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Cusack: Bush photo ban one of 'most cowardly political acts' in my lifetime
David Edwards and Jason Rhyne
Published: Tuesday December 4, 2007

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When the Bush administration began enforcing a controversial policy banning photographs of military caskets returning from Iraq, the move provoked outrage -- and now, a film -- from actor John Cusack, who calls the media ban "one of the most cowardly political acts" of his lifetime.

Appearing on PBS with host Tavis Smiley, Cusack explained that his new movie, Grace is Gone, is the result of a storytelling interest largely inspired by the Bush photo policy.

"The screenwriter, James Strouse, had approached my company and I had been looking for a story, a human drama to tell about the Iraq conflict," said Cusack. "It stemmed from a place of outrage for me when the Bush administration banned the photos of the dead coming home." That directive, ordered in 2003 at Dover Air Force Base, was technically on the books prior to Bush's presidency, but was seldom enforced.

"I thought that was one of the most cowardly political acts I'd seen in my lifetime, in some ways" the actor said. "So I thought, we have to tell the story of one of those coffins coming home, right? It seemed clear that would be a really smart thing to do."

Asked by Smiley to explain his characterization of the Bush decision as "cowardly," Cusack said that if the war was worth fighting, its casualties should be appropriately honored.

"I just think that, if this war is going to be fought and if it is as important as he says it is, I think the least we can do is stop our days and pay honor to the people making the ultimate sacrifice for this," he added. "I mean, they were trying to say...we'll tell you when we can grieve and get our photo ops when we go to the bases and visit the families and we're going to control this along with everything else."

Concluded Cusack, "I thought, my God, if this is really happening, we should all know about this every day. We should stop our days, right?"

This video is from PBS's Tavis Smiley, broadcast on December 4, 2007.