Yesterday during a panel discussion hosted by the the IFC Media Project, the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol got into a testy argument with columnist and author Pete Hamill over whether Americans are getting a realistic view of the Iraq war given the restrictions the U.S. government has placed on images related to the battlefield.
“Let them see what’s on the ground,” Hamill shouted at Kristol, adding, “Let them see a coffin!” An exasperated and slightly annoyed Kristol yelled back that Americans have seen “plenty of coffins,” calling Hamill’s claims “nonsense.” Watch it:
In fact, Americans haven’t seen “plenty of coffins” because it has been the Bush administration’s policy not to release photos of them to news organizations — a policy the conservative-led Senate backed in 2004. The Defense Department has released photos of dead U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, but on rare occasions and only as the result of leaks and lawsuits. But the Pentagon still restricts journalists’ access to military funerals.
Kristol later argued that the release of the photos from Abu Ghraib serves as proof that the Bush administration “wasn’t impeding the flow of information from Iraq.” However, the Abu Ghraib story broke in the news media, not from the Bush administration (which tried to hide the story).
Last June, CBS News’s Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan echoed Hamill’s sentiments, lamenting that “no one really understands” what is happening in Iraq because of watered down media coverage. But maybe that’s what Kristol prefers so the results of the distaster he helped create can remain hidden.