The names

The names
: I’ve had to let sink in Ted Koppel’s plan to read the names of all the American soldiers killed in action in Iraq to decide what I think about it.

I take Koppel at his word that this is a tribute to the soldiers and their sacrifice.

I take him at his word that he is not trying to be political:

“My first reaction was I didn’t want it to be seen in any fashion as a political gesture,” Koppel said. “We had to be careful that it could not be seen as political on our part.

“I think it can be seen just as powerfully by people who are totally supportive of the war, as those who aren’t,” he added.

But it is political. It is too reminiscent of Vietnam and of Life Magazine’s statement against that war.

This has become, since that then-groundbreaking print documentary, a journalistic cliche. How many times have we seen such roll calls of death called out: war deaths; drug deaths; AIDS deaths; 9/11 deaths. It has been used so often that to pull it out now is a very conscious effort, a journalistic conceit with a clear purpose and a history that cannot be ignored. It means: Let’s hit the people over the head with what we think they’re ignoring; let’s add it up for them; let’s rub their noses in the enormity of it; let’s remind them of a story nearly ignored.

But the Iraq war is hardly ignored. We don’t need Koppel to bring our attention to the danger and death there.

Had this been positioned as a tribute to the dead and their sacrifice for freedom — if it had come on, say, Memorial Day — then I might not have such an uneasy feeling about it. But it doesn’t.

So it seems to me that the names and faces of the dead are being used — exploited — to make a point.