A Roll Call That Spoke for Itself, Without Added Justification. The decision by "Nightline" on ABC to devote Friday's broadcast to reciting the names of all the troops killed in Iraq seemed like such a huge gesture, until it actually began. By Alessandra Stanley. [New York Times: Business]
Once the names and faces of the dead began rolling, so quickly, across the screen, the program became a small, quiet thing --- a fleeting, moving and inadequate tribute tucked between the evening news and "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
When the plan was announced earlier this week, many conservatives denounced it as a liberal ruse to undermine the Bush administration's war effort while maintaining a holier-than-thou pose of patriotism.
The Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the country's largest owners of local television stations, pre-empted the broadcast from its eight ABC-affiliated stations, saying the program amounted to an antiwar statement.
"Your decision to deny your viewers an opportunity to be reminded of war's terrible costs, in all their heartbreaking detail, is a gross disservice to the public, and to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces," Senator John McCain wrote in a letter to the chief executive of Sinclair that was published Friday.
Senator McCain was right of course: Whatever the producers' motives, giving a face and a name to each of the 721 dead who had been identified at that moment could hardly be described as sedition.
ABC allowed the broadcast, titled "The Fallen," to run 10 minutes longer than its regular 30-minute time slot so that all the names of those who died --- including those who were killed in noncombat accidents and incidents --- could be included.
There was very little to it, just the portraits of the dead, some in dress uniform, some in fatigues, a few in tuxedos from their high school yearbook pictures, and their names, intoned slowly and carefully by Ted Koppel.
The portraits were shown two at a time, just enough to register a name, an age, and shock at how young --- and how old --- some were.
All generations have lost some of their own --- the death count spans Army Specialist Michael Mihalakis, 18, to Sgt.
When "Nightline" could not obtain a portrait, the show ran a Department of Defense photograph of flag-covered coffins at Dover Air Force Base, one of many such images that were published over the objections of the Bush administration.