For the second week in a row, the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have surpassed economic stories published in the Grand Rapids Press on news out of Washington. There were a total of ten articles in week twelve of the coverage and 7 of those stories were US foreign policy/military spending related. Only two stories were specific to the domestic economy and The Press ran one story from the Associated Press (4/12) asking the question, “Where will Obama worship?”
More Money for Occupations
There were a total of seven military related stories during week twelve of the The Grand Rapids Press coverage of the Obama administration. Two of those stories were focused on military spending; an April 10 story on the President’s request for an additional $83 billion for Iraq & Afghanistan, and an April 12 New York Times article that presented information on the proposed changes in the overall Defense budget.
The April 10 article states that the President has made an “$83.4 billion request for U.S. military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The story continues by saying, “his Democratic allies in control of Congress are sure to approve the spending without the type of tortuous battle that characterized their dealings with former President George W. Bush.” The Press version of this AP story omits any critical comments from Democratic lawmakers who oppose the requested funds for war, which gives the impression that all Democrats support the President. However, independent reporter Jeremy Scahill provides several oppositional responses from Democrats in a recent article that challenges the administration’s foreign policy narrative.
The The Grand Rapids Press then ran a New York Times article on April 12 that begins by saying, “Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced a major reshaping of the Pentagon budget on Monday, with deep cuts in many traditional weapons systems but new billions of dollars for others, along with more troops and new technology to fight the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.” However, the article focuses mostly on specific weapons systems and presents the proposed Defense Budget as inadequate for US national security.
Both Democrats and Republicans are cited in The Times article criticizing the President on defense cuts, which probably has more to do with their ties to Defense contractors than their concerns over the size of the military budget. Unfortunately, what the article missed was the fact that the Obama administration’s proposed 2010 military budget is $21 billion dollars more than the 2009 budget under Bush. The Times does cite a military expert from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a think-tank with ties to the defense industry, but that comment only looks at the military hardware, not the overall budget. This assessment is significantly different from the analysis provided by the Center for Defense Information, which is made up primarily of former high ranking US military personnel.
More Violence and Omitted Voices
The remaining stories on Obama’s foreign policy plans for Iraq and Afghanistan are very instructive when looking at home mainstream media presents an official narrative. The April 8 AP story on President Obama’s visit with US troops in Iraq focuses on the contrast between the new president’s “spontaneous visit” and “the staid, set-piece visits by the conflict’s author, former President George W. Bush.”
Nowhere in the April 8 AP article does the reporter challenge or even clarify the Obama plan for Iraq. The story just repeats the mantra that the President plans on “ending the war in Iraq by 2010.” Independent reporter Dahr Jamail has much different assessment of the president’s visit to Iraq when he points out that while Obama praised the troops for their “extraordinary achievements,” he still doesn’t raise the issue that more than a million Iraqis have died since the US occupation of 2003 began.
The story on the upbeat visit by President Obama in Iraq is a much different story than the Los Angeles Times article which ran on April 11 in the Grand Rapids Press. The article states that a suicide bomber attacked US troops killing 5 “U.S. soldiers in the deadliest strike against American forces in Iraq in 13 months.” The story focuses on this one attack but doesn’t provide any analysis of the recent rise in violence that Dahr Jamail documents, nor does it mention the Iraqis who have been the target of violence from both insurgent groups and the US military.
Patrick Cockburn, who has been reporting from Iraq since the beginning of the US occupation, also provides some important analysis of the recent violence in Iraq. He also points out that “the Sunni who changed from insurgents to US allies over the last two years are once more fearful for their future.” This fear has increased with the plan to have more US troops leave Iraq between now and 2010.
There were also three stories that dealt with the US military campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the past week. On April 6, there was a New York Times piece on the reluctance of Pakistani leaders to support the US attacks against insurgent groups in that country. Unfortunately, the Grand Rapids Press omitted the bulk of The Times story, particularly the section that cites Pakistani leaders and their criticism of US policies. But even the full New York Times story does not provide any independent analysis of US policy in Pakistan, nor does it mention the human cost of the US use of unmanned military drones to bomb inside Pakistan.
The absence of coverage on human suffering in Pakistan and Afghanistan because of the US occupation was further reflected in an April 12 Associated Press story that focused on how Afghani rug makers have developed new designs in order to sell their rugs to US troops. The irony is that while the AP reporter tells readers that Afghani rug makers, who are desperate to make a living, have made rugs with images about the terrorist attacks against the US in 2001. What is not so ironic is that the reporter frames this story in such a way as to convey the idea that the Afghanis are happy that the US military occupies their country, despite growing opposition from Afghanis.