Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The coffin issue

A majority of Americans favor allowing the public to see pictures of the military honor guard receiving the war dead at Dover, with about 60 percent responding positively and a third answering negatively in polls posing the question in 1991 and 2004.
Some families of fallen troops also support allowing the news media to photograph and videotape the ceremony, or at least letting the families decide whether to permit it rather than continuing the government ban.
"I would have loved to see them fly my son back in and give him a full salute," said Janice Chance of Owings Mills, Md., whose son, Marine Capt. Jesse Melton III, was killed Sept. 9 in Afghanistan's Parwan province. She said she is in favor of media coverage of the return ceremony.
"As long as it is done in good taste, and they are showing that the people here in the United States are welcoming them back and saying job well done, that is what I would like to see," she said.

The above is from Ann Scott Tyson and Mark Berman's "Pentagon Rethinks Photo Ban on Coffins Bearing War Dead" (Washington Post) and others are quoted in the article who agree or disagree but it really doesn't matter. Reality is only two occupants of the Oval Office have banned the media coverage and both were named Bush. It is not normal to ban the coverage and it is not acceptable. It is shameful to send people into a war and hide their return -- whether it be on foot or in a coffin. The return is the end of the mission and anyone who sends US service members into a mission owes it to them and to the nation to not drop the ball on their return -- let alone try to hide it. If you don't have the stomach for it, then you weren't 'mistaken' to start or continue a war (any war) you were wrong to do so.

In today's New York Times, Sam Dagher's "Bombs Kill 8 in Baghdad as Shiite Pilgrims Return" covers yesterday's two Baghdad roadside bombings and which claimed 8 lives and left twenty-six wounded (Dagher goes with the figure of twenty-three wounded). Eye witness Ali Hussein Alwan states, "We saw a man with his brains blown out." In addition to the attacks on the pilgrims, Dagher notes that two people were shot dead in Mosul and five homes were burned in Al Hajj Ali.

Dagher's report on the 8 pilgrims killed yesterday is only the latest in a series of reports in the last days. "Which raises the question: Why partake in an event almost guaranteed to draw attacks?" That's Usama Redha and Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) asking and exploring that question in "Shiite pilgrims walk in devotion, defiance:"

But Abu Zahra, whose nickname means "father of Zahra," had an answer for those who wonder why he carried on.
It is love for Imam Hussein, he said as the streets around him buzzed with pilgrims filling up on free food, tea and water at stands set up especially for the occasion. "Even the babies in the cradles love him and slap their chests for him."
No official numbers are kept on how many people take part in pilgrimages, which remain a bit of a novelty in Iraq. Under Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated dictatorship, such displays of Shiite devotion were not permitted.
But since Hussein's ouster in April 2003, pilgrimages have evolved into nationwide holidays that leave shops shuttered for days, paralyze business and cripple traffic as roads fill with pilgrims on foot, in buses and crowded on flatbed trucks. Some beat themselves bloody in ritual displays of mourning for Imam Hussein, the prophet Muhammad's grandson, who was slain in battle in Karbala.
[. . .]
For some pilgrims, the threat of violence was all the more reason to take part. Mohammed Saad dismissed the idea of fear blocking his participation. If killed, at least he would die a martyr, the college student said with a smile after three days of walking. It was his third year participating in this pilgrimage, and he estimated the crowd was twice the size of last year's.

Usama Redha and Tina Susman offer additional stories
from pilgrims and photos at the paper's blog Babylon & Beyond. Also at the paper's blog, Tony Perry reports on Sgt. Jermaine Nelson whose Camp Pendelton court martial is scheduled to begin today. Nelson stands accused "of allegedly murdering an unarmed prisoner during the battle in Fallouja in November 2004. Nelson confessed to a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent in 2007 that he killed a prisoner at the order of his squad leader, then-Sgt. Jose Nazario."

Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes:

16 February, 2009

Foreign Minister Meets Turkish President's Special Envoy

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, met in his office on Monday Feb.16, 2009, Ambassador Murad Aozgelik Special envoy of Turkish President to Iraq.

After an exchange of courtesies, Ambassador Aozgelik conveyed the congratulations of the Turkish President and the Turkish government on the success of the provincial elections that took place recently in Iraq in a peaceful and quiet atmosphere with no recorded breaches of security, which marks the stability achieved throughout Iraq.

Preparation on the necessary arrangements for the exchange of visits between the two countries were made. Discussions on the development of bilateral relations in various aspects between the two countries were made especially after the visit of Foreign Minister and the delegation accompanying him to Turkey, on 22/1/2009, upon the invitation from his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan, in the framework of activating the strategic declaration between the prime ministers of both countries on 7/8/2008, in Baghdad.

The two sides also discussed the expansion of technical cooperation between the two countries to serve the common interests and finding appropriate solutions for the obstacles to development, as well as details on the expansion of diplomatic and consular relations between the two countries.

The meeting was attended by Mr. Labeed Abbawi, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary, Ambassador Taha Shuker Head of neighboring countries Department, Ambassador Surod Najeeb Director of the Minister 's Office.

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