Does A List Of War Casualties Honor Or Disrespect The Dead?


Consider this less of an opinion piece and more food for thought, or a jumping-off point for discussion.

After debating this topic for some time, the editorial board was unable to come to a consensus, but we still felt the subject was worthy of debate.

On Jan. 3, the Chicago Tribune published an Associated Press list of all the soldiers with Michigan ties who have died in Iraq. At least in the online version of the article, there was only one line of introduction for the pages of names.

They listed the name, age, rank and date and cause of death.

Upon first reading, the names blurred into a gray block of text. It was hard to separate them, one from the other.

Not to compare the magnitude of the two, but you ended up reading it in much the same way you approach the Vietnam Memorial. Your eyes scroll through the list of names looking for one you might recognize.

Upon first impression, our first thought was, "What's the point?"

But whether you agreed or disagreed with the Tribune's choice to run the names, it is difficult to get them out of your head.

When it comes to the war and coverage of it, we believe the most important element is your intention.

If the Tribune ran the list of names -- and many newspapers have done similar things -- to make a point or to show their disdain for the war, they are exploiting those soldiers.

If they ran the names as a way to honor those who died, the list takes on an entirely different meaning.

We hope this was their intention.

However you feel about the war, those who died for this country deserve anything we can give them.

We should not be ashamed to see their names. We should be proud.

When the war in Iraq first began in 2003, newspapers and television media ran stories or photos of every soldier who died.

But as the list of casualties rose and the war rolled into its third year, many stopped the practice.

Perhaps it was too painful. Perhaps there were other reasons.

By publishing a list in its entirety, the Tribune may have opened a wound or helped to heal it.

What do you think? Should newspapers list the dead?

Is running a list of casualties an honor or a disrespect?

Let us know what you think.

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