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NGO_Vleeptron (aka "Bob from Massachusetts") recently featured LIVE on BBC WORLD SERVICE, heard briefly by Gazillions!!!

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Location: Great Boreal Deciduous Hardwood Forest, New England, United States

old dude, all hair, swell new teeth

18 May 2005

maybe don't look. or maybe look.

DespicableTeacher said...

BTW, the site where I took the sassoon poem from is the following:

It also has paintings of the war scenes

6:41 AM

No, don't look at the World War One paintings. I don't recommend it. And don't look at the images coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan, either.

Back home, War should be all Parades, Flags, Cheers, Pretty Girls Running Up to Kiss Soldiers, and, like the Super Bowl Budweiser Beer TV Commercial, soldiers fresh from the battlefield coming home at the airport and getting a big spontaneous round of applause from the civilians. A beautiful moment of appreciation of their patriotic sacrifice. And every soldier still in the bloom of youth, in great health, with both arms, both legs, both eyes. Now buy Budweiser.

And don't look at the flag-draped coffins returning to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. During the Vietnam War, the media could photograph and broadcast and publish these images of coffins of dead soldiers and Marines being unloaded from Air Force transport planes.

But we learned our lesson from the Vietnam War, and the Reagan Administration closed Dover AFB to the media, and it stayed closed. No one could show the coffins to the American people, no one could even independently count them as they returned home from Reagan's odd little wars against the Third World -- Grenada, Lebanon, several more. The Pentagon maintained the Dover Blackout right up to the present.

Finally, just days ago, on 28 April 2005, we may see the coffins of our young military men and women returning home again, thanks to a hard-fought Freedom of Information battle. We declared the wars, we sent our young "volunteers," they died over there. Now we who agreed to send them can see them and count them again as they come home.


From Russ Kick's Memory Hole:

Since March 2003, a newly-enforced military regulation has forbidden taking or distributing images of caskets or body tubes containing the remains of soldiers who died overseas.

Immediately after hearing about this, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the following:

* All photographs showing caskets (or other devices) containing the remains of US military personnel at Dover AFB. This would include, but not be limited to, caskets arriving, caskets departing, and any funerary rites/rituals being performed. The timeframe for these photos is from 01 February 2003 to the present.

I specified Dover because they process the remains of most, if not all, US military personnel killed overseas. Not surpisingly, my request was completely rejected. Not taking 'no' for an answer, I appealed on several grounds, and -- to my amazement -- the ruling was reversed. The Air Force then sent me a CD containing 361 photographs of flag-draped coffins and the services welcoming the deceased soldiers.

Score one for freedom of information and the public's right to know.


No. He means the public's right to see. We already know how many of our neighbors' children have been killed over there. Now, thanks to this guy's doggedness and patriotism, we can see them coming home, we can see what we have done.

Uncomfortable images. Parades of handsome and healthy young soldiers are much more comforting, reassuring, and certainly far more helpful for our Recruiting Efforts to attract more new soldiers and Marines. The coffins might make citizens wonder if they did the right thing in supporting the wars. The coffins might make 18-year-olds think twice or even change their minds about joining up.

Or perhaps you like the Bush administration's defense, that they were forbidding the American people from seeing and counting the coffins out of sensitivity to the feelings of the fallen's grieving families. Such sensitivity to and scrupulous protection of ordinary peoples' feelings -- a rare and beautiful thing in government.

Have the wars, but don't look at the images. They used to call Vietnam "The Living-Room War" because every evening the big television networks had fresh black-and-white film of the latest battle, its young American casualties, the corpses of Vietnamese -- were they civilians, or were they secret Viet Cong? Well -- they're dead, whoever they were, they can't harm us anymore.

Much too close. Now journalists in Iraq and Afghanistan are "imbedded" -- led around by the nose by specially trained junior military officers, shown Good Things to photograph and film, kept far from Bad Things. (The prison guards at Abu Ghraib took their own souvenir snapshots. No journalists allowed inside.) If a journalist goes off by him/herself and photographs or films or reports on "unimbedded" things and places, the US military shuts off the newspaper's or the network's access to the colorful battle images.


John Singer Sargent was America's most famous and successful painter of beautiful young society women. His paintings of beautiful young aristocratic Boston and New York women now fill an entire wing of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, and an entrancing day is yours, a day overflowing with wondrous beauty, if you visit the MFA's Sargent wing. The gorgeous dresses are as beautiful as the gorgeous young women.

By the time the United States joined Britain and France to fight the Kaiser's Germany during World War One, Sargent was at the pinnacle of his fame and success. The British government invited him to the Western Front in France, to paint scenes of cooperation between American and British troops, to memorialize the Allied war with the finest art.

It was an odd idea. Sargent had only painted beautiful women, and photography and even motion pictures were by now fully mature and thoroughly capable of capturing warfare accurately.

Sargent knew so little about war that when he arrived at the Front, and was dining with the generals and colonels, he assumed (out loud) that the war took the day off on Sunday. (The war did not take Sundays off, even though both sides shared the same God, the same religion, the same Sabbath.)

But he picked up war quickly. War has the quickest learning curve of any human activity. If you're a slow learner, you die.

Today this painting hangs in the Imperial War Museum in the Lambeth section of London. Lovers of art, scholars of war all consider it one of the greatest of all visual images of war, the equal of "Guernica." No photograph of war -- though the camera never lies -- surpasses it.

It is a huge canvas called "Gassed."

During World War One, first the French Army, then the Imperial German Army, introduced a new battlefield weapon, several varieties of poison gas. Chlorine. Phosgene. Mustard Gas. If the wind was blowing the right way (or the wrong way), and you breathed these gasses, they scarred your lungs for life -- which would be considerably shortened. If these gasses touched your unprotected eyes, you would go blind, perhaps temporarily, perhaps for the rest of your life.

Sargent saw and sketched a squad of American soldiers returning from a battle. They were all blind from the gas. They were making their way to a medical aid station, each soldier's hand on the shoulder of the blind soldier in front of him. They eventually made it to the aid station -- where there was little or nothing the medics and doctors could do for them.

Of course blind soldiers no longer have to be soldiers, so soon they would all be going home.

Does it matter?--losing your sight?...
There's such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.


President Bush says the American military component of the War in Iraq will go on "as long as necessary to make sure that the Iraqi people have a government of, by and for the Iraqi people. And then we'll come home."

This sounds like a number. It sounds like a finite period of time. But -- forgive my fondness for mathematics -- there seem to be variables and unknown constants in this expression. I can't seem to evaluate it. I am having a lot of trouble putting a specific Number of Months or a Number of Years on it.

What's wrong with me? Why can't I figure out when this war will end?

Or why am I fixating on knowing when this war will end? Let the war itself decide how long the sons and daughters of my neighbors have to stay in Iraq and Afghanistan. If I keep pushing for a short end, the war might not end up well.

But I can see some details of this equation. Previous wars -- Vietnam, World War One, the Soviets in Afghanistan -- offer some clues.

If you want the war to last as long as it takes for a Good End, and not one day longer, don't look at the pictures.

If you're considering the wisdom of a shorter war, quickly concluded, if you've found an old scratchy 45 vinyl record of this song and have been listening to it -- okay, click on the pictures.


The Washington Post
Tuesday 21 October 2003

Curtains Ordered for Media
Coverage of Returning Coffins

By Dana Milbank

Since the end of the Vietnam War, presidents have worried that their military actions would lose support once the public glimpsed the remains of U.S. soldiers arriving at air bases in flag-draped caskets.

To this problem, the Bush administration has found a simple solution: It has ended the public dissemination of such images by banning news coverage and photography of dead soldiers' homecomings on all military bases.

In 1998 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, airmen carry the coffin of Senior Master Sgt. Sherry Lynn Olds, killed in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. Such rites are now barred. (Kristin Bennett -- U.S. Air Force Via AP)

In March, on the eve of the Iraq war, a directive arrived from the Pentagon at U.S. military bases. "There will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein [Germany] airbase or Dover [Del.] base, to include interim stops," the Defense Department said, referring to the major ports for the returning remains.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said the military-wide policy actually dates from about November 2000 -- the last days of the Clinton administration -- but it apparently went unheeded and unenforced, as images of caskets returning from the Afghanistan war appeared on television broadcasts and in newspapers until early this year. Though Dover Air Force Base, which has the military's largest mortuary, has had restrictions for 12 years, others "may not have been familiar with the policy," the spokeswoman said. This year, "we've really tried to enforce it."

President Bush's opponents say he is trying to keep the spotlight off the fatalities in Iraq. "This administration manipulates information and takes great care to manage events, and sometimes that goes too far," said Joe Lockhart, who as White House press secretary joined President Bill Clinton at several ceremonies for returning remains. "For them to sit there and make a political decision because this hurts them politically -- I'm outraged."

Pentagon officials deny that. Speaking on condition of anonymity, they said the policy covering the entire military followed a victory over a civil liberties court challenge to the restrictions at Dover and relieves all bases of the difficult logistics of assembling family members and deciding which troops should get which types of ceremonies.

One official said only individual graveside services, open to cameras at the discretion of relatives, give "the full context" of a soldier's sacrifice. "To do it at several stops along the way doesn't tell the full story and isn't representative," the official said.

A White House spokesman said Bush has not attended any memorials or funerals for soldiers killed in action during his presidency as his predecessors had done, although he has met with families of fallen soldiers and has marked the loss of soldiers in Memorial Day and Sept. 11, 2001, remembrances.

The Pentagon has previously acknowledged the effect on public opinion of the grim tableau of caskets being carried from transport planes to hangars or hearses. In 1999, the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, said a decision to use military force is based in part on whether it will pass "the Dover test," as the public reacts to fatalities.

Ceremonies for arriving coffins, not routine during the Vietnam War, became increasingly common and elaborate later. After U.S. soldiers fell in Beirut, Grenada, Panama, the Balkans, Kenya, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the military often invited in cameras for elaborate ceremonies for the returning remains, at Andrews Air Force Base, Dover, Ramstein and elsewhere -- sometimes with the president attending.

President Jimmy Carter attended ceremonies for troops killed in Pakistan, Egypt and the failed hostage rescue mission in Iran. President Ronald Reagan participated in many memorable ceremonies, including a service at Camp Lejeune in 1983 for 241 Marines killed in Beirut. Among several events at military bases, he went to Andrews in 1985 to pin Purple Hearts to the caskets of marines killed in San Salvador, and, at Mayport Naval Station in Florida in 1987, he eulogized those killed aboard the USS Stark in the Persian Gulf.

During President George H.W. Bush's term, there were ceremonies at Dover and Andrews for Americans killed in Panama, Lebanon and aboard the USS Iowa.

But in early 1991, at the time of the Persian Gulf War, the Pentagon said there would be no more media coverage of coffins returning to Dover, the main arrival point; a year earlier, Bush was angered when television networks showed him giving a news briefing on a split screen with caskets arriving.

But the photos of coffins arriving at Andrews and elsewhere continued to appear through the Clinton administration. In 1996, Dover made an exception to allow filming of Clinton's visit to welcome the 33 caskets with remains from Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown's plane crash. In 1998, Clinton went to Andrews to see the coffins of Americans killed in the terrorist bombing in Nairobi. Dover also allowed public distribution of photos of the homecoming caskets after the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000.

The photos of coffins continued for the first two years of the current Bush administration, from Ramstein and other bases. Then, on the eve of the Iraq invasion, word came from the Pentagon that other bases were to adopt Dover's policy of making the arrival ceremonies off limits.

"Whenever we go into a conflict, there's a certain amount of guidance that comes down the pike," said Lt. Olivia Nelson, a spokeswoman for Dover. "It's a consistent policy across the board. Where it used to apply only to Dover, they've now made it very clear it applies to everyone."

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