This policy, begun by the Clinton administration and perpetuated now makes a mockery of the freedoms soldiers have ensured for years.
Americans' willingness to accept body bags long has been an important gauge of their support for military conflicts. So important, in fact, that the Pentagon has a term for measuring public reaction to the flag-draped coffins returning to Dover Air Force Base and other locations: the "Dover test."
Fear of failing that test influenced the Clinton administration's decision to wage the 1999 Kosovo war from the air, without ground troops. When 18 U.S. soldiers were slaughtered in Somalia in 1993 and TV broadcasted the grisly images, a public outcry forced a swift U.S. pullout.
Today, flag-draped coffins again are arriving at Dover, as the toll from the Iraq war rises. So far, 341 troops have been killed, including 202 since major combat ended May 1. But the bodies are returning out of public view because the Bush administration is barring media coverage.