April 23, 2004

See no evil.

You've probably seen the picture below somewhere in the last few days, either in a newspaper or online.

Flag-draped coffins of US troops

This photo of 20 flag-draped coffins loaded for a flight back to the US was taken by Tami Silicio and originally appeared with this Seattle Times story about her work at Kuwait International Airport. Until very recently, Silicio was a cargo handler employed by Maytag Aircraft, a contractor for the US government. But now Silicio has been fired on grounds that she violated company and US military rules by photographing US dead. (Silicio's husband was also fired, for reasons we can't figure out.)

Silicio said she never sought to put herself in the public spotlight. Instead, she said, she hoped the publication of the photo would help families of fallen soldiers understand the care and devotion that civilians and military crews dedicate to the task of returning the soldiers home.

"It wasn't my intent to lose my job or become famous or anything," Silicio said.

The [Seattle] Times received Silicio's photograph from a stateside friend, Amy Katz, who had previously worked with Silicio for a different contractor in Kosovo. Silicio then gave The Times permission to publish it, without compensation. It was paired with an article about her work in Kuwait.

Since 1991, the US military has banned taking pictures of coffins being returned to the US. While the military says this policy is to protect the privacy of the families of the dead, critics say the rule is designed to make war more palatable to the US public. (This magpie subscribes to the latter view.) Regardless of the reason, Silicio's photo violates the rule, and US authorities had contacted Maytag with 'specific concerns' about the photo. Those concerns resulted in her dismissal.

Silicio is apparently not the only person to take pictures of coffins on their way home, however. Silicio told Reuters
that other contractors and soldiers have taken pictures similar to hers. If this is the case, we have to wonder whether the reason Silicio lost her job was because her picture was published at a time when criticism of the Iraq war is growing, not simply because she broke a rule about picture-taking.

Via Seattle Times.

Posted by Magpie at April 23, 2004 12:30 AM | Iraq | Technorati links |

Take a look at "The Memory Hole"


Score one for truth, justice and the American way. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

And yes, I'm glad our returning soldiers are handled with respect. We should all know this.

--ventura county, ca

Posted by: Darryl Pearce at April 23, 2004 02:40 AM