War IS Hell

There’s a controversy running in the blogosphere about the Associated Press showing a video of a dying Marine die.  Throughout the period since 9/11, there has been an almost complete ban on the showing of pictures of dead Americans.  Despite being a flaming conservative, I am siding with the AP on this one.  Allow me to explain why…

The American Civil War

Gettysburg
[Photograph by Alexander Garner – Library of Congress]

Spanish-American War

Span-Amer War
[Flickr: Sp-Am War Burial of Dead 84902, J Christenson]

World War I
WW I
American soldiers dead in the trenches of Europe.

World War II
WW II
American casualties during Philippine invasion, Nov 3, 1944

Korean War
Korea
Marines killed and frozen during the retreat from Chosin Reservoir

There is a short film clip of the Americans moving up Omaha Beach in Normandy. If I were a better blogger, I would have the video. But I’m not, so I don’t. Update: Never mind. I think I got it. Watch at 1:40.

I had seen it many times as a kid. There were lots of World War II historical documentaries in the ’60s. Then one day I was seeing it yet again and it dawned on me that the guy in the middle of the frame who fell down flat on his face very likely died right there before my eyes and the gnawing questions began. Who was he? He almost certainly had a mother and father. Maybe brothers and sisters. Could even have been a husband…with children? Who would he have become if he had moved up the beach two feet to the right or left? A criminal? A saint? Just a guy who grew old to die in his bed surrounded by kids and family? All of that became moot, bleeding out on a foreign beach far from home with a face full of sand.

Many of us are spared the experience of war. This is not a bad thing, I think. But I have no illusions that war won’t be with us always. Mass produced chaos is the counterpoint to the life of ease we live in today and people will always find a reason to fight, the most ironic being to fight for peace. But people who do not experience war should understand the price that is paid for waging it. It’s one thing to say “I don’t want to see.” It is another thing to say, “I don’t want to know.” And the worse to say, “We don’t want you to see, or know.”

The prohibitions on showing US casualties were political. The Bush administration knew that pictures of injured and dead soldiers would be used by political opponents to undermine support for the war as they had been during the Vietnam War. And they were right. But that doesn’t change the fact that people should know the price that is being paid. The ugliness has to be aired along with the victories. And before anyone thinks that I have any anti-war on terror leanings, forget it. I didn’t agree with Bush about the invasion of Iraq. He agreed with me. I was twelve years ahead of him. But even with that, the reality is, or should be, that if the Cause cannot survive the publication of the hell that goes with it, then maybe the Cause needs to be rethought, or better communicated.

Update: I wonder how many of the people caterwauling about the video of the dying Marine have this picture on their wall?
Falling Man
The Falling man I know people who have kept it up for eight years now.

Update: It seems that the AP may have violated embed agreements with the Dept of Defense. That’s a different issue than whether death in war should be portrayed. If you want to play the game, you have to abide by the rules.

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