COFFINS….My political judgment ? and I’m talking here about my judgment of what’s politically smart, not my judgment about policy ? is so obviously at odds with the Bush administration that I’ve pretty much given up even trying to figure it out. Today’s events are a perfect example.

As most of you know, the Bush administration has been adamant about keeping photographs of coffins returning from Iraq out of the press. On Thursday, though, Russ Kick of The Memory Hole forced the release of about 350 photos via a Freedom of Information Act request, and as a result the photos are now available on the web here (or on a mirror site here).

And I just don’t get it. I don’t even support the war, but if anything these pictures might push me in that direction, not the opposite. It’s almost impossible not to be moved by these photos, and impossible not to recognize from them how much care is taken with the bodies and how seriously these deaths are taken.

The Bush administration’s political judgment is obvious: pictures of dead soldiers on the front pages of newspapers will turn people against the war. And maybe they’re right. But my guess is different: seeing these pictures would make most Americans feel pride in their country and determined that these lives not be lost in vain. On the other hand, hiding the pictures just makes it look like the administration is ashamed of its war.

The administration’s judgment, I suspect, is not just the judgment of civilians with little military experience, it’s also the judgment of people who have learned the lessons of Vietnam too well. The irony is rich.

UPDATE: Apparently the top photo is actually the crew remains of the Space Shuttle Columbia arriving at Dover in February 2003. It doesn’t affect the overall point of the post, but it’s worth pointing out for the sake of accuracy.

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