Magazine article Mother Jones

Editor's Note

Magazine article Mother Jones

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

It's a sight I'll never forget-15 flag-draped coffins laid out on the concrete floor of a vast hangar at Dover Air Force Base, the military's largest mortuary. This was in 1983, and my newspaper had given me the somber assignment of covering the arrival of the remains of U.S. Marines killed in Beirut. The photographs and film of those coffins in their stark, airy tomb appeared in every paper and on the evening news; a week later, President Reagan traveled to Camp Lejeune to deliver a moving tribute to the dead.

There have been no images of the coffins coming home from Iraq. The Pentagon made sure ofthat last March, on the eve of the war, when it issued a directive prohibiting media coverage of "deceased military personnel" at any military bases. And there have been no presidential tributes; unlike his predecessors, President Bush has not attended any memorial or funerals for soldiers killed in action during his presidency. But still the dead keep coming home-513 killed in the Iraq war by late January, 375 of them since the president declared that the war was over.

And the wounded keep coming home, too-more than 2,500 young men and women wounded in action. Many have suffered catastrophic injuries; flak jackets and bulletproof helmets mean that more soldiers now survive land mine or mortar shell explosions, but lose their arms or legs or sustain disfiguring facial wounds. Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., reports treating 61 amputees from Iraq, 11 of them missing multiple limbs. …

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