Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Open Letter to Barack Obama from Cindy Sheehan re: Flag draped coffins

February 17, 2009

Dear President Obama,

Recently, your Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, said that the DoD would be "re-evaluating" the blockade on the press taking photos of the returning flag-draped coffins from the illegal and immoral occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 1991, George H.W. Bush signed an executive order banning those photos and early on in George W. Bush's War OF Terror, his mother, and the wife of the 41st president, Barbara, agreed with that order saying that she did not want to "bother her pretty mind" with the images.
President Obama, first of all, you do not need to have the DoD "re-evaluate" that order. In the transparent Republic that you claim to seek, the Department of War should never get to pick and choose what the members of that transparent Republic see. That seems like military tyranny to me. You can sign an Executive Order reversing the one that the first President Bush signed during the First Gulf War.

Secondly, as a mother whose pretty mind was not only "bothered" but whose heart was torn to pieces on April 04, 2004, by the news that my family would be receiving our dear Casey in one of those flag-draped coffins, I implore you to lift the ban on the images.

The order was put in place 18 years ago to remove the costs of war as far away from the average American as possible. Only a relative few American families have had to bear the burden of these fiascoes in the 21st Century (although 100% of Iraqi families have) and if there are conflicts going on where American flesh and blood is being slaughtered (with which I wholeheartedly disagree), then the entire country should be required to share that sacrifice.

I think there should be a "war tax" levied against every American when there is a conflict to help pay for it. In my opinion, if there is a valid, Constitutionally declared war for defensive purposes, then there should be a universal draft (no exemptions or exceptions) with the children of Congress-members and Presidents being the first to be drafted. I think CEO's and other executives of companies that profit off of war should have their salaries reduced to that of the Infantry during times of war and their children should be second in line for a draft. My proposals are designed to make war obsolete, but at the very least, Americans should be able to see the devastating images of the flag draped coffins.

Taking photographs of the coffins does not violate any kind of privacy, because when the coffins are at Dover AFB, the remains are anonymous. If the families wish privacy when the loved one returns home, that is the family's prerogative.

President Obama, I have a shirt with my son's picture on it and the dates of his birth and death. When he was first killed in April 2004, I would wear it and many strangers would ask me who was in the picture and what happened to him.

I would say: "This is my son, Casey, and he was killed in the war." I cannot tell you how many times the next question was, "What war?" The occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are waged on lies, but that there is little to no shared sacrifice is a national disgrace. Yes, removing the ban is a political ploy, but so was instituting it. If more Americans shared in the grief, then maybe more Americans would protest the cause for that grief?

Bringing our needlessly dead children home under the shadow of secrecy exploits their sense of honor, even if the wars and the reasons for secrecy are ignoble.

Bring our troops home immediately and/or lift the ban.


Cindy Sheehan
Gold Star Mother and President of Gold Star Families for Peace

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