Dear Secretary Gates,
I understand the Pentagon is reviewing its policy barring the media from covering the arrival of the military men and women killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I recommend the policy remain the same for several reasons:
When the policy was first adopted, it was politicized. Opponents said that the military was hiding the true costs of the war. Those days are long behind us now. To the extent that someone wants to know, the true cost of the war is readily apparent albeit somewhat hard to find on a daily basis.
Should the policy change and the media be allowed to cover the arrivals, there will be a gush of images on the national news . . . for about three weeks. Producers and editors, after the initial surge in coverage, will decide that it is no longer news - just as the media has decided that there is not much worth covering in Iraq these days.
For those three weeks, the pressure on families to attend the arrival of their loved ones will be unbearable. Some family member will face the inevitable question: Why didn't you attend the arrival of your son or daughter? It's a question that no family member should have to face.
I say this having spent most of my life as a journalist promoting transparency and open access in government. I also say this as a parent whose son has done two tours in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne.
The policy is fine as is. Let's keep it that way.