Biden: Expect More US Casualties in Afghanistan

Joe Biden Says Afghanistan Casualties Will Continue To Rise

On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden appeared on the CBS news program, Face the Nation. Biden was asked about several domestic and foreign policy initiatives that the Obama administration is pursuing.

Biden Discusses Afghanistan Policy

During the foreign policy discussion, Biden was asked if there would be more US military casualties in Afghanistan because of the new administration’s commitment to increase US troop levels by 30,000. Biden said:

“I hate to say it, but yes I think there will be. There will be an up-tick, because as the Commander in Afghanistan said, ‘Joe we will get this done, but we will be engaging the enemy much more.'”

Biden’s admission was discussed in a Los Angeles Times article that appeared in the Grand Rapids Press on Sunday titled, “Expect US casualties to rise in Afghanistan, Biden says.” The Press version of the article omitted about half of the original content but did mention there was “an outcry from Afghanistan over a U.S. operation that the United States said killed 15 militants but Afghan officials said had claimed the lives of 16 civilians, including two women and three children.” Reuters news service reported that thousands of Afghanis gathered on Sunday to protest “against President Hamid Karzai and the United States on Sunday over reports of fresh civilian deaths caused by U.S.-led troops during a raid against Taliban militants.”

Continuing the Bush Policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

Omitted from much of the US news coverage on Monday were other parts of the Biden interview on Face the Nation about Afghanistan and Pakistan. When asked about a US drone attack inside Pakistan last week and whether or not the new administration will continue the Bush policy of allowing he US military and CIA to go into Pakistan to fight Al Qaeda terrorists, Biden said:

“I can’t speak to any particular attack. I can’t speak to any particular action. It is not appropriate for me to do that. But I can say that the President said during his campaign and during the debates that if there are actionable targets that he would not hesitate to use action to deal with that. But here is the good news, and I have been to Pakistan many times, there is a great deal more cooperation going on between the Pakistan military. We are working with the Pakistanis to help training up their counterinsurgency capabilities and we are getting new agreements with them on how to deal with these cross border movements, so we are making progress.”

Biden doesn’t really answer the question as to whether or not the new administration will continue what the Bush policy began but it seems for now to be a continuation with last week’s attack inside Pakistan killing up to 20 civilians.

The Obama Administration Through the Lens of the Grand Rapids Press


With the first few days of the Obama Presidency already past, we thought it would be good to look at how the news media is reporting on the new administration. What follows is an analysis of the first four days of coverage in The Grand Rapids Press. This will be a regular feature here on Media Mouse and after the first 100 days of the new administration, the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy will publish a report detailing The Grand Rapids Press‘ coverage of those first 100 days.

New Administration Makes the Front Page

Over the first four days of the new administration, The Grand Rapids Press has published a total of 8 articles, with 3 articles appearing on the front page. So far, The Press has relied on a variety of sources for the coverage, such as Associated Press, Washington Post, Boston Globe and Cox News Service. Only one story has been generated by a Grand Rapids Press reporter, a piece that featured the reactions of two area Congressmen to the announcement of plans to close the Guantanamo detention center.

Some stories have been policy driven, on topics such as Guantanamo or the economy, but there have also been stories about more marginal issues as well such as what sports Obama likes to play and his administration’s use of technology.

Transparency and Detainees

Two articles appeared in The Press that discussed the new administration’s shift in policy, what AP reporter Charles Babington called, “a clean break from the Bush administration.”

One of the specific changes cited are that the Obama administration will “make government transparent so that the American people can know exactly what decisions are being made.” The AP story doesn’t report what this transparency will look like, but groups such as Public Citizen and the National Security Archive have acknowledged that transparency for them means the government will renew a commitment to the ideals of the Freedom of Information Act, that allows the public to petition any government agency for documents related to policy.

The other issue that demonstrates the new administration’s “break from the previous one” is the issue of the detainee prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The AP story acknowledges that while this is the intention of the new administration, the article also points out that there is no concrete plan of how to close the prison or “what to do with the political prisoners.” The American Civil Liberties Union is cited as offering up some criticism of the Obama administration’s announcement by stating, “there are ambiguities in the orders regarding treatment of certain detainees.”

The Grand Rapids Press published an additional short article to accompany the AP story that included responses from Congressmen Pete Hoekstra and Vern Ehlers on the announcement to close Gitmo.

Hoekstra was quoted as saying:

“Given the fact that we are talking about trained terrorists and people who have committed acts of mass murder, it would seem the proper course would be to have a plan in place before making this decision.”

Congressman Ehlers added:

“Are you going to let them all go? Are you going to pay to put in a foreign prison? You can’t send them back to their own country. The president will find out as he gets into this he has far less power than he thinks, that’s the problem George Bush had.”

Unfortunately for readers, The Press does not provide any context to what Congressman Ehlers’ or Hoekstra’s position on the issue of Guantanamo has been since the detention center has been used in the current “War on Terror.”

Obama Reverses Bush Policy on Funding Abortion

On January 24, The Press ran an AP story on the new administration’s decision to allow “federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information.” The Press version of the article is much shorter than the original AP version, but neither version provides any comments or reaction from anti-abortion or pro-choice organizations. The story mostly framed the issue as a “political football between Democratic and Republican administrations.”

Obama’s Economic Plan

On Sunday, January 25, The Press published a story on the much-touted Obama economic stimulus plan. In the article, President Obama is cited as saying, “In short, if we do not act boldly and swiftly, a bad situation could become dramatically worse.” The Press version of the article focused mostly on partisan responses to the stimulus plan, but the original AP story had details on what the stimulus package actually looks like. Even with more details on the economic plan, the AP story does not provide any non-partisan or independent perspectives such as the criticism that author and journalist William Greider recently provided on AlterNet:

“Obama’s stimulus program might restart factories in China while leaving US unemployment painfully high. In fact, some leakage may occur via the very banks or industrial corporations that taxpayers have generously assisted. What prevents Citigroup and General Motors from using their fresh capital to enhance overseas operations rather than investing at home? The new administration will therefore have to rethink the terms of globalization before its domestic initiatives can succeed.”

Press Report on Military Recruiting: Nothing Critical about the Military

Grand Rapids Press Reports on Military Recruiting

Sunday’s Grand Rapids Press featured an all too familiar front-page story–a story talking up military service as a career choice for youth.

The article was titled “Re-enlistment, recruitment on rise as soldiers seek economic stability” and while at first glance it is a look at how military enlistment has risen as a result of the dismal economic situation in Michigan, it quickly becomes obvious that the story also functions as free advertising for the military as few critical words are said about military service.

Why Join the Military? Casualties Down, Financial Benefits

The risk of death in Iraq? Not a problem:

“At the same time, the drop in casualties in Iraq has made the military seem less risky.

In 2008, 314 U.S. troops died there. It marked a significant drop from the 904 who died in 2007, 822 in 2006 and 846 in 2005.”

Still, you might be risking your life serving in the military, but it might be easier than facing the economic situation here:

“Army Spc. Alex Stewart had a choice: Roll the dice with a dismal economy or put his life on the line and extend his military commitment.

The Grand Rapids resident concluded the Army is a safer bet.

‘I want a stable life for my wife in a very shaky economy,’ Stewart said. ‘There were no other options.'”

The article follows a familiar refrain: while the military may have some risks and may disrupt your personal or family life, the lure of benefits is worth it:

“Army Maj. Joel Heath, in charge of recruitment for the Grand Rapids region, said a military hitch is a much easier sell when the market is tumbling and job losses mount.

‘They want the educational benefits the military provides. Some are seeking adventure and just to get away from Michigan,’ Heath said.

‘We are seeing quite a few individuals enlist that are in their 30s and have a family and are looking to provide a better form of stability for their family.’

‘It looks even better than it did before. I get health care, dental, a regular paycheck that you can count on,’ she said.”

Lack of Independent, Dissenting Perspectives

While reporter Ted Roelofs talked to military recruiters, service members, and recent enlistees, he made no effort to seek out independent perspectives–most strikingly those that have a critical perspective of military service. Across the country, groups such as the American Friends Service Committee, the War Resisters League, and Project YANO are organizing against military recruiting and challenging common claims made by the military, particularly around promises of benefits. These sources have reported that receiving educational benefits and enlistment benefits from the military is much more difficult than the military makes it seem. For example, one study showed that only 43% of enlistees received money from the GI Bill. Moreover, there are also local groups that have done work critical of military recruiting in the past, with both ACTIVATE and the Institute for Global Education (IGE) doing “counter-recruiting” work. Outside of Grand Rapids, Finding Alternatives to Military Enlistment (FAME) out of Detroit could have provided an independent perspective on the topic.

A Common Way of Covering Military Recruiting

Unfortunately, this glowing coverage of military service as a career choice is common in the media. During the Army’s recruiting slump in 2005, the Grand Rapids Press ran a story–also by reporter Ted Roelofs–talking up the financial benefits of joining the military, in addition to similar articles over the past several years. The Press has also reported on publicity stunts done by the military to generate free media coverage, a common strategy employed by the military.

Sadly, it isn’t just the Grand Rapids Press that has covered media uncritically promoted military recruitment. WOOD TV 8, WXMI Fox 17, and WZZM 13 have all run stories that portray military service in a positive light with little mention of any negative aspects.

The Grand Rapids Press on Obama’s Proposed Intelligence Team

Obama Nominates Dennis Blair and Leon Penetta to Intelligence Team

On Saturday, the Grand Rapids Press published an Associated Press (AP) article based on the formal announcement by President-Elect Barack Obama on who he has nominated to lead his Intelligence Team.

The story mentions that Obama has chosen retired Admiral Dennis Blair to be the National Intelligence Director and Leon Panetta as Director of the CIA. President-Elect Obama is quoted as saying, “We must adhere to our values as diligently as we protect our safety.” He also said that the two men are “strong managers with the core pragmatism that we need in dangerous times.”

The story goes on to mention that Blair, who was former head of the US Pacific Command “won high marks for countering terrorism in Southeast Asia after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.” Blair is credited with assisting in the campaign to target terrorist groups in Indonesia and the Philippines, but the article never explains why these groups are identified as terrorist organizations.

The AP story does mention at the very end that, “Blair and Panetta are garnering substantial support on Capitol Hill, although concerns exist about each.” Unfortunately, the Grand Rapids Press article never expresses what “concerns exist” about either Blair or Panetta.

According to a January 9 report on Democracy Now, as head of the Pacific Command forces Blair supported the Indonesian military attacks against East Timorese churches and civilians in 1999. Investigative journalist Allan Narin also stated that, “Blair either lied to or willfully misled the US Congress in testimony given before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 3rd, 1999,” about the role of the Indonesian military.

The story also does not mention that Blair sits on the board of a major foreign policy think-tank, the Center for New American Security, and has served on several task forces for the Council on Foreign Relations. Both the Center for New American Security are centrist think-tanks that endorse an imperialist US foreign policy, albeit in gentler terms than often used by the right.

As for Leon Panetta, the Grand Rapids Press article mentions that he was a former Congressman and White House Chief of Staff under Clinton. The article also states that Panetta has no direct intelligence experience, but fails to mention that he was part of the Iraq Study Group, a 10-member group which endorsed a long-term US occupation of Iraq.

News Covers Local Responses to Violence in Gaza

On Tuesday, people gathered in front of the Federal Building in downtown Grand Rapids to denounce the recent Israeli bombing and occupation of Gaza strip. About 150 people were in attendance–including many from the Arab Community–and carried signs denouncing Israeli military repression against Palestinians living in the Gaza. Others focused on the US role in the current Israeli attacks in the Gaza and denounced the US military support for such actions.

In response to the rally, members of the local Jewish community held a prayer service at Temple Emanuel. Those interviewed in the news media argued that Israel has a right to bomb the Gaza and believes that Israel is the victim in the current conflict. If one relied on the local news media for information, it would be hard to figure out which perspective was more accurate.

Most of the local news agencies ran stories prior to the public rallies that were held. The Grand Rapids Press ran a story on January 6 that interviewed Basel Shatara from the Arab community and Rabbi Michael Shadick from Temple Emanuel. The pre-rally story that WZZM 13 aired also featured Basel Shatara and a professor from Flint, Michigan, Michael Harris. In both stories, each source is quoted with a differing opinion on what is happening in Gaza, with reporters never verifying claims made those sources.

The coverage after the rallies continued on this same trend. The media got comments from both sides but didn’t investigate what other sources, particularly international sources, are saying about what is going on.

The WOOD TV 8 story that aired Tuesday evening showed footage of the rally in front of the federal building and the prayer service at the Jewish Temple. This story ended with the Rabbi saying, “Israel is not targeting civilians, it is targeting Hamas which is hiding behind civilians.” The WZZM 13 story from Tuesday night had a similar response from another local Rabbi who said, “This is not an issue of attacking Palestinians. It’s an issue of targeting Hamas terrorists.”

The WXMI 17 story from Tuesday night did include some context to the issue by stating:

“It followed attacks on UN schools and a med center filled with civilians who were looking for shelter from the Israeli offensive. Witnesses confirm Hamas was using the schools to launch attacks and despite international pressure to stop the violence Israel says, they still haven’t stopped the terrorist rockets.”

Unfortunately, FOX 17 doesn’t source where they obtained this information.

To bring some perspective to the issue we looked at numerous international agencies to see how they viewed what was happening in the Gaza to see if that could shed any light on how this issue is being reported on in the US.

Amnesty International released a statement on January 5 that said:

“Civilian casualties and destruction in Gaza are on an unprecedented scale. The UN Security Council must not remain silent. The Council can and must act and it should do so without further delay.”

Human Rights Watch also released statements concerning the welfare of civilians in the Gaza and also denounced the Israel government for preventing media and medical teams from entering the Gaza to help the wounded.

The Red Cross also is concerned about civilian casualties and expressed “grave concern over the growing number of civilian deaths and injuries and the increasing amount of civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, that have been affected by the Israeli military operations.” The Red Cross also acknowledged in their January 6th statement, “that the conditions in Gaza were extremely harsh even prior to the recent escalation. Just a few months ago ICRC colleagues described the region as being ‘on the edge’ because of the closure and import restriction imposed by Israel since mid-2007.”

The UN Security Council has yet to make a decision on the violence in the Gaza, which according to a report from Democracy Now, is due to the US government blocking any decision by the Security Council. However, the United Nations Secretary General did condemn Israeli attacks in Gaza where “civilians were seeking sanctuary.” The UN also released a statement on January 6th imploring the Israeli military to allow relief and medical workers into the Gaza strip. Thus it would appear from a look at these international organizations, organizations that are generally viewed as politically neutral, that the bulk of the blame is being levied against Israel.

This analysis seems to contradict the type of reporting we have seen in the US whether it is in the local media or the national news as Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting has documented.

We will continue to follow this issue and report on both what local actions are taken and how the mainstream media continues to report on it.

Press Continues Biased Reporting on Israeli Bombing of Gaza

The Grand Rapids Press is continuing to report on Israel’s attack on Gaza from a perspective that favors Israel.

Just as we reported a few days ago, the Grand Rapids Press continues to run stories that are biased in favor of Israel in regards to their most recent bombing campaign of the Gaza strip.

On January 3, the Press ran two Associated Press (AP) stories on page A6. The main story is entitled “Muslim protests go global.” The story does reflect that protests against the Israeli military assault were happening all over the world, but even the AP article acknowledges that there were protests held by people other than Muslims. There is also no mention of the dozens of protests that have occurred in communities all across the country.

The photos that accompany the story are one of a protest in Washington DC and what appears to be Palestinian youth throwing rocks at the Israeli military in the Gaza. Thus, the Press decision to call the protest Muslim is a bit misleading and it might feed into the anti-Muslim portrayal that is prominent in US media. It is also worth noting that the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, ran the same AP story but used the headline, “Worldwide protests staged against Israel’s offensive in Gaza.”

Beyond the headline, the AP article also continued to promote the Israeli position for the bombing attack. The article states, “Israel says its offensive is aimed at silencing Hamas rockets.” However, nowhere in the story is a different perspective presented, despite the fact that numerous writers have pointed out that Hamas was responding to an Israeli bombing of the Gaza that took place back in early November. Writer and historian James Petras says the Israeli state, “boasts of having systematically pre-planned the extermination campaign – months in advance – up to and including the precise hour and day of the bombing to coincide with inflicting the maximum murder of civilians.” Belen Fernandez notes in a recent posting that the reporting in US media is in part due to a well-organized PR campaign by the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC.

The second AP story that appeared in the Press was headlined, “U.N. fears crisis.” The story begins with some information about the human cost of the Israeli bombing, but omits a great deal of the original story, which had more details on the destruction from the bombing. The Press version of the AP story also only includes comments from President Bush and his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, unlike the original AP story, which included comments from Hamas leaders, a UN representative, and residents of Gaza who offered eyewitness accounts of the Israeli attacks.

The Press on Obama’s Choice to Deliver Inaugural Prayer

On Saturday, The Grand Rapids Press reported on local religious leaders’ reaction to Obama’s selection of Revered Rick Warren to give the inaugural prayer next month. The story mentioned that “liberal and gay groups” criticized the selection but failed to name or cite any specific group.


On Saturday, the Grand Rapids Press ran a story that reported local religious leaders’ reaction to president-elect Barrack Obama’s decision to have Reverend Rick Warren give the inaugural prayer next month. Warren is the pastor of Saddleback, a mega-church in California that hosted a forum with Obama and McCain during the presidential race.

The Press article framed the issue in the second paragraph by stating, “Some liberal and gay groups criticized the selection, because Warren, pastor of the Saddleback mega-church in California, is an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and abortion.” The article never mentions which liberal or gay groups criticized Obama’s choice, even though numerous groups have responded. Here is part of a statement by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force:

“President-elect Obama campaigned on a theme of inclusivity, yet the selection of Rick Warren to give the invocation is a direct affront to that very principle. This was a divisive choice, and clearly not one that will help our country come together and heal. We urge President-elect Obama to withdraw his invitation to Rick Warren and instead select a faith leader who embraces fairness, equality and the ideals the president-elect himself has called the nation to uphold.”

In addition to not reporting on how national groups were reacting to the choice of Rev. Warren, the Press story omits other aspects of the evangelical minister’s politics. According to Sarah Posner (author of the recent book titled God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters), Warren is not only anti-gay, he also “does not believe in evolution, has compared abortion to the Holocaust and backed the assassination of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”

Besides not providing readers more information on the background of Rev. Warren it is important to ask why they only asked local Christian clergy their reaction to Obama’s pick for the inaugural prayer? The new administration had the opportunity to choose leader from the Muslim, Jewish, or another international faith traditions. Such a choice could have sent a strong message to the rest of the world and to US residents who are not Christian.

The Press article did point out that there has been little attention given to Obama’s choice for giving the inaugural benediction, Rev. Joseph Lowery. However, the only information provided on Lowery was that he is “a liberal minister and co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Lowery is a long-time Civil Rights leader and has been involved in numerous campaigns for justice, such as organizing against the apartheid regime of South Africa and traveling to Central America and the Middle East with peace delegations.”

Press Runs Story on Factory Occupation, Doesn’t Really Report On It

Yesterday, The Grand Rapids Press ran a short story on the occupation of a Chicago factory occupation initiated by workers upset that the factory is closing. The story included no context on the occupation, forcing readers to turn to the independent press for additional information.


On Monday, the Grand Rapids Press ran a lead story about the occupation of a Chicago factory in the business section of the paper. The 200-word story included a comment from one of the workers who is part of the occupation, president-elect Barack Obama, and Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Unfortunately for those reading the Press article, over half of the original Associate Press (AP) story was not included. The original AP version also included comments from other workers who were part of the occupation and several supporters who came to offer solidarity to those occupying the factory of Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago.

Fortunately, independent news media has made this story much more visible over the past few days.

Lee Sustar and Nicole Colson of the Socialist Worker wrote:

“The 250 workers, members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1110, are demanding that Bank of America either resume making loans to Republic to reopen the plant or help the company make good on its obligations to workers. The workers are angry that Bank of America received $25 billion in taxpayer bailout, but won’t lend to viable companies.”

Not only do these independent reporters provide a context for the action taken by the workers, they explore the reasons that Republic Windows and Doors decided to close the factory in the first place.

Employees of the Cook County Hospital in Chicago and members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee showed up to lend their support and offer this analysis:

“This is important, because this is a form of union-busting, Their contract was violated. Workers’ rights were violated, when the company just shut them out. It’s happening to them today, and it could happen to us tomorrow. You’ve got the fat cats walking away with the money and leaving all the workers here with nothing.”

Suster and Colson also discovered that the factory was not shuuting down permanently, they were just moving to another state:

“For Republic’s managers, the objective seems to be saving themselves at workers’ expense. Confirmation came on Monday that–as workers suspected–Republic is not, in fact, shutting down operations, but planning to move production to Iowa under a new name, Echo Windows & Doors.

Reports indicate that Echo would be nonunion, pay only $9 an hour, and offer workers limited benefits and no vacation pay for the first three years–a drastic cut compared to the average $14- an-hour wage and health and retirement benefits that Chicago Republic workers had been getting.”

In other news about the occupation, Democracy Now! reported today that the State of Illinois has decided to cut ties with Bank of America because of the factory’s closing. John Woodruff Jr. posted a story on AlterNet that talked a bit more about the $25 billion dollar bailout for Bank of America and what this means for the worker occupation.

One of the best pieces on the Chicago worker occupation is by Benjamin Dangl, who has written about social movements in Latin America. Dangl believes that those of us who live in the US must learn from the actions of working people in other countries, particularly Argentina where thousands of workers occupied numerous factories after the economic collapse of 2001. Dangl states that because of the worker occupations in Argentina, “There are roughly two hundred worker-run factories and businesses in Argentina, most of which started in the midst of the 2001 crisis. 15,000 people work in these cooperatives and the businesses range from car part producers to rubber balloon factories.” This movement of worker occupations is captured beautifully in Avi Lewis’ and Naomi Klein’s film, The Take.

Grand Rapids Press on Obama’s Foreign Policy Team

Yesterday, the Grand Rapids Press ran an article describing Obama’s foreign policy team as “hawkish.” While such a claim is probably accurate, the article never took the time to explain what that meant. Consequently, there was no mention of Hillary Clinton’s support for the Iraq War or Robert Gates’ support for a new generation of nuclear weapons.


Yesterday, the Grand Rapids Press published a front page story attributed to “Press Wire Services” with the headline, “Obama security team: Hawks or diplomats?” The article begins by framing the new appointments as all “more hawkish than the president who will face them down in the White House situation room.” Unfortunately for readers the article never provides any information to substantiate that these appointees are indeed “hawkish” or what “hawkish” even means in terms of policy.

The article does include a sidebar with pictures of this new national security team, but the only information provided is a chronological run down of their educational, diplomatic, and military backgrounds. There are only two sources cited in the story. The first is an Obama advisor who “spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.” This anonymous source stated that all of these new appointments “have embraced a rebalancing of America’s national security portfolio after a huge investment in new combat capabilities during the Bush years.”

This comment seems to contradict the Obama campaign promises, according to Frida Berrigan, Senior Program Associate at the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Initiate. In a recent article Berrigan wrote, Obama “has repeatedly argued for a spike in defense spending to ‘reset’ a military force worn out by war.” He has also called for the expansion of the size of the Army and the Marines. On that point, he is in complete agreement with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. They even use the same numbers, suggesting that the Army should be augmented by 65,000 new recruits and the Marines by 27,000. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that these manpower increases alone would add about $10 billion a year to the Pentagon budget over a five-year period.”

As we have seen in recent news coverage, while there are sweeping claims made about new appointees, very little information is provided about what kinds of policies they have supported. It is now official that Robert Gates will stay on as Secretary of Defense, James Jones as National Security Advisor and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of Defense, yet there nowhere in the article to readers find out what kind of foreign policy positions any of these three have supported over the years.

Would it serve readers well to know that as a Senator that Hillary Clinton has aggressively supported the US occupation of Iraq, voting to give President Bush the initial support he asked for in 2002? Clinton is also a big supporter of the decades long US financing of Israel’s actions against the Palestinians and has voted to further isolate Iran and threaten to use military force against that country.

As current Secretary of Defense, Gates has maintained a commitment to the two major US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gates has not suggested that he would commit to reducing the US military budget and he supports the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons. The article does say that Gates has served in four US administrations, but offers no information about what he has accomplished in those administrations. Investigative reporter Robert Parry has written about Gates’ role in the illegal Iran/Contra scandal in the 1980s and his role in arming Saddam Hussein in the Reagan administration. Why are these kinds of policy positions not included in the story?

Instead, the reporter in this article states, “Obama’s advisors said they were bracing themselves for the charge from the right that he is investing in social work rather than counterterrorism.” Based on the pro-war and pro-military history of Gates, Clinton, and Jones, such a claim made by “the right” would be patently false, yet the reporter follows these remarks by citint the only other source in the story Eli Pariser, with When questioned about whether or not president-elect Obama will make the change he promise, Pariser said, “We’ll see, if they turn out to be all disappointments, we’ll have a good three years to storm the gates at the White House.”

The article ends with a mention of the pressure from “liberal bloggers” to prevent the appointment of John Brennan to the CIA, which does suggest that the public can have some influence in who gets appointed to the new cabinet, but the story does not pursue that angle.

For ongoing analysis of appointments in the Obama administration, we encourage readers to go to Public Citizen’s new site called Becoming 44 for general information on appointments or to Foreign Policy in Focus for ongoing analysis of Obama’s national security team.

The Press on Obama’s “Inner Circle:” Not Much Detail

The Grand Rapids Press reported yesterday on Obama’s “inner circle,” but failed to offer much substantive information on Obama’s supporters.


On Sunday, the Grand Rapids Press ran a Cox News Service story, which states that the new administration is “strikingly different from the last time a Democratic administration was preparing to take power.” The article then never substantiates this claim and only provides a list of president-elect Obama’s “inner circle” with a short bio after each name.

The list of Obama’s inner circle begins with Rham Emanuel, whom The Press story says was a former “Clinton White House advisor” and “chief strategist for health care and other initiatives.” We have already reported how Emanuel was a key figure in the passage of NAFTA, but the other major influence that Obama’s White Chief of Staff brings is his pro-Israel stance. Emanuel is so zealous in his support of Israel that he even “signed a letter criticizing Bush for being insufficiently supportive of Israel.”

Next on the list is David Axelrod, a “onetime political reporter for the Chicago Tribune and past consultant to Mayor Richard Daley.” The Press story also states that Axelrod was responsible for the “change” theme in the Obama campaign.

What was not mentioned in the article was that Axelrod has been a consultant to the nuclear energy corporation Exelon since 2002. Exelon has been a major donor to the Obama campaign. Axelrod has done a great deal of his consulting work with AKP&D Message & Media, a political consulting firm that serves Democrats. In addition, he works with ASK Public Strategies, a group that is known for creating corporate front groups.

Other members of the president-elect’s inner circle are David Plouffe, who also worked for AKP&D Message & Media with David Axelrod; Valarie Jarrett, a longtime Chicago political fixture who also worked for Habitat Company, “which develops and manages residential properties, from public housing to luxury condominiums”; Robert Gibbs, another political consultant. Before working on the Kerry campaign in 2004, Gibbs “worked for a third-party political group that threw sharp elbows in the 2004 Iowa caucuses–including a television ad that used a picture of Osama bin Laden to criticize Howard Dean’s foreign policy credentials.”

The story also mentions Jason Furman who will be a top economic advisor to Obama. The story mentions his relationship to former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and his position at the Brookings Institute, but fails to mention his legal work for Wal-Mart. According to writer Naomi Klein, Furman “is one of Wal-Mart’s most prominent defenders,” and is a proponent of the Chicago-School principles of economics that were developed under Milton Friedman.

In addition to Furman, Obama will also have Austan Goolsbee, another economic advisor who told a Canadian news agency that Obama would not really change NAFTA Goolsbee has also been an economic advisor for the Democratic Leadership Council, according to author Paul Street.

The last two names listed in The Press article are former Senator Tom Daschle and current Senator Dick Durbin. Daschle is mentioned as “having done extensive health care work” and Durbin as “a war critic.” Unfortunately for readers there are no details of Durbin’s voting record. Instead, we are left with comments such as “He is also well-liked in the Senate and makes good use of humor.”