In his column today, The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank details the difficulty the press has when trying to cover military funerals, writing that “the de facto ban on media at Arlington funerals fits neatly with an effort by the administration to sanitize the war in Iraq.” He describes trying to attend the funeral for Lt. Col. Billy Hall yesterday:
It had the feel of a throwback to Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, when the military cracked down on photographs of flag-draped caskets returning home from the war. Rumsfeld himself was exposed for failing to sign by hand the condolence letters he sent to the next of kin. His successor, Robert Gates, has brought some glasnost to the Pentagon, but the military funerals remain tightly controlled. Even when families approve media coverage for a funeral, the journalists are held at a distance for the pageantry — the caisson, the band, the firing party, “Taps,” the presenting of the flag — then whisked away when the service itself begins.
Milbank said that the Pentagon’s policy of keeping the reality of military deaths away from Americans “has contributed to a public boredom with the war.”