April 23, 2004


The Sydney Morning Herald’s Caroline Overington reports:

Last Sunday a newspaper in Seattle, Washington, published a rare photograph of soldiers' coffins, each of them containing the body of an American who had died in Iraq.

The coffins, each draped with the Stars and Stripes, had been loaded into the back of a cargo aircraft for a final journey to the US, where they would be buried. There were at least 18 of them in the picture, which was taken by a 50-year-old civilian contractor, Tami Silicio.

Why did Silicio take the photograph? A friend says she "wanted to share the image with the American people." Silicio says "the families would be proud to see their sons and daughters saluted like that."

On Wednesday Ms Silicio engaged an agent, who offered her photograph to newspaper outlets for $1400 for one-time, non-exclusive use.

UPDATE. Incredibly, the Melbourne Age’s version of Overington’s story omits the crucial detail of Silicio's sales deal, and presents her as a free-speech martyr. HELLO, AGE? HELLO? WE HAVE THE INTERNET! WE KNOW WHEN YOU'RE TWISTING THINGS!

Posted by Tim Blair at April 23, 2004 04:49 AM

and now her ass has properly been fired.

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at April 23, 2004 at 05:11 AM

Whether the subject is nukes, or caskets, or the flowers that bloom in the spring, taking unauthorized photographs in a restricted area is a serious offense. Getting fired is the least of her worries.

Posted by: Ernie G at April 23, 2004 at 05:58 AM

On Wednesday Ms Silicio engaged an agent, who offered her photograph to newspaper outlets for $1400 for one-time, non-exclusive use.

Yeah, that must be in keeping with the spirit of allowing Americans to see how the coffins are handled.

Personally, I think Dover Air Force Base should become extremely hazardous to unauthorized personnel taking photos. And anyone taking photos in restricted areas in Kuwait should have the butts sitting in a Kuwaiti prison.


Posted by: C.T. at April 23, 2004 at 06:35 AM

...and today, the Seattle Times has a couple articles on the firing, some idiotic rationalization, and (of course) ran the picture *again*. On the front page, above the fold.

Goddamn. The Post-intelligence(r) is supposed to be the skuzzy Hearst paper in this town.

Posted by: rosignol at April 23, 2004 at 07:05 AM

There isn't a single paper in Seattle that's worth its weight in fishwrap these days. Even the Redmond Reporter, the little local paper that gets mailed out once a week in our town is so horrendously biased it's not even funny (and our town is probably among the more conservative ones in the metro area too.)

Posted by: Vexorg at April 23, 2004 at 07:11 AM

The public effect of the picture is the opposite of the one desired, namely it is that the coffins are decorated even though it's not for public consumption.

Photographs are forbidden because it's up to the families whether they want to participate in a news event. If you want to photograph a coffin, there's nothing to keep you from asking a family.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at April 23, 2004 at 08:42 AM

I photographed the flag-draped coffin of one of the contractors lynched in Fallujah March 31st and interred in the US April 10th, and it has no cash value. The family wanted the widest possible public participation in the funeral, and their wish was granted. I have read descriptions on blogs of how coffins of war dead are handled en route back to the US, and the photos just confirmed that. Anti-war propaganda was the only purpose behind the sale and publication of these photos.

Posted by: Tresho at April 23, 2004 at 09:32 AM

"Crucial detail" or editorial nitpicking Tim, so unworthy of you...and "free speech martyr"?? how did you get that?
further...As there is no indication of a timeframe with her sacking, I wonder whether the decision to engage an agent was made after the fact that she was fired? I mean considering the employment opportunities over there...

Posted by: contrapunctus at April 23, 2004 at 09:52 AM

On the contrary contrapunctus - I think this was one of Tim's better points. The Age, part of the same company as the SMH, has decided to leave out a crucial part of the story. That is a blatant piece of spin, and has no place in the 'news' section. Unfortunately, the Age has become a joke, and has the circulation figures to prove it.

Posted by: attila at April 23, 2004 at 09:58 AM

Q: Why do the seagulls fly upside down crossing Seattle?

A: Nobody gives a shit over Seattle.

Posted by: Theodopoulos Pherecydes at April 23, 2004 at 11:26 AM

Q: Why do the seagulls fly upside down crossing Seattle?

A: Nobody gives a shit over Seattle.


Actually, I wish the seagulls could copy precision bombing technology and divecrap all of the lefties that have colonized the Pacific Northwest. The only reason that Gore carried Washington in the 2000 election was because Seattle and King County are where most of those characters flocked to. Must be all home grown Starbucks coffee that keeps them so active.

Posted by: JeffS at April 23, 2004 at 11:43 AM

an article re Amy Katz (friend) and Tami Silicio from Sept.2000 re Cheney and Hallburton in Kosovo

Posted by: Kathy at April 23, 2004 at 11:54 AM

an article re Amy Katz (friend) and Tami Silicio from Sept.2000 re Cheney and Hallburton in Kosovo

Posted by: Kathy at April 23, 2004 at 11:56 AM

I thought Dick Cheney was an all-knowing, evil, right wing death beast with no time for major league assholes. He's let me down badly by hiring those dingbats.

Posted by: slatts at April 23, 2004 at 12:58 PM

What do you expect from the Age? We've even stopped using it in the outdoor dunny now. It's a health hazard.

Posted by: narkynark at April 23, 2004 at 01:18 PM

Anything to help 'the cause', even taking pictures you have no right to take.

I have family serving in Iraq. If one were to be killed, we'd be very upset, to say the least, at seeing those pictures. It's obscene.

If one of my family were among the dead, I'd find a lawyer and sue anyone and everyone I could. Pain, suffering, emotional distress, etc.. anything I could think of. (I dislike the litigious society the US has become, *but* I'd make an exception for this.)

If the people who took those pictures think it will help weaken the US public's resolve in Iraq they don't know military families, or ordinary citizens. Seeing those coffins just hardens the resolve to get the job done in Iraq .. by whatever means necessary.

If anything was learned because of Vietnam, which this war is being compared to, it's fight to win with ALL the power you have. Don't waste US lives. Let the other guys waste their lives.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at April 23, 2004 at 01:25 PM

Tim: Surprised you didn't also compare the intros of both versions of the story. Either the SMH has toned down the original copy or someone in Melbourne has not only deleted the reference to Ms Silicio's mercenary behaviour but also introduced the sentence "Indeed the MERE (my emphasis) taking of the photograph of flag draped coffins containing the bodies of American soldiers killed in Iraq has cost a civilian contract employee her job". If both alterations happened at the Age, there has been is a deliberate and serious distortion of Caroline Overington's story. Surely a case for the Media Watch bloodhounds.

Posted by: Peter at April 23, 2004 at 01:27 PM

PS: I now note the Age's online version has the same straight intro as the SMH and it's my print edition that has the doctored version. Curiouser and curiouser.

Posted by: Peter at April 23, 2004 at 01:35 PM

Chris Josephson:

I have friends and relatives in Iraq as well. And, like you, I dislike running to a judge for every little boo-boo, but I'm with you on this one. If someone dishonors my family, I'm finding a lawyer.

Posted by: JeffS at April 23, 2004 at 02:15 PM

Yeah right Blair, it's all a leftist anti-war (mongering) anti-bush conspiricy. They're all out to get you and trick people off your chosen path for everybody. Especially those who don't agree with you.
Incredibly, Blairs blog rant tries make a mountain out of a mole hill.....or at least infer something from a small smigeon of information.
Hint....before casting a opinion, try a bit of research.

Posted by: bemused spectator at April 23, 2004 at 03:03 PM

Ummmm, bemused spectator? Could you be a bit more specific? What should Tim research more? Your rant is pretty vague.

Posted by: JeffS at April 23, 2004 at 03:21 PM

Until they're returned to their families the corpses are literally public property, right?

So what's the problem?

Legally, it should be the same as photographing the outside of the plan, shouldn't it?

Posted by: Adam at April 23, 2004 at 03:37 PM

Well, now, Adam, that would depend on whether you are:

(1) A grief stricken family member struggling with their loss;

(2) Some paparazzi wannabe trying to score a fat payment for a sensational photograph;

(3) An insensitive hate filled jerk trying to score a point in this thread.

Posted by: JeffS at April 23, 2004 at 04:00 PM

Base Commanders have unlimited authority to restrict photography within the confines of the base.

They can even prohibit you from photographing thorugh the fence.

Hence the massive buffer zone around area 51.

Posted by: Kevin at April 23, 2004 at 04:17 PM

Until they're returned to their families the corpses are literally public property, right?

Wrong. The next of kin have the legal authority to decide what is done with the corpse, at no time could it be considered 'public property'.

Posted by: rosignol at April 23, 2004 at 04:34 PM

Correct, rosignol. The remains of military personnel are treated with respect during their return to the family for internment. They are not "public property" -- they are fallen comrades who gave their life in service of this country, and respect is the least that they deserve.

This has always been the case. Even those remains from earlier wars, recently found and identified, are treated so at all times. Witness the tradition of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/tombofun.htm).

Those soldiers can't be identified, and can't be returned to their family for proper burial. The Unknown Soldiers from 3 wars are guarded at all times as a sign of respect and thanks. Assignment to that detail in the Old Guard (3rd Infantry) is a high honor in the Army.

Posted by: JeffS at April 23, 2004 at 05:00 PM

Another reference for the Tomb is at


Posted by: JeffS at April 23, 2004 at 05:02 PM

"Until they're returned to their families the corpses are literally public property, right?
So what's the problem?"

Some cultures seem to hold the view that corpses are public property. We've seen enough pictures from suicide bombings in Israel and how the "heroic bombers'" remains are paraded around for the crowds and cameras.

However, Western cultures show respect to the dead and to their families. I've never heard of anything so insensitive as stating they are public property. Sounds like you equate the dead with trash we put to the curb.

As has been stated, the military goes to great lengths to honor the dead *and honor their families* by not making a public spectacle of the remains.

The dead are treated respectfully and privately because to do otherwise could cause their families even more grief.

The 'big deal' is respect. Respect for the person who has died and respect for their families. I can't see how this is a hard concept to grasp.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at April 23, 2004 at 06:36 PM

The corpses belong to the family. While being transported they are in the temporary care and custody of the United States military.

Trying not to trivialize this, the bodies are no more "public property" than a letter at the post office is public property.

Posted by: Mike at April 23, 2004 at 11:01 PM

I called in to the talk radio program in Seattle while they were discussing this yesterday, and referenced this article. The host said that he didn't believe it, asked me the source (I told him the SMH) and he said "Yeah, but who was the source for the story?" I told him I didn't have the article with me, as I was driving home from work, but would send him the article. He then cut my feed off, said that he "didn't see how she would get paid for it" and how he didn't think she "would have any control over who published it." I sent him the article, but ended up not listening to the rest of the show so I am not sure if he referenced it. I doubt he did. Any others out there listen to the John Carlson show yesterday about 3:45 have any info on whether he mentioned that?

Posted by: Steve at April 24, 2004 at 12:02 AM

Mercenary journalists? Screw em.

(That being said, the issue of the ban on coffins being photographed should be addressed - war opponents by and large are unopposed when they try to portray it as an attempt to censor the cost of war launched by ChickenHawkZioNeoConservatives)

Posted by: Andjam at April 24, 2004 at 01:51 AM

The anti-war Tranzis have been pushing for a much wider display of Coalition corpses. Witness the drumbeat demands for Bush to attend all funerals. They think that by rubbing the American public's nose in a corpse's crotch that they can shock the public loose from their support of the war. In a perverse way, these caskets are to them as bloody bits of Rantisi/Yassin remains are to a Pali car swarm. Same ghoulish rapture, only in the latter case it is for a loved object. In the former it is rapture at the death of a hated object.

Fortunately, the American public is responding to combat deaths with respectful sorrow coupled with a grim determination not to abandon this sacrifice as they did some 50,000 plus deaths in Vietnam.

Posted by: Billy Hank at April 24, 2004 at 03:59 AM

Hey all lefties - they are photo'd for propaganda purposes, no respect intended. Those who rant about the political machinations of the right in this case had best look in the mirror. They want the coffins to create an emotional response to stop the war since they know that upon logical examination most of the population of this politically split land support the war and the war on terrorism. (63%)

Posted by: JEM at April 24, 2004 at 09:40 AM