Bush-era terrorism policies like
extraordinary rendition and the state secrets privilege."

The current rule still violates the First Amendment as photographers do not have full access to the photos. Seeking the family's release is a nod to the overarching power of attorneys in our highly litigious society. It is the penultimate hypocrisy that our civil rights are truncated vis-a-vis these soldiers who died to export democracy.

The continued isolation of these dead soldiers is a violation of the warrior's code.
If we really believed the warrior rhetoric we would have mandatory formations to bury our dead. But we do not. They are warriors until they die, when they become an administrative embarrassment that must be kept from sight.

Our rights and their honor are being shuttered by hampering First Amendment access. If we really honored these soldiers, we would do everything in our power to keep them alive by keeping them out of endless, mindless wars.

Unfettered First Amendment access to photographers is one way to achieve this.


Join Ranger on Blog Talk Radio tomorrow (3/5/09),
7 p.m. EST. The Program is "The Political Atlas"
phone: 347-215-8092
Topic: Obama's handling of the War on Terror

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Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

lt. col. larry evans once remarked to me that he was bothered by the whole thing of sending the bodies home. he felt that the act of burying their comrades in the field they fought and died in was something that we couldn't afford to lose. he pointed out the lesson of the graveyards all over europe and south asia. row on row of crosses and stars (now crescents too) testifying to the fact that americans came and bled and died.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

lincoln understood.

Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 10:33:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Peter of Lone Tree said...

Army Times:
Unopened claims letters hidden at VA offices
(Begins): A new report about Veterans Affairs Department employees squirreling away tens of thousands of unopened letters related to benefits claims is sparking fresh concerns that veterans and their survivors are being cheated out of money.

VA officials acknowledge further credibility problems based on a new report of a previously undisclosed 2007 incident in which workers at a Detroit regional office turned in 16,000 pieces of unprocessed mail and 717 documents turned up in New York in December during amnesty periods in which workers were promised no one would be penalized.

Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 10:38:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous sheerahkahn said...

"Detroit regional office turned in 16,000 pieces of unprocessed mail and 717 documents turned up in New York in December during amnesty periods in which workers were promised no one would be penalized."

Excuse me?
What these people is not covered by any form of "amnesty," this is criminal activity.
At the very least they should be fired.
But back to the mail issue...messing, i.e. not delivering/malicious intent to deprive the delivery of parcels, letter or package, to someone else is a felony, and there is no amnesty for felonies.


"on an average year, the Postal Inspection service...arrests about 12,000 criminal suspects, nearly half for mail theft or possession of stolen mail."

When mail is purposefully not delivered for the sole purpose of denying another their rightful possession that is theft.

These people need to be prosecuted, that is how serious it is.

Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 11:49:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous tw said...

Canada lost three soldiers yesterday to a roadside bomb just north of Kandahar. They were returning from defusing one roadside bomb when they got hit by another one. It was on all the news along with pictures and bio's. 2000 Nato soldiers participated in an emotional ramp ceremony in Kandahar and that too was shown on the news. Tomorrow the caskets will return to Canada and that will also be shown on the news.

Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 10:59:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

MB: It is instructive to note the care that the citizens of Holland, Belgium, northern France, and western Germany, as well as the many Pacific Island communities, provide for the young men who came so far to leave their earth in the soil of the peoples they fought for - or against - in order to defeat a genuine evil and contrast this with the liklihood that war graves in places like Hue, Fallujah and the Panshir Valley would be respected in the same manner.

The residents of these places did not invite these GIs to come, nor did they, in many cases, welcome them to stay, even as nutrients for their grass.

So much as I understand how you feel, I also suspect that an American Cemetary in Ramadi would not work as well as the ones in Normandy or the Argonne...

Friday, March 6, 2009 at 1:38:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


The regrettable loss of your Canadian soldiers was a classic gambit. Plant a clearly obvious device and then hit the responders with a lethal dose. A classic IRA/VC tactic. Soldiers do not live long in these environments favoring the attackers.


Friday, March 6, 2009 at 11:49:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I used to visit the RVN National Cemetary in the TU Duc area and was always impressed.It's my understanding that the new regime bulldozed it and planted an orchard where once stood graves.And that was for VN dead-so I agree with your assessment of how US graves would be treated throughout the new war zones that we are liberating.
MB, I do believe it's valid and correct to bury a soldier where he falls even if it be an unmarked grave.Thats a soldiers lot.

Friday, March 6, 2009 at 12:20:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous fnord said...

Contrarian: Sorry, but I think its a fair right to be allowed to keep your sorrow private. I applaud the rule that says that you must get permission to take pictures of private affairs. its an important principal oint against the paparazzi society.

Friday, March 6, 2009 at 3:02:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous fnord said...


Friday, March 6, 2009 at 3:03:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

carl sandburg had it exactly correct.

for a grunt, grass is the only fitting monument.

Saturday, March 7, 2009 at 12:50:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


We seldom disagree, but the returning soldiers in coffins are not private events. They are publicly financed with my tax dollars and I have the right to see what my taxes purchased. In this case it's dead bodies draped in flags.


Saturday, March 7, 2009 at 12:57:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Publius said...

I, too, am going to disagree with fnord, for whom I have a great deal of respect.

When we enter the military, we leave many of the norms of society behind. This is proper because we've become agents of the state, and it means we belong to the greater society, not just to our families and to those whom we personally know and love.

I am a constitutional officer. I belong to the nation. My retirement pay is in truth retainer pay, paid so that I am available to serve when needed. Soldiers belong to the nation. We, their fellow citizens, not their families, put them in those boxes and we're entitled to see the results of our decisions, no matter what our feelings might be about the righteousness of the cause. We caused them to die and we need to be constantly reminded of that. Living in a free society means that no citizen should ever have any excuse to ignore the results of decisions made at the ballot box.

We didn't have this issue in our previous wars, especially since we had the draft. All of the way through Vietnam, the numbers of KIA and other casualties were so large and so spread out through the nation that hiding the costs from the greater populace—which is what the government wants to do in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan—was impossible. Now we have wars where the numbers of dead and wounded are very small when compared to previous wars. It's actually possible to keep it out of the headlines. This makes news coverage of these returning coffins all the more important. We need to be slapped across the face.

And I agree with FDChief and the Ranger about burying soldiers overseas. Nice thought, whenever you see Normandy and other places where their sacrifices are honored. Not such a nice thought when one considers the reality of the places where our troops die these days.

Bring 'em home and honor 'em by not sneaking them in under the cover of media blackouts or "family sensitivities." They belong to us.

Saturday, March 7, 2009 at 9:41:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

one of the things that has completely floored me, saddened me, but at the same time, filled me with pride is the way that ordinary americans react when they know that there is the body of a soldier being transported or buried.

at one service graveside, we were within sight of a major phoenix street. the two closest lanes of traffic stopped while i was playing the pipes. it wasn't because i'm all that good a piper, it was because some drivers saw the flags, the honor guard and, in a spontaneous show of respect they stopped their cars, most of them got out of their cars and placed their hands over thier hearts until we were done.

given the chance, most of the people i've encountered are capable of great dignity and great compassion. the last funeral i attended was for a young apache friend. at the airport all work at our little section stopped. the workers stood, hatless with their heads bowed, many were, i'm certain, saying their own personal prayers for my young friend.

everybody i have have encountered, when they are allowed to know about it, has reacted in ways that made me proud. hiding the costs (through shameful enron style accounting tricks) in money, and in the blood spilled does no one any good.

paparazzi? they're still waiting for the next britney to chop her hair or flash her junk.

just like they predicted all these dire consequences in iraq, and afghanistan if we did or didn't do some shit or some other shit, they have mostly been wrong, wrong, wrong.

yeah, right, private. bullshit. i call total fucking bullshit.

they are cowards who cannot face the reality of what they have done.

i feel no duty to respect their craven feelings.

fuck them.

honor our soldiers in the light of day.

Saturday, March 7, 2009 at 10:13:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


From the first day in basic we learn that privacy was something that we left behind. Far behind.


Even those that oppose these wars usually respect the dead, and would act appropriately. Presuming that a photographer were anti-war, I would presume he or she could still use a telephoto lens, so as not to encroach upon any solemnities. And I agree that somewhere we all have some decency somewhere in our kitbags.


Monday, March 9, 2009 at 12:42:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Publius and MB,

I am totally moved by your posts.

Monday, March 9, 2009 at 3:45:00 PM GMT-5  

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