Memorial Day. When America remembers the sacrifice of its men and women who gave their lives fighting for the country.
Memory of solemn loss. Remembrance of high-minded bravery.
We'll see speeches all day memorializing those dead soldiers. We'll see parades, concerts and festivities memorializing those dead soldiers. We'll see flags poignantly memorializing the legacy of all those dead soldiers.
The one thing we won't see, still, are the caskets of the 2,463 dead soldiers from Iraq.
The Bush Administration continues to refuse allowing Americans to honor those 2,463 dead. Its media blackout of those returning dead remains dark.
Who knows? Maybe this is one of those "They've never served in a war" things where George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Karl Rove, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle simply don't realize that when soldiers die in battle for their country, it's a noble thing for that country to honor them.
Is it partisan to mention this on Memorial Day? It's partisan to ignore it. The whole point of Memorial Day is to remember it.
The reason given by officials for this blackout is to respect the privacy of the families of the dead soldiers. The reason given by everyone else is that the Administration is afraid that the sight of dead Americans being carried in by the thousands would make the reality of the Iraq War even more unpalatable than it already is, if that's possible.
This is known as the "Dover Test," coined in 2000 by then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Harry Shelton after the Air Force base in Delaware, which is the main entry for returning bodies. After America's experience in Vietnam, the "test" is to determine the tipping point after which the American public has seen enough flag-draped coffins and will no longer support a war.
Apparently, for some odd reason, the Bush Administration didn't think Americans would believe that the Mission had actually been Accomplished if they saw thousands of caskets being flown in regularly. So, better to divert attention and not to look at the man behind the curtain, but instead just watch the big head relentlessly explaining that there's good news ahead because the road has turned.
The road has turned so often, that it's become a circle. Spinning back on itself...
And so, the 2,463 flag-draped caskets arrive back in the United States of America unnoticed, in the dark of night.
In fairness, this policy of not allowing the media to cover the returning of caskets is not one devised by the Bush Administration - well, actually, it is, it's just the other Bush Administration, during the Gulf War (the other Gulf War) - but it was only for the Dover base. Extension of this policy to all military installations around the world was largely un-enforced. That is until the eve of the Iraq War in March, 2003.
(In an expanded act of national honor, the order included blocking media coverage of the wounded, as well. Thus far there are 8,344 combat evacuees. The number of non-combat wounded is unknown. Well...okay, unknown to the public.)
On this day of Memorial, heartfelt tributes will be made to honor the deaths of all Americans who have sacrificed themselves throughout the nation's history. We will hear sad and glorious words of appreciation. From public officials, from the military, from veterans, celebrities, religious leaders, everyday Americans and from members of the Administration.
These members of the Administration will snap on their flag lapel pins and tell you how much they honor the brave men and women who gave their lives in Iraq. And in Afghanistan. (At least, hopefully they'll mention Afghanistan.) And no doubt they do. They just don't honor their caskets.