April 23, 2004
Knight Ridder/Tribune News
Posted on Fri, Apr. 23, 2004
(KRT) - The following editorial appeared in the St. Louis
Post-Dispatch on Friday, April 23:
Last week, the Seattle Times ran the image that Americans
haven't been allowed to see before: the flag-draped coffins
bearing the remains of American soldiers killed in Iraq beginning
their journey home.
In past conflicts, pictures of coffins returning to Delaware's
Dover Air Force Base were published frequently, both out of
respect for the fallen fighters and to illustrate the costs of
war. But under the administration of President George H.W. Bush,
the Pentagon banned the pictures, and the Bush administration has
vigorously enforced the blackout worldwide. Administration
officials said they want to allow the families of the dead to
decide whether to allow pictures.
Enter Tami Silicio, 50, an employee of a U.S. government
contractor, Maytag Aircraft Co. Silicio, who worked the night
shift for Maytag at a cargo terminal at Kuwait International
Airport, took a tender photograph of a score of flag-draped
coffins being secured for transport in a U.S. cargo plane April
Silicio explained later that she wanted to show the care and
reverence with which America's dead were treated. There were
honor guards and prayers and salutes as the soldiers began the
first leg of their final trip home.
The Times, Silicio's hometown paper, published the photograph,
giving America its first view of returning coffins from Iraq. In
the paper, managing editor David Boardman explained: "This was
not published with any sort of antiwar agenda. It was published
with the purpose of presenting an important context of the war."
He later told Editor & Publisher, a journalism trade
magazine, "The administration cannot tell us what we can and
On Wednesday, Maytag fired Silicio for violating company and
federal government rules. Company president William L. Silva said
the Pentagon had expressed "very specific concerns" about the
photograph. Silicio's husband, who also worked for Maytag in
Kuwait, was fired for reasons that were not reported.
In 1999, Army Gen. Hugh H. Shelton, then chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, said in a speech that the United States should
not commit troops to a foreign conflict if the war flunked "the
Dover test." "We have to ask the question, 'Is the American
public prepared for the sight of our most precious resources
coming home in flag-draped caskets, into Dover Air Force
Rather than risk subjecting the war to the Dover test,
President George W. Bush has enforced an out-of-sight,
out-of-mind standard. In doing so, the administration manipulates
Americans' perceptions of the war, diminishes the gravity of the
sacrifices of the dead and their families and denies our young
men and women a last reverential salute from the country for
which they died.
© 2004, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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