Journalists in the U.S. complained for most of the Bush administration that they weren’t allowed to photograph the returning caskets of U.S. soldiers. They alleged the ban sanitized war.
Now that the Obama administration is allowing — with permission of families — the photographing of the homecomings, journalists have taken to sanitizing war on their own.
The images are compelling, disturbing and, of course, sad. The captions below the photographs are not.
Take both of the Twin Cities Daily newspapers.
The Star Tribune documented the arrival of the body of Army Specialist James Wertish on over the weekend.
Said the caption: “An Army team carried a transfer case containing the remains of Army Specialist James Wertish on Saturday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Wrtish, 20, of Olivia, Minn., was one of three Minnesotans who died Thursday in Basra, Iraq.
Transfer case? It sounds like something you’d put groceries in. Not a body. Not a human. Transfer cases are part of the transmission of four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Another Minnesotan, Daniel Drevnick of Woodbury, arrived home on Saturday.
Said the Pioneer Press: “An Air Force team removes transfer cases containing the remains of Minnesota National Guard members Spc. Carlos Wilcox, Spc. James Wertish and Spc. Daniel Drevnick on Saturday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.”
Both papers used transfer cases. Both described the people carrying them as a team
Back before the Bush administration, we called them coffins or caskets; words which may be technically insufficient, but made clear that someone’s son, brother, or husband was inside, and he is dead.
Instead of “teams,” they were referred to as “honor guards,” reinforcing that the dead deserved no less.
Other dead soldiers coming home got almost the same sanitized treatment:
An Army carry team carries a transfer case containing the remains of Pfc. Nicolas Hugh Joseph Gideon at Dover Air Force Base, Del., July 7, 2009. – Anchorage Daily News.
An Army carry team carries a transfer case containing the remains of Spc. Chester W. Hosford of Hastings, Minn. Wednesday July 8, 2009 at Dover Air Force Base, Del. – Minnesota Public Radio.
An Army Corps carry team carries the transfer case containing the body of U.S. Army Pfc. Justin A. Casillas, 19, of Dunnigan, during a transfer ceremony at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Monday, July 6. – Woodland (Calif.) Democrat
This is what George Carlin called “soft language.”
“I don’t like words that hide the truth. I don’t like words that conceal reality. I don’t like euphemisms, or euphemistic language. And American English is loaded with euphemisms. Cause Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent the kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it, and it gets worse with every generation. For some reason, it just keeps getting worse.”
(Photos: Associated Press)