How To Treat Images of Death?

The AP is drawing some fire from Defense Secretary Gates for providing photos to its media clients of a Marine mortally wounded in Afghanistan, Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard. Some newspapers made the choice to publish, others did not.

Zach Wolf draws a provocative comparison: Images of American dead returning from war abroad have divided public opinion for decades. It is worth remembering, as this debate is stoked again, another graphic image of death that was recently reported on in the media and utilized by American politicians:- the YouTube video of Neda Soltan, a young Iranian woman gunned downed during a protest against the flawed Presidential election there. The video which went internationally viral and made her an icon for activists in Iran. Defense Sec. Robert Gates said he was “appalled” at the release of the photo of Bernard and was heartened that few media outlets selected to publish it. Earlier this year, Gates lifted an 18 year ban on images of the coffins of war dead returning to US shores if family members approved media coverage. But in the case of Neda, the video of her death, recorded and distributed after the Western media had been restricted from reporting in Iran, was noted by President Obama, when he said at a press conference, “It’s heartbreaking. And I think that anybody who sees it knows that there is something fundamentally unjust about that.” And the video of Neda’s death was the subject of speeches by two Republican lawmakers in the US Capitol. First, on June 22, Arizona’s Sen. John McCain gave an emotional speech at 2:15 pm about the video. He quoted from news reports on the video and described it: “Two men kneel against the -- next to the woman and press on her chest screaming. The camera filming him zooms in on her face, her face turns to the side and blood streams out of her nose and mouth. Neda, don't be afraid says one man. Another man seeks to put her in the car and the video stops.” He quotes from an unnamed Twitter account who reported on the video: “Neda died with opened eyes. shame on us who lived with closed eyes. they killed Neda, but not her voice was another.” And he goes on to wonder what effect the democracy movement in Iran and the images of Neda should have on U.S. foreign policy. “A debate has been going on as to how much the United States of America, its President, the Congress, and the American people should speak out in favor and in support of these brave Iranians… and their quest for the fundamentals of freedom and democracy that we have enjoyed for more than a couple of centuries.” On June 23, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, a Michigan Republican, was more blunt at 8:10pm. He stood in front of an oversized picture of Neda as he gave a speech on the House floor, deriding President Obama for not being more active in condemning the Iranian election. “Iranians watch as the president holds out an open hand to those who opened fire on protesters,” said McCotter, later adding, “How we aid pro-democracy Iranians will remind the world who we are. We are Americans. The revolutionary children of freedom who have lived and died defending our liberty and extending it to the enslaved and oppressed. We will do no less today in support of our Iranian brothers and sisters. Today, Neda’s voice calls to our consciences and warns that the fate of Iranian's liberty is entwined with the fate of American security. We must not miss this generational chance for freedom, one that ensures a rogue regime's implosion, prevents a nuclear confrontation and ensures that Neda and other martyrs shall not have died in vain. We must seize this moment and help Iranians seize their freedom. That's what we do.” - George Stephanopoulos

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