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Tom – This article points out the fact that insurgent violence has been responsible for reductions in economic growth, both as a result of direct attacks on targets such as oil pipelines and also through creating a dangerous environment that discourages business and investment. Now, while this is true, it is certainly not the only factor that has limited Iraq’s economy, something the article fails to mention. This particular article, from the Associated Press, frames the question of Iraqi economic recovery as a simple black and white duality; to quote “insurgents work to wreck the economy as fast as the U.S. and Iraqi governments can restore it.” No where in the article is the assumption that U.S. policies are working to restore the Iraqi economy for the benefit of the Iraqi people challenged or justified.
Linda – So other than insurgent violence, what do other sources list as factors contributing to the failure of the Iraqi economy?
Tom – One thing not mentioned in this article at all is the damage done to Iraq’s infrastructure over the last thirteen years due to sanctions. According to numerous think tanks, such as Foriegn Policy in Focus, these sanctions, imposed by the U.S. and U.K. did serious damage to the Iraqi economy through out the nineties, and severely hindered efforts to rebuild after the first Gulf War in 1991. So while the article claims that Iraq has become one of the world’s poorest countries, it should be realized that, as clearly shown in a graph accompanying the article, GDP per capita before the 2003 war was about the same is it is now. So Iraq, as a result of sanctions, already was an impoverished nation before the U.S. Invasion.
Also not addressed at all in this article is where reconstruction money is coming from and who it is benefiting. The article points out that the insurgents have cost the Iraqi government about 7 billion in lost oil revenue, revenue that was earmarked for reconstruction. Much of this reconstruction money is to American corporations such as Halliburton and Bechtel, where much of this reconstruction money has been wasted, misappropriated or just fraudulently stolen. Much of this financial malfeasance has been documented by websites such as Iraq Revenue Watch, Halliburton Watch.org and War profiteers.com. So nowhere in the article was the waste of Iraqi oil revenues by U.S. companies addressed.
Linda – What about the economic policies in general? Is Iraq being allowed to determine these for itself, or have these decisions been made for the country?
Tom - For the most part, all the major economic policies that have and will continue to shape postwar Iraq were put in place by the U.S. occupational authority before last summers hand over to the provisional government. These policies include the privatization of as much of the Iraqi economy as possible and the implementation of supposed “free trade” policies, while at the same time keeping in place the Saddam era laws prohibiting labor organizing. Now, these type of “neo-liberal” economic policies, emphasizing investor rights over workers rights, or environmental protections, have had a very mixed record in other countries when they have been tried, particularly to working people. This question, that U.S. inposed economic policy in Iraq may be more beneficial to business interests rather than to the bulk of the populace, was not at all addressed in this article.
Linda – Last week the 10 commandments monument was traveling on display throughout Michigan. Jeff Smith, how did the local news cover that issue?
Jeff – The Grand Rapids Press and all 3 GR based TV stations reported on what they referred to as the “controversial” monument. Both Fox 17 and WOOD TV 8 reported on the monument in Kalamazoo. The Fox story begins with what appears to be a pro-monument video, with voiceover. The video clip is not sourced, so there is no way to know for sure who created it. When it came to comments from the public, viewers of Fox would have seen 3 pro-monument comments and 1 that was critical. Channel 8 only had comments from the pro-monument side, the organizer of the events who said “The Ten Commandments are the closest and most powerful presentation of fatherly wisdom ever handed down by God for the benefit of all mankind.” Unfortunately for viewers, no perspectives were provided to counter that statement.
Linda – What about when the monument was in Grand Rapids and what sort of context to this story was provided by the local news?
Jeff – All 3 TV stations covered the monument in Grand Rapids. Channel 8 again only provided a pro-monument perspective, channel 13 both and Fox 17 only an anti-monument perspective. When there were anti-monument perspectives the news label this person as a “protestor,” even though their position was separation of Church & State position. All 3 stations did mention that this was the monument that originated in Alabama, channel 13 was the only station to mention that eventually the US supreme Court will have to decide on this case, and only channel 8 mentioned that the Michigan legislature was voting on a bill to allow the 10 commandments in public places, but this was in passing.
Linda – For more on this issue here are some links: People for the American Way ACLU Hearing Tuesday Regarding Ten Commandments on Public Property
Linda –On Sunday, which was the two year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Grand Rapids Press ran several stories about Iraq, including the one we discussed a few minutes ago. Tom, a bit more on the Press coverage given to Iraq on this significant date…
Tom – Aside from an article about the Iraqi economy that I already discussed, they ran an article about the new Iraqi army as well as a list of “Winners and Losers” in Iraq. Also included was a map and chart of Iraq entitled “Iraq: two years later.” This was a chart of the casualties in Iraq by province. The odd thing was that it was a casualty list of only U.S. casualties. Iraqi deaths are no where to be seen in the charts or graphs. The small text explanation of the charts does mention that “Far more Iraqis have died” but that there are “no comprehensive reports exist.” Now, there have been efforts to determine the number of Iraqis killed. Since the beginning of the war the website Iraq body count has provided a detailed database of Iraq deaths. A study reported in the British medical journal the Lancet, did an extensive statistical survey in Iraq and estimated that about 100,000 Iraqis are dead as a result of the invasion and occupation. These were not mentioned by the GR Press.
Linda – On Saturday, March 19 the Grand Rapids Press ran a summary of the Annual International Women’s Day event. Jeff, how did the Press report on this event?
Jeff – The Press coverage only summarized the keynote speaker’s comments, but didn’t cover the event. There was no mention that the event was sponsored by 10 different groups, most of which had information tables. It was also not mentioned that films were shown earlier in the day in the same auditorium on the GVSU downtown campus. Listeners may remember that we critiqued the Press’s 10 page promotional insert for the Women’s Expo a few weeks ago, and while this event didn’t have as many sponsors and didn’t take out paid ads, there was lots of information about women’s issues.
Linda – So how did the Press do when it came to reporting on the speech by the keynote speaker?
Jeff – The piece that was written is not in an article form. In recent months the Press has been reporting on speakers from out of town with this “Speakers Box” format, something that provides short sound-bite comments, with little or no context. This was an event, so journalists should be asking people who attended their responses, not just provided a summary of what the speaker said. The summary did a fair job covering the issues that Filipina activist Ninotchka Rosca touched on, but their was little context. It mentions that she was a political prisoner during the Marcos dictatorship, but left out that the US government was a supporter of Marcos. The summary mentions German prostitution laws and the fact that thousands of Filipina women are victims of sex trafficking and the mail order bride industry, but the Press article fails to mention that the US military is one of the prime users of women who are sold in the sex trade industry and that the largest number of Filipina mail order brides are sold to men in the US Bible belt states.