Bitter Fruit

by alphamonkey on November 1, 2005 · 25 comments

in Uncategorized

A little somber for a Tuesday morning, but Paul Fusco’s Bitter Fruit is a powerful reminder that every casualty statistic translates to a family’s loss.  Capturing the human cost of war through military funerals may not make for a good pick-me-up, but as his commentary points out, it’s important that we remind ourselves of the humanity behind the dry numbers we hear in the news.

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  • The Good Reverend

    Very moving pictures, marred only slightly by his cliched diatribes.

  • .alphamonkey.

    You should write him a letter explaining how his outrage at the needless loss of life should be more uniquely expressed.

  • The Good Reverend

    I agree completely that is a useless war.  But his decision to tell us what the people in the pictures were feeling without having even talked to any of them was in poor taste.  You can see a woman crying and know that she mourns the loss of her loved one – it is quite a different matter to assume she considers her loved one’s death a death without glory in a pointless war.  They may or may not feel that way.  It is dishonest to come uninvited to a family’s private and intimate final moment with their departed loved one and use it to grind one’s own ax.

  • Pragmatist

    Yeah I thought this was very nice, and very tastefully done. 

    Thanks for posting it alpha

  • Pragmatist

    I dunno rev, maybe its just his thoughts of what they might be thinking.  I know it sucks to think of someone losing a loved one to a pointless cause without any glory.  But personally, and I do say personally, I wouldn’t want to be remembered as someone how died with glory in Bush’s war. I would much rather have this guy speak for me.  But again thats just my personal view.  Anyone who gives their life over there is a hero, no matter what their views of the war were.

  • ruffster

    The nicest thing I can say about Mr. Fusco is that he is another of the many parasites that always seem to gather to take advantage of others misfortune. The basic question here is one of respect. The military does not allow access to the transfer of remains out of respect to the deceased and the grieving families. The military has no say as to whether or not Mr. Fusco talks to the families. It is much more likely the families didn’t want to talk to him. Would you?

    Mr. Fusco, those soldiers and families did not make their sacrifices to become famous, and certainly not to become part of your cause. I wonder how you got permission to use all those photos of family, friends and comrades. You have no idea what they were thinking. Can you read minds? Your introduction stated you didn’t even talk to the subjects of your photos. Stop projecting your agenda on people who don’t want anything to do with you. If they want to assist in your cause, that is their decision, not yours.

    Mr. Fusco makes a common mistake. He assumes that just because he owns a camera, or a website, or a pen, or considers himself an artist or a jounalist, that he has the right to use other people any way he sees fit. He won’t even grant these poor grieving families the privacy that folk of his ilk are always ranting on about the government taking away.

    Once again, it boils down to respect. Mr. Fusco, where is yours?

  • .alphamonkey.

    Your entitled to your thoughts on the matter, but The basic question here is one of respect. The military does not allow access to the transfer of remains out of respect to the deceased and the grieving families is factually incorrect. Bush banned the public/media from the transfer of remains, the first president to do so in quite some time.  It wasn’t out of respect, it was political expediency.  They weren’t willing to see if Iraq could pass The Dover test, as it’s called.

  • ruffster

    Sorry alphamonkey, but you have fallen prey to what the mass media wants you to think as oppossed to whats the truth. Here is the portion of the Air Force Instruction (regulation) 34-242 “Mortuary Affairs” which very clearly lays out the Department of Defense’s policy on the transfer of the remains of servicemembers. This regulation predates President Bush.

    2.30. Prohibition of Arrival Ceremonies and Media Coverage.

    There will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein AB,

    Hickam AFB or Dover AFB, to include interim stops. Service members will receive proper honors for their service to their country at the interment site. Any memorial services are the responsibility of the service members’ unit. The prohibition on media coverage of movement of remains includes the movement of remains at any point (e.g., from treatment facility to transport, from transport to interim stop, from

    interim stop to airlift, from airlift to Mortuary, etc).

  • Pragmatist

    AFI 34-242, dated January 5th 2005.  I dunno exactly how to go about finding a copy of this reg that predates Bush.  If you have a copy that six years old you need to produce that one, because this one is pretty new.  I honestly don’t know which one of you is right on this one, but this version of the reg does not predate Bush.

  • ruffster

    Your right, I don’t have a copy of the older reg. However, I became very familiar with the older version when a friend of mine was killed in a helecopter crash in Vietnam several years ago while participating in the Joint Task Force there to identify the remains of MIAs. The two regs are essentially the same on the issue of media access during the transfer of remains.

    I also remember being briefed on this by a Line of Duty Determination Officer in the late 80’s after another friend of mine was killed in a motorcycle accident overseas.

  • The Good Reverend

    I, too, looked for the actual document that first had that text in it and came up empty.  However, if this article is accurate then it is very insightful on the matter.  Ruffster, I’m inclined to accept it as fact that the policy has been around pre-Dubya as you said.  I’m also inclined to believe, however, that he is the first president to have enforced it, and for no other reason but personal political gain. 

    Having attended no funerals of fallen soldiers as has every president before him (a fact which we could also call into dispute.. but I betcha it’s on the money), it is obvious that the deaths of these soldiers really don’t keep him up at night.  I would bet money he doesn’t really give a shit.  So, his enforcement of 34-242 certainly isn’t “to honor our brave men and women” as he would have us believe.

    I am completely in agreement with you on Fusco, however.  I share his sentiments exactly on the war in Iraq, and yet wanted nothing more than to slap him through my browser.

  • Pragmatist

    Well you could be right.  Like I said I dont know what the old reg said.  But I did thing it was necessary that the reg you refered to does not predate Bush, and has probably been updated quiet a few times since Bush took office. 

    Beyond that I think that what projects like the one this man did are important.  The daily news will give you a number, like 2000, but I think its even more important to show the faces of American’s effected by the lose of family members.  Maybe its hard to digest, and it is bitter to think that these people who gave so much might have died for an unjust cause. 

    But I think there is a growing number of Americans who feel that way.  And I very much doubt its an issue of the mass media covering up the truth.  We are not robots who only take in information.

  • ruffster

    I know this is dragging on but I have very strong feelings on this subject. Here are several quotes from a Newsday article titled “Fallen GIs return unseen” from 19 Apr 2004.

    “ Publicity for such ceremonies continued until Jan. 21, 1991, when officials started to prohibit filming at the Dover base in Delaware, home to the military’s largest mortuary and the primary arrival point for remains.

    There is disagreement about the reasons for the ban. Historians say then-President George Bush was angered when TV networks used a split screen to air his news briefing with reporters, in which he was seen to laugh at one point, and the coffin ceremonies during the 1991 Gulf War.

    Department of Defense officials, however, say the restrictions were to protect mourners.

    “Over the years, the families [of deceased service personnel] have told us that their privacy is very important in the immediate aftermath of being notified of their loss,” said an official, who requested anonymity.”

    “One survivors’ group, at least, supports the ban. “We really feel to ensure the privacy of the families is paramount,” said Kathy Moakler, deputy director of government relations at the National Military Family Association. The Virginia-based group didn’t request the ban but she said “at the devastating time [of loss], being sensitive to the families is what needs to be done.”

    “War images often are upsetting, none more so than the sight of a dead U.S. soldier or their flag-draped casket. That’s why the Pentagon censored such pictures during World War I and most of World War II; they were seen only occasionally during Vietnam.”

    As you can see, the idea goes back a long way and was official at least as far back as 1991.

    To read the complete article go to here

    Unfortunatly, military regs are not binding on civilians. So nothing can be done to jounalists who do manage to take these photos other than remove them from the base.

    And Rev. you slap and I’ll hold.

  • ruffster

    Sorry, here is the address to the article

  • The Good Reverend


  • .alphamonkey.

    After much digging, it looks like it wasn’t actually a rule until 2000, put into effect by Clinton (who didn’t have it enforeced).  Bush the Elder did prohibit the same, but no actual rule was put into effect.

  • mickey1964

    I think this conversation took an errant turn.

    Politics aside, I thought it was VERY presumtuous of the photograhpher to project HIS feeling and thoughts as those of the bereaved.  He should have kept THAT commentary to himself.

    As for the media – it’s well established that the MAJORITY of the media outlets – news, movies, television, radio and print – are predominantly left leaning.  Why should this guy be any different.

    But all that aside, here’s MY observation:

    I have seen remakably similar faces at the funeral of a good friend.  Distraught. Sad. Scared. And yes – even bitter.  The difference? He wasn’t a soldier that died in combat in service to his country.  It was a guy who was partying on a boat and fell in the river.  The currents took him.

    Death is death when it comes to the families and friends of the deceased.  Odds are, they will ALL feel sad, distraught, bitter – etc.  THAT’S why I think this Fusco character is really an idiot for exploiting common human emotions to further his left-leaning beliefs.

    Oh – final thought . . . I wouldn’t want ANY blood-sucking media of ANY strain at the funeral of a family member – or mine either.  I don’t think the soldiers funerals give the press any “right” to be there.  It should be up to the family and those wishes should be respected – and NOT politicized.

  • The Good Reverend

    Actually, it is NOT well-established that the media is left-leaning.  It is, however, well-inculcated by the right in the hopes that if some people hear it enough, they’ll buy into it without further investigation.

    Using Lexus-Nexus, a study was done on the 2000 Presidential Election.  They wanted to compare the amount of negative and positive statements directed toward Gore vs. those directed toward Bush.  Keep in mind that Lexus-Nexus covers the vast majority of media outlets.  Also bear in mind that despite Clinton’s sex stuff, the administration pretty much had the country in great shape on all fronts.  The study found that the media was much more positive toward Bush than toward Gore.  The “left-leaning” media was influencing the vote toward the Republican ticket.  Since 2000, the shift has gone only further to the right as Murdoch buys up outlets and AM radio continues pushing out “left” voices in favor of Limbaugh-like demagogues.

    The “left-leaning” media is a huge myth.  It actually leans right.  I once again have to give begrudging respect to the right spin machine.  They are masters of misdirection.

  • mickey1964

    Thanks for the info on that study.

    I should be clear – I am neither left NOR right – and maybe a bit of both.  I thought there was a lot of good and bad about the Clinton presidency, and feel the same about the Reagan presidency.

    However, study or no study, in my LIMITED experience (and one reason I pretty much don’t watch television any more) is that right OR left, it has become clear to me that in many ways, it has become more important to be political than right.

    Vilifying Clinton pver the sex scandal is a great example of that.  As much as vilifying Bush over WMD is MORE proof of that.

    It ISN’T just the left OR the right.  BOTH sides (the extremists, anyway) see no other way than their own.  It’s funny to hear someone like Sean Hannity cut down someone from the left and say “You’re wrong!”, about a subject then give no PROOF of WHY they are wrong . . . you get the idea.

    The “left-leaning” media is a huge myth.  It actually leans right.  I once again have to give begrudging respect to the right spin machine.  They are masters of misdirection.

    I’m not sure I agree with you here, but then again – it’s been so long since I watched television consistantly that you could be right… I’ll leave it to the couch potatoes to answer that wink

    And for the record – the left can be huge spin doctors too.  I live in NY and hear it daily…. H.R. Clinton is a master in her OWN right.

  • daemoneyes

    Speaking as someone who served in the military, I have two (well, maybe three) things to say.

    1.) When a U.S. servicemember is killed, whether in a training accident, a car crash, or as the result of hostile action, they, and their families, should be afforded the same level of dignity, respect, and privacy that anyone else would wish to have when saying their last farewell to their loved ones.  I personally don’t think their should be any pictures of the caskets coming into Dover AFB, because if I were in one of them, the last thing I’d want is to have that picture used in some sort of propaganda, whether supporting or opposing the war.  They did their duty when they were called upon, and they made the “ultimate sacrifice”, even though I dislike using that term.  Let them rest in peace.

    2.) What a lot of people fail to realize (or conveniently forget) is that everyone in the armed forces today is a volunteer.  While their personal opinions or thoughts on the war may be contradictory to what the White House says, I challenge anyone to find a report of a U.S. military unit refusing orders, unless they were un-lawful.  I know there are times when they want to slam onthe breaks and scream “bullshit!!!!” at the top of their lungs, I’ve been there, but they comtinue the mission nonetheless.

    3.) When you’re in a situation like the one those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are in, there’s the over-all reason why you’re there, or at least the reason you’re given, and if you keep repeating it to yourself enough, you’ll start to believe it.  Freedom for the Iraqi people, while a noble cause/goal, is not what those troops are fighting for.  When you’re in the thick of it, and the lead starts flying, you’re not fighting for political beliefs, or because George W pulled a fast one while the American people were distracted (gee, that wasn’t really too hard).  They’re fighting for the guy on the left of them, and the guy on the right of them, and they know that those guys (and gals, in some cases) are fighting for the very same thing.  Nothing else matters much to them at that point, except trying to make sure as many of them make it back to the states marching behind the flag, not laying beneath it.  They also understand that it’s war, and some of them are going to die, and anyone who thinks otherwise is in denial.

    I could go on, but I would only get myself more agitated.  To the overall topic of the original post, I think the photos are in poor taste, with or without Fusco’s comments.

  • Shadow Stalker

    I agree with you, they should get the same respect and privacy as any other mourning family.  On the other hand, it is important for the public to understand the cost of war.  We don’t need a body count, like this is some action movie; we need to see visceral, personal images of what is happening to real people.

    There has to be some middle ground between complete privacy and Fusco’s site.

  • mickey1964

    While I agree people should know what’s going on, showing body count to make a point – political or otherwise – is not only unnecessary, but only serves as a “ratings grabber”.  Let’s face it – EVERYone knows that war is hell, and bloody and costly.  The ONLY reason to show the images of war on TV is to a) Feed the couch potatoes who relish in this stuff and b) line the pockets of the news media and their advertisers.

    Don’t get me wrong . . . I know the things we see on the news, etc. are what the public wants. Humans are curious and morbid by nature.  So many people feel BETTER about their own lives when they see the sufferings of others.

    But things have a way of becoming blown out of proportion, or worse, once the media gets a hold of it.  Fusco’s site is proof of that.

  • Pragmatist

    Okay now I feel like I gotta make a few more points heh. 

    1.I consider photography a form of art.  And in art you can put in your own oppinions.  Personally it would probably be pretty dang crappy art if it didnt have some of your own feelings in it.  You can disagree with the tact or the message in this guys photo/commentary thing, but its his right to express his feeling on the subject.

    2.While is considered bad taste or disrespectful by a lot of people I think we do need to be shown the coffins.  I mean lets get serious, would this conversation have gotten so long if it just said that 2000 people have died now, or that another 5 GI’s were killed today?  No, we are talking about it because its a lot more real than numbers.  And its a lot more real than war movies.

  • daemoneyes

    Well, if they guy wanted to show the “true cost”, he should apply for a press pass to be embedded with a unit in Iraq.  That way, he could see and photograph it all first-hand, as it happens, and show everyone here at home what it’s really like.  Instead, he slinks around cemeteries like some sort of ghoul, taking photos of people who, if given the choice, I’m sure would rather not be included in his artwork/statement/whatever.

    It’s kind of funny the way the public reacts to these things anyway.  Thousands of innocent civilians die in a matter of hours, and they’re ready to take on the entire world, or at least let the military do it for them.  Now, just over 2,000 service members are killed over a period of several years, doing a job that they know is inherently dangerous and volunteered for anyway, and the public is in an uproar, and want the troops brought back home immediately.

  • Pragmatist

    Im sure the pope didnt want a depiction of him getting hit with a meteor.  And I think this guys message is a bit different than a reporter being embedded with the troops.  He isnt trying to give a news account with this. 

    And don’t be so sure about the families not wanting him there.  I would if I was brought back in a casket, but there are a lot of us military types that cant say stuff like that.  We are not allowed to openly speak out against the president or his decisions.

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