A restrictive 18-year ban on press photographs of the coffins of American troops killed in war has been lifted by the Obama administration after a review of the policy.
For the first time since President George H.W. Bush imposed the rule during the 1991 Gulf War, the human cost of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq will be on display for Americans to see and evaluate.
The argument for the ban was questionable to begin with. It was assumed that the sight of flag-draped coffins arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware would reduce public support for America's military. But that was a patronizing and illogical view.
George W. Bush upheld the ban during the increasingly unpopular Iraq war after unauthorized photos of soldiers' coffins were published on the Internet. The Bush administration defended the ban because of privacy concerns, saying many families preferred to mourn in private without reminders of their loss appearing in the media.
Sensitive to that concern, the new Obama policy will let families decide whether photographs may be taken of their loved one's return. Changing the policy is not about encouraging opposition to war. It is simply being honest about the sacrifices made by American troops.