Commentary: Gates got it right on flag-draped coffin photos

This editorial appeared in The (Tacoma) News Tribune.

Exploitation or honor? The U.S. policy of barring photographs of the coffins of war dead has been construed both ways.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates got it right Thursday, we believe, when he relaxed that policy to allow photographic coverage of the arrival of the flag-draped coffins – but only with the approval of the families involved.

The ban on public photography was imposed in 1991. Since the Iraq war began in 2003, it has been vehemently criticized and defended.

Critics – many of them opponents of the war – said the Bush administration was using the ban to prevent Americans from seeing frequent scenes of coffins coming home from Iraq through Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Defenders argued that the critics were bent on politically exploiting those scenes as antiwar propaganda.

But the question ought to be separated from the arguments over a fading war. The issue of how best to pay respect to the fallen deserves to be dealt with on its own merits.

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Tacoma) News Tribune.

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