Don’t miss Dana Milbank’s “Washington Sketch” today which begins:
Lt. Col. Billy Hall, one of the most senior officers to be killed in the Iraq war, was laid to rest yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Pentagon doesn’t want you to know that.
The family of 38-year-old Hall, who leaves behind two young daughters and two stepsons, gave their permission for the media to cover his Arlington burial — a decision many grieving families make so that the nation will learn about their loved ones’ sacrifice. But the military had other ideas, and they arranged the Marine’s burial yesterday so that no sound, and few images, would make it into the public domain.
That’s a shame, because Hall’s story is a moving reminder that the war in Iraq, forgotten by much of the nation, remains real and present for some. Among those unlikely to forget the war: 6-year-old Gladys and 3-year-old Tatianna. The rest of the nation, if it remembers Hall at all, will remember him as the 4,011th American service member to die in Iraq, give or take, and the 419th to be buried at Arlington. Gladys and Tatianna will remember him as Dad.
Media whining? Perhaps. But the de facto ban on media at Arlington funerals fits neatly with an effort by the administration to sanitize the war in Iraq. That, in turn, has contributed to a public boredom with the war. A Pew Research Center poll earlier this month found that 14 percent of Americans considered Iraq the news story of most interest — less than half the 32 percent hooked on the presidential campaign and barely more than the 11 percent hooked on the raid of a polygamist compound in Texas.
Liz Cox Barrett is a freelance writer and graphic designer in Kalispell, Montana. She worked as a newspaper journalist in Denver and Kalispell for 20 years.