Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Images of War Coffins Breach Pentagon Ban

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Images of War Coffins Breach Pentagon Ban

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY

AMERICA reacted with shock today as pictures of coffins carrying its Iraq war dead were published for the first time.

More than 300 photographs were released by the US air force by mistake - in breach of the Pentagon's strict ban.

The defence department was desperately attempting to recall the pictures today but was too late to prevent them being published over the internet by antiwar campaigners.

And in another breach, a picture taken secretly by an air base worker in Kuwait was printed in the Seattle Times.

It showed 20 coffins, all covered in the Stars and Stripes, being loaded onto a carrier plane.

The combination of official blundering and the flouting of one of America's greatest taboos, which has been written into military rules since 1991, threatened to become a massive public relations disaster for President Bush as his war policy came under increasing strain.

Images of its war dead have been officially discouraged since the the Vietnam War.

Officially the reason is to maintain the dignity of dead soldiers but the policy has been criticised as a way of protecting national morale by sanitising the war.

Journalists have been forbidden from taking pictures at Dover airbase in Delaware where coffins arrive.

The new row erupted amid a heated debate in Congress over calls to send up to 10,000 more troops into Iraq to stabilise the security situation. In Britain, MoD chiefs were reported to have put 1,700 troops on standby to leave at short notice if the violence gets worse.

US public opinion has turned against the occupation after terrorist bombings and violent clashes with insurgents left almost 100 American servicemen dead in the past three weeks.

In one of the worst outrages, at least 68 people were killed in a massive suicide bomb attack in Basra earlier this week.

The cargo worker who took the picture printed in the Seattle Times was sacked today for the breach. "I lost my job and they let my husband go as well," said Tami Silicio, 50.

Mrs Silicio, who loaded US military cargo at Kuwait International Airport, claimed she took the picture to show how respectfully the victims' remains were being treated. …

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