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In another blow to transparency, Putin classifies peacetime Spetsnaz losses


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The peacetime loss information, which was formerly freely available, in terms of reporting that such losses occurred, is now a state secret, and this is expected to have a chilling effect upon opposition journalists,  as well as advocacy groups trying to find out what happened to various Russian soldiers and families trying to learn what happened to their loved ones. At a stroke, the new law closes off yet another category of information to the public. Obviously, the vast majority of such losses are being sustained in Ukraine, though training exercises are, in and of themselves, known to be lethal at times. Certainly, this has been the case of US Spec Ops, such as the recent deaths, full circumstances not reported in the article, of two Navy SEALs .

 

 

This news item needs, in my view, to be placed in context of  what some observers have characterized as Putin's stranglehold on the media, and that came after the State Archives were closed to western scholars. VICE NEWS has done a bunch of pieces on the stifling of dissent in Russia and , and if there's no admitted Russian military presence in Ukraine, then any Spetsnaz deaths incurred there: 1) never officially happened and 2) are a state secret if they did. Given these facts, the authorities can now bring the full crushing weight of the Russian legal system to bear against those who dare to discuss the now-forbidden topic of peacetime Spetsnaz(?) deaths. Russia Beyond The Headlines has quite an extensive discussion of Putin's decree, which covers many other security issues, such as classifying the plans for the water supply and metro systems of cities over 200,000.

 

Regards,

 

John Kettler

 

 

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i wonder how special forces deaths weren't the top secret in first place? i mean, if i was head of any state i wouldn't think the death reports on my spops should be available to all the states in the world. this info being available to the local public would be only secondary concern. how do hte other big countries approach this information? Does the UK; USA, hand it out ? 

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in fact I believe that specops KIAs on black operations abroad are kept pretty much top-secret in any country

Contrary to hollywood, most of the US ones are still reported as combat or otherwise, but information may be withheld depending on operational needs (so someone might be reported as KIA in support of Operation Enduring Freedom which is 100% totally true...except maybe they weren't on the right side of the Afghan-Pakistan border by a fair margin when killed*).  That SFC Bob Boberson was in Afghanistan conducting missions, or deployed in support of the Philippine Army and is now no longer alive makes him having died in a "freak gasoline fight accident" ring a bit hollow.   In an open society it's pretty much impossible to realistically do what Putin just did, and given the sheer bureaucracy that follows even SOF...details might be blurred, but the fact someone done got shot would not be.

 

As the case is I don't know why Putin even bothers at this point.  No one believes Russia is not at least heavily involved in the Ukraine, it's just a question to how deeply and how many assets.  Having a significant uptick in dead Russian soldiers isn't exactly something that just magics under the rug either even if you hide the cause either.  

 

*Purely hypothetical.  I have no direct or confirmed information about US operations outside of stated above table operations.  It's just an example that I know that jives with my understanding of US security affairs as an observer vs direct participant.  

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I expect it has less to do with him caring what anyone thinks he is doing so much as another legal mechanism to screw the opposition.  I find it hard to believe Russians really don't think their military is in Ukraine and if they are of that opinion it is because they don't want to believe. 

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It seems casualties are a political liability in Russia, despite the stereotype of Russian indifference. The Soviets attempted to hide the casualties of the Afghan war, for example. The new law just moves the ball further down the field of censorship and control. 

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It seems casualties are a political liability in Russia, despite the stereotype of Russian indifference. The Soviets attempted to hide the casualties of the Afghan war, for example. The new law just moves the ball further down the field of censorship and control. 

 

I think it's rather naive to send this kind of criticism down only one way. Governments starting wars, especially ones not very popular with public opinions have always tried all they could to make informations about KIAs the most inaccessible - during the 2003 invasion of irak there was a ban on filming coffins getting back to the US. Yet the OP mentioned SOF in abroad situations, which is a matter that no government, regardless of form, is not ready to publicy discuss promptly. "Plausible Deniability" is not a concept confined to Russia, USSR or other non-western countries.

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I think it's rather naive to send this kind of criticism down only one way. Governments starting wars, especially ones not very popular with public opinions have always tried all they could to make informations about KIAs the most inaccessible - during the 2003 invasion of irak there was a ban on filming coffins getting back to the US. Yet the OP mentioned SOF in abroad situations, which is a matter that no government, regardless of form, is not ready to publicy discuss promptly. "Plausible Deniability" is not a concept confined to Russia, USSR or other non-western countries.

i believe the ban on filming coffins was out of respect and the military not wanting the press to become an enemy tool a la Vietnam. Casualtie figures down to wounded are regularly and openly printed in the West accidents too and have been the whole Iraq/ Afghan crap show. christ in the west going back to WW 1 Britain published ginormous casualty lists though I do believe after the Somme they pressured the press to lay off printing all the casualties at once...

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 during the 2003 invasion of irak there was a ban on filming coffins getting back to the US.

Sublime has it spot on.  If I bought it I didn't want CNN sitting there like vultures filming my corpse in a box, so it can be spliced into someone's youtube channel etc, etc, etc.

 

Which is 100% NOT what Russia is doing.  Russia is simply making it so there's no war, and raking the bodies of its soldiers under the rug.  Which really is pretty much the status quo for Russian soldiers from Czar to Commissar and beyond.  

 

 

"Plausible Deniability"

 

Using them phrases you don't understand.  If you've got dead SOF guys, you're past that point.  Plausible deniability is contingent on it being plausible.  If suddenly you have a few dozen dead SOF guys, a neighbor that's reporting Russian troops, it's over man.  You need a lot more cut-outs, a lot less dead people, less ones captured and displayed on TV, and just honestly repeating you are not doing it over and over again, and then doing the dead a disservice by magicking them away to a "this guy died!  Somehow" realm is disgraceful, and insulting to the world at large's intelligence.

 

Filming bodies?  Graphic photos of the deceased?  Bad mojo.  Shouldn't be done out of respect (although maybe seeing their cold dead sons would put some reality into this nationalistic chest slapping exercise the Russians are up to).  But the public has a right to know how the government is spending blood and treasure.

 

Putin's actions simply show he views the Russian soldier as another tool to use and throw away once he's done with it.  

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Once again, the thrower of sauerkraut has it right. I remember during my time in Iraq that the call centers and internet cafes would be temporarily shut down whenever a soldier was killed. This was so the family of the deceased could be notified through proper channels and not by stumbling across someone's Facebook post or some such about someone being killed.  

 

Otherwise, yes, daily casualty reports in the media were very much the norm during the Iraq conflict. I certainly didn't see any attempt to hide what was happening to our troops.

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Interesting this comes about as reports of large numbers of military forces are massing on the Ukraine border and in eastern Ukraine itself.  Makes me wonder if there will be larger number of 'vacationing' Russian troops participating in the apparent upcoming offensive.

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I remember during my time in Iraq that the call centers and internet cafes would be temporarily shut down whenever a soldier was killed. This was so the family of the deceased could be notified through proper channels and not by stumbling across someone's Facebook post or some such about someone being killed.  

 

Otherwise, yes, daily casualty reports in the media were very much the norm during the Iraq conflict. I certainly didn't see any attempt to hide what was happening to our troops.

 

The radio code word we used at the time was "River City."  We didn't lose many folks, but you'd usually have 10-30 seconds to finish what you were doing before the call centers, internet, and even the official DoD connections to the "real" internet got shut down (the military intranet stuff kept going, but it's not like you got on gmail with that).  Our Artillery Battalion had a mascal and one of the dudes who died was first generation immigrant from Guatemala.  We did not have normal contact with our families until they'd found the dude's family in his home country so a real human in a US Army uniform would tell them their son was dead and we are so sorry.

 

Which is why this Putin mess pisses me off so much.  Oh.  Your son is dead.  SORRY it didn't happen really but he's just as dead.  HEY.  There's your kid on youtube getting probed by Ukrainians.  HE SHOULDN'T HAVE GONE ON VACATION!

 

It's like my god, I knew if I died Baghdad wasn't going to know peace until my body was brought back, and some Captain and a Chaplain were going to have to tell my family that I died serving this country I love.  Or if I went missing my country was going to do literally everything it could do to get me back or ensure I was really dead before it gave up trying to get me back (even if I was a crapbird like Bergdalh).  

 

Russia?  Pffft.  Their soldiers are cheaply sold for questionable goods, and are quickly forgotten when they're broken.  Someone's son is worth more than that, but it's readily apparent Putin's concern for that son, and for Russia's children's future only carries as far as ensuring his corrupt buddies have places to build casinos, and a tinny hollow version of "russian glory."  Whore's makeup on a corpse if you will.  

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While the decree appears to be about Spetsnaz, the reality is that any unit can be designated as "special, " for Spetsnaz means, I've read, "unit of special assignment." The Russian Army has plenty of other forces whose jobs make them special. What I'm driving at here is that if Putin secretly designates all Russian forces operating in Ukraine as "of special assignment," he can hide every Ukraine fatality under a thick blanket of secrecy.

 

I'd like to make a point now about the way WIA and KIA situations were and are handled. Ever since Vietnam, where night after night Americans eating dinner were "treated" to an endless stream of the wounded and killed, from all sides, the Pentagon has been diligently working to hide the ugliness, brutality and human cost of war. While the dinner charnel house was bit much (saw lots of it myself) and frequently put casualty notification teams behind the 8-ball, the American public did get to see something of the true face of war. As was true of WW I, WW II and Korea. But now, the American people have, in a sense, lost their connection, for they now no longer see what happens to those who wage war on their behalf. Our own history is being denied us by the Pentagon et al. Sure, Combat Camera is there, but the Pentagon seldom shares, and those not under the UCMJ are on a very short leash. Why?

 

The Pentagon discovered the public had little taste for war and drastically changed its whole approach to covering wars after Nam. Consequently, unless rare permission can be obtained from the WIA individuals, many of whom are in no shape to decide anything, we no longer see the range of behaviors our WIA exhibited in previous wars. There are no equivalents to American bodies facedown on the beach at Makin. No rows of corpses under blankets.  We have become decoupled from war, which makes it easier to get into them and keep them going. Embeds were/are allowed to report only certain things, and if too inquisitive or forthright, then no more tagging along. Reportorial death. Compound all that with prohibiting the covering of coffins being disembarked, and it becomes warfare conducted behind a veil. A veil which pretty much guarantees that any given war will go on for quite some time, regardless of whether it was justified to begin with or even makes military sense. I have profound respect for our troops, but I have very little for those who demean and diminish their suffering and sacrifice by hiding the price they pay from the American (and foreign) public from which they spring.

 

Regards,

 

John Kettler

Edited by John Kettler
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I'd like to make a point now about the way WIA and KIA situations were and are handled. Ever since Vietnam, where night after night Americans eating dinner were "treated" to an endless stream of the wounded and killed, from all sides, the Pentagon has been diligently working to hide the ugliness, brutality and human cost of war. While the dinner charnel house was bit much (saw lots of it myself) and frequently put casualty notification teams behind the 8-ball, the American public did get to see something of the true face of war. As was true of WW I, WW II and Korea. But now, the American people have, in a sense, lost their connection, for they now no longer see what happens to those who wage war on their behalf. Our own history is being denied us by the Pentagon et al. Sure, Combat Camera is there, but the Pentagon seldom shares, and those not under the UCMJ are on a very short leash. Why?

 

Speaking as a possible KIA/WIA, I'd like it if my body wasn't a prop to a political agenda of whatever idiot news reporter that got to hop in and out of country at will.  It's like having a vulture hang around, and honestly you do not understand the impact of finding someone you love is dead because Geraldo is showing "genuine pathos" over their splattered corpse (not a personal story mind you, but such things have happened).

 

As much as the people have a right to know....it's not really an honest "telling of the truth" it's an attempt to package life/death as a means to sell advertising and win Pulitzers.  And even worse...it's presented without meaningful context.  It's small little snapshots of things assembled into a story to fit a narrative that existed before the pictures existed.

 

So no.  Given a chance to opt out of being a prop for someone's run at showing how serious of a reporter they are, I'll take it.  And the bloodshed of Vietnam did next to nothing to educate people about the conflict....it just suited the moral outrage that keeps folks glued to the screen.  Questions that mattered were not asked, or answered.  The carrion birds feasted, grew fat, and are now retiring from illustrious careers of broadcast news.

 

Not to mention reporters are idiots.  Hey, let's add another liability who's going to do whatever they want because they have "press" on their flak jacket!  Oh boy, I know what I need, someone to ask me questions that if they really wanted a meaningful answer, they should be in Washington DC, not asking some 1LT who's really hot, really tired, and who's area of influence is quite limited at the moment.

 

Having the information is different than enabling ambulance chasing reporting downrange.  And reporters were always free to report whatever they liked from Iraq, show all the bodies and dead stuff...just they couldn't do it if they were an embed with the US forces.  Which is only fair given we'd be risking US lives, using US dollars to protect them that we rather avoid them trying to show us as baby eating monsters, or shoving cameras into people's chest wounds to satisfy the reality TV generation.  

Edited by panzersaurkrautwerfer
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Sublime has it spot on.  If I bought it I didn't want CNN sitting there like vultures filming my corpse in a box, so it can be spliced into someone's youtube channel etc, etc, etc.

 

 

So you are 100% positive that it's not something the legislator has done to avoid that public opinion, being fed by the cnn vultures would become annoyed by the casualties?

Because again, I'm all for the respect for killed soldiers - yet I have my doubts that the Bush administration had much more respect towards dead american military than Putin's has for russians.

 

As for plausible deniability, it may be words I don't understand, yet there is a large numbers of explanations around, some from highly valued sources, and all tend to make an example to explain it:

 

I send my SOF to a foreign country,on an operation I can't publicly disclose, knowing that they are going to kill foreign personnel and probably get killed. So I decide to send them without any markings which could lead the foreign country to point out my country, when they pick up the bodies. Which is basically what Russia does in Ukraine, unmarked soldiers and equipment, but also what American and British SOF have been doing for years all around the world.

 

also @panzer - reading your last post you are basically arguing that the public should not see its dead because such vision may be exploited by folks who have a political agenda which is against the action of that government - which basically it's a form of censorship which I find hard to justify, in a state of civil law, and not very different from what is the policy Putin is enforcing nowadays.

Edited by whitehot78
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finding someone you love is dead because Geraldo is showing "genuine pathos" ol

i remember gettkng so mad at that prick when he drew a impending US assault in IIRC Afghan. i couldnt believe it. despise the guy

Edited by Sublime
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A quick point, since some here may think the DOD hides its casualties. If you subscribe to any of the service papers, (such as Army Times), all U.S.  deaths are reported in there weekly, training or combat,  all over the world including SOF. And its every service. So in the middle of the paper is a regular section, it has a picture of every KIA, what unit he was serving in, and a brief circumstance of their death (IED, small arms, flipped over  a humvee on the base). So the information is released and made available by the DOD. In periods of heavy combat this can be a long piece, and every memorial day they rerelase a pic of every person killed that year. Also in the same article is how many troops are deployed to what theater and overall KIA/WIA/and MIA tallies for the whole operation. If you don't see it on CNN, that's the lazy crappy networks fault, not DOD. And the Army times is not a military controlled paper it privately owned, anyone can subscribe to it, and frankly its one of the bets places to find info on the Army, good and bad, including what CO is banging what Sergeant majors wife, or who is getting fire from battalion command for being a toxic leader, or what weapon system has been breaking  etc. SO they get the info and report it without problem, then I suppose so too can your local paper or your national news outlet.

 

Just because someone doesn't deliver your information to you on your chaise long  on a silver platter doesn't mean its not available, or its a conspiracy, it just means your media sources suck.

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So you are 100% positive that it's not something the legislator has done to avoid that public opinion, being fed by the cnn vultures would become annoyed by the casualties?

 

The notification process, and return of human remains is a super-solemn process, even for MIA partial remains recovered decades later.  Eventually some legislator fought to allow cameras to cover the return of remains from Iraq/Afghanistan....but it was very much restricted to ensure someone wasn't getting super artistic shuts by standing on a coffin or something.  As Los pointed out, the fact said servicemen were dead, and the nature of their dead was never concealed, just the pictures of the actual dead.  

 

So in that regard, the casualties were known, existed, broadcast (once the family had been notified, and as I pointed out, even notified at great cost and expense).

 

 

 

I send my SOF to a foreign country,on an operation I can't publicly disclose, knowing that they are going to kill foreign personnel and probably get killed. So I decide to send them without any markings which could lead the foreign country to point out my country, when they pick up the bodies. Which is basically what Russia does in Ukraine, unmarked soldiers and equipment, but also what American and British SOF have been doing for years all around the world.

 

Yeah but the key part of "plausible" is that it's believable.  You really overestimate how often western SOF does something that "never happened" usually the key is US SOF is "somewhere" in country, but the actual trigger units are usually local forces that have been trained by the US.  Because THIS provides enough plausibility that US forces were never there, it just happened that some not Taliban friendly tribesmen happened to attack a rival tribe the day that a Taliban HVT was visiting said rival tribe, and the fact a US drone strike blotted out the security element five minutes before the raid started all just happened to occur.

 

Russia has mounted a low order invasion of the Ukraine with significant SOF, regular forces, armor, and artillery and SAMs fired from Russian soil.  There's no plausible involved, no deniability, and pretending the various dead Russian servicemen simply keeled over in the mess hall from bad borscht is simply insulting to everyone's intelligence.  The only deniability is Putin using the toddler defense of repeating "Nuh-uh!" at various volumes on a loop when confronted about Russians in the Ukraine.

 

 

 

also @panzer - reading your last post you are basically arguing that the public should not see its dead because such vision may be exploited by folks who have a political agenda which is against the action of that government - which basically it's a form of censorship which I find hard to justify, in a state of civil law, and not very different from what is the policy Putin is enforcing nowadays.

 

Are you worse served on crime reporting by not getting full page glossy photos of the victims?  Does not getting to see the crispy remains of airplane crash victims make you less aware of the plane crash?  It's simple human respect to give dead folks, and their families some privacy.  Soldier's are not some how less human and less deserving of that respect.  The facts of their deaths, and often the details of their deaths are publicly available and always have been.  This is the stuff Putin is withholding and where the issue arises, and is the stuff that's relevant to the discussion on if it's "worth it"

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Are you worse served on crime reporting by not getting full page glossy photos of the victims?  Does not getting to see the crispy remains of airplane crash victims make you less aware of the plane crash?  It's simple human respect to give dead folks, and their families some privacy.  Soldier's are not some how less human and less deserving of that respect.  The facts of their deaths, and often the details of their deaths are publicly available and always have been.  This is the stuff Putin is withholding and where the issue arises, and is the stuff that's relevant to the discussion on if it's "worth it"

 

Shouldn't that left to the public to decide? I mean, if a reporter tries to perform a dirty stunt by exploiting images taken from dead bodies, or other kinds of similar "porn", the public itself, the news communities and whoever is concerned should raise  some kind of reserve against that particular journalist, or heading that made the feat, basically censoring him/it in a democratic way, at least imho.

Otherwise, it's like the government decides that people isn't "mature enough" to decide - yet I think it's a very dangerous road this one for a public opinion to accept.

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Shouldn't that left to the public to decide? I mean, if a reporter tries to perform a dirty stunt by exploiting images taken from dead bodies, or other kinds of similar "porn", the public itself, the news communities and whoever is concerned should raise  some kind of reserve against that particular journalist, or heading that made the feat, basically censoring him/it in a democratic way, at least imho.

Otherwise, it's like the government decides that people isn't "mature enough" to decide - yet I think it's a very dangerous road this one for a public opinion to accept.

 

You're funny.  Perhaps you should open a comedy club?  Have you actually seen the sort of crap people pay to see?

There will always be an audience that wants to see crispy critters, or what organs look like falling out of someone.  I see no reason to make it easy to feed the orgrish crowd, nor is it relevant to the debate.  Regardless of pictures of the dead, your original point is just as wrong, there's no similarity between not showing the dead, and denying that they happened.

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I'd have to agree with panzer.  There are limits to the "public's right".  Why should I have the "right" to say I want to see a soldier's body on the 10 o'clock news?  How is that affecting my freedoms if I don't?  The actual fact of the deaths is important to know what our military is doing and what our soldiers are being committed to. but actual photos of them is just a bit morbid.

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I think it is democratically important that the public is informed if soldiers get killed. If soldiers get killed in a war, it concerns every citizen, not just themselves, their families and friends and the military unit they serve in. Soldiers are official representatives of their nation and a democratic nation represents all of its citizens. Hence all citizens have the right to get the information how and why these soldiers died. This is necessary for the democratic system to work properly. The citizens must be informed on what their representatives do (politicians, soldiers, etc) so they can choose those representatives that represent them best.

 

Showing the deceased bodys of soldiers KIA/WIA on TV though would be disproportional IMO. It would not do any good on the one hand but on the other hand, it would insult that soldiers personality right (i hope i am using the correct vocabulary here to express what i want to say). I think that this is also true for enemy KIA/WIA. Of course every citizen has the right to be informed on what damage weapons of war do to the human body, but there are other means available to get that information (like medical papers, studies, etc), so showing the deceased and mauled body of an individual soldiers is not necessary to ensure that everybody who deems it necessary can get that information.

 

 

I'd have to agree with panzer.  There are limits to the "public's right".  Why should I have the "right" to say I want to see a soldier's body on the 10 o'clock news?  How is that affecting my freedoms if I don't?  The actual fact of the deaths is important to know what our military is doing and what our soldiers are being committed to. but actual photos of them is just a bit morbid.

 

Of course you have the right to say it. Regarding this and similar matters, i often hear people say "You cant do that." and similar things, but of course you can do it. The question is only if you should do. I think that currently showing the deceased bodys of soldiers would do more damage than good, for the reasons i explained above, but of course that could change at some point in the future. It may be possible that at some point in the future it' s going to be necessary to show deceased bodys on TV because, for example, our society could become so abstract that no one could imaging what a dead body looks like or even what death is, even if it was described to them.

What i want to say is: all moral judgements are always conditional. If the conditions change, the judgement needs to revised.

 

I totally agree with you that the bodys of deceased soldiers shouldnt be shown on TV. Right now, in 2015, it isnt necessary, and it hasnt been necessary in the past 20 years i can remember. But i am open to what ever the future might make necessary.

 

I hope that wasnt too much BS.

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I'd have to agree with panzer.  There are limits to the "public's right".  Why should I have the "right" to say I want to see a soldier's body on the 10 o'clock news?  How is that affecting my freedoms if I don't?  The actual fact of the deaths is important to know what our military is doing and what our soldiers are being committed to. but actual photos of them is just a bit morbid.

 

lol. gentlemen: seriously? morbidity? how many people are ready to pay for that kind of ****?

I'd say, a very, very small percentage of the populace.. I for sure, am not interested in such things and nobody I personally know is.

 

Yet, we weren't talking about the dismembered bodies of soldiers fallen to auto grenade launchers, but about coffins getting back with a flag on them.

Does that pertain to morbidity? because if, in your opinion it does, I think we have just witnessed what I was referring before, about a government who decides on what its people should or should not see - in fact, we have extended the meaning of the term "morbidity". 

 

and .. "limit's to public rights"? do we need to mention our democracies constitutions? But in fact I don't think that the replies were all serious so anyway.

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