Very nearly 40 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the month of November began. 33 more were killed in October, and 16 more died in September. The total losses, to date, creep towards 400. Few American citizens are aware of this, because the Bush administration has made it policy to deliberately hide these honored dead from the media. No cameras are allowed inside the Dover, DE facility that receives the ruined bodies of our troops.
No cameras are allowed inside Walter Reed Army Medical Center to film the thousands of soldiers who have been catastrophically wounded in Iraq, nor are cameras allowed inside the facility at Ft. Stewart in Georgia where the wounded await treatment in conditions they have described as inhumane.
No Bush official has been to a single funeral for any of the fallen, because that would bring unwanted publicity onto the ruinous casualties we have suffered. The Pentagon is doing its part as well. The term "body bags" was dispensed with during the 1991 Gulf War for the kinder, gentler euphemism "human remains pouches." The term has been changed again by the Pentagon. Today in Iraq, soldiers killed in the line of duty are placed inside "transfer tubes" for their anonymous, unnoticed trip home.
American soldiers killed in Afghanistan were roundly filmed as they returned home, and the images of their flag-draped caskets were broadcast all across the country with broad and honored fanfare. President Clinton was present to welcome home the coffins of soldiers killed in Kosovo. Pictures of the coffins carrying sailors killed in the bombing of the USS Cole were also widely broadcast. President Bush Sr. was on hand to welcome the caskets of soldiers killed in Lebanon and Panama.
The men and women killed in Iraq are afforded no such honor. They are a dirty little secret, hidden from view lest they cause political discomfort to the administration that got them killed.
The Bush administration has taken to hiding from even the most obvious signs that, once upon a time, this war served their propaganda purposes. When George W. Bush declared an end to combat operations in Iraq aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, his televised image was framed by a massive banner that read "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED." At the time, the administration was more than happy to take credit for the banner.
Full and specific credit, at the time, was given to Scott Sforza, a former ABC producer hired by the administration to work for the White House Communication's Director. Mr. Sforza can be credited for those snappy backdrops draped around Bush when he speaks, the ones with the catch-words repeated ad nauseam. Sforza spent several days "embedded" aboard the Abraham Lincoln to organize the event for full media effect, going so far as to hand-pick the Navy personnel to be displayed, and to choose the color of the clothes they would wear.
Once it became clear that the only mission that had been accomplished in Iraq was the looting of the American Treasury, the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of American troops, the unnecessary maiming of thousands more, and the ruination of our reputation around the world, George W. Bush himself went out of his way to disavow any involvement with the braggadocio of the banner. In an October 28 press conference, Bush said, "The 'Mission Accomplished' sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished."
And so the military, again, is left holding the bag for Bush, who has fled even from the presence of the memory of the fallen.