Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

What Obama saw

The “lede” of this Reuters article on President Obama’s trip to Dover Air Force Base last night made my skin crawl: DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Delaware — President Barack Obama saw first hand the human cost of the Afghanistan war as he welcomed home on Thursday 18 soldiers and Drug Enforcement Administration agents killed in ...

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The "lede" of this Reuters article on President Obama's trip to Dover Air Force Base last night made my skin crawl:

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Delaware -- President Barack Obama saw first hand the human cost of the Afghanistan war as he welcomed home on Thursday 18 soldiers and Drug Enforcement Administration agents killed in Afghanistan this week.

The “lede” of this Reuters article on President Obama’s trip to Dover Air Force Base last night made my skin crawl:

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Delaware — President Barack Obama saw first hand the human cost of the Afghanistan war as he welcomed home on Thursday 18 soldiers and Drug Enforcement Administration agents killed in Afghanistan this week.

Obama, flying in his Marine One presidential helicopter, landed shortly after midnight in Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, home of the United States’ largest military mortuary and main point of entry for U.S. service members killed abroad.

No, the president didn’t see the human cost of war. He saw some coffins and a quiet ceremony — that is, a small and sanitary portion of the toll. The human cost of war is far messier. It is blasted lives and unanswered questions. It is broken hearts and minds. It is widows raising children alone, and children who won’t know their fathers. It is mothers outliving their sons. It is as painful as life can be.

I know I am probably overreacting to deadline journalism reaching for the closest cliché at hand. But rushed writing doesn’t have to be sloppy writing, especially when the stakes are this high.

This is not a knock on Obama, whose quiet trip to Dover and private visit with the families of the dead strikes me as an appropriate gesture on his part.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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