Commentary and links relating to media coverage of war; both before, during, and after.

William A. Dorman is Professor of Government at California State University, Sacramento, and has taught a course in War, Peace and the Mass Media since 1970.

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War, Peace, and the Mass Media
Tuesday, January 10, 2006  
Iraq, Natural Disasters Dominated TV News in 2005
Led by Hurricane Katrina, natural disasters and Iraq dominated the U.S. television news during 2005, accounting for almost half of the content of the three major network news shows over the course of the year, according to the latest annual round-up of the weekday evening news by the New York-based Tyndall Report.

Jim Lobe
Inter Press Service News Agency

Blog editor's note: See my comments on the news agenda for 2005 in story that follows.

WASHINGTON, Jan 10 (IPS) - While all Iraq-related stories accounted for a total about 15 percent of the roughly 14,000 minutes of news broadcast by ABC, CBS, and NBC during the year, that percentage was about one third less than 2004 and less than half the attention it received in 2003.

"It's ironic and disturbing that just as debate about what to do in Iraq is heating up, network coverage of the war is dropping off," Dan Hallin, a professor at the University of California at San Diego, told IPS.

"It obviously reflects the appeal of natural disaster coverage, but also probably the fact that war is less appealing as a story for television as it becomes more a political story and a divisive issue."

Indeed, the decline in the Iraq story was more than made up by natural disasters, including Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, the aftermath of the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami, and the Oct. 8, 2005, earthquake in Kashmir.

Led by Katrina, natural disasters received a total of more than 2,200 minutes over the year, or nearly 20 percent of all news coverage, more than three times the annual average for the previous 16 years, according to the report, which is considered the most authoritative record of broadcast news in the industry.

Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and created major political headaches for U.S. President George W. Bush, received a total of 1,153 minutes of air time from the three major networks. The aftermath of the tsunami, which killed more than a quarter million people in coastal areas of the Indian Ocean, received 250 minutes of coverage.

Some critics saw the rise in natural disaster coverage in 2005 at the expense of Iraq and other difficult foreign policy issues as being as much a return to "business as usual" as it was due to the destruction itself.

"During full-fledged combat involving U.S. forces, war news trumps all else, but once major combat ends, and the hard slog of counter-insurgency drags on, such as in Iraq today, the news spotlight shifts to easier stories to tell," said William Dorman, who teaches communications at California State University in Sacramento.

To read the full text, see IPS

8:22 PM

Sunday, January 08, 2006  
He never intended an equitable solution in Israel

Henry Siegman
Sunday January 8, 2006

Blog editor's note: Henry Siegman is director of the US/Middle East Project and former head of the American Jewish Congress

In a remarkable transformation, the man now lying in a coma in an Israeli hospital has emerged these past five years as the single most dominant political personality in Israel's history, overshadowing even Ben-Gurion's mythic role as founding father of the state.
Most Israelis came to believe that Ariel Sharon was the only person able to solve the Palestinian conflict. Alternatively, if the conflict were to continue, he was the man they trusted to manage it in a manner that assured Israel's stability and security.

This view of Sharon is only partly correct. He was, indeed, uniquely able to make the compromises without which an agreement with the Palestinians is unattainable. It is difficult to imagine another Israeli leader who could retain popular support for the return of most of the West Bank, along the lines suggested in the Clinton proposal of January 2001, and compensate Palestinians for the retention by Israel of the major settlement blocs adjoining the pre-1967 border with comparable territory within Israel. The same is true of allowing the Arab-populated parts of Jerusalem to serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.

If it were true that a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians incorporating these unavoidable 'concessions' were the strategic goal of the 'new' Sharon, his departure from the political scene would be grievous. But Sharon had no intention of making such concessions, nor is there any basis for the expectation that there will ever be a Palestinian leader willing or able to accept an agreement that does not include these provisions.

To read the full text, see Observer

9:33 AM

The General
History Interrupted

The New York Times
January 8, 2006

Blog editor's note: American journalism too frequently tends to oversimplify the personae of foreign leaders, whether considered friend or foe, often following the story line provided by official Washington. Portrayal of Isarel's Ariel Sharon is a classic case in point. Here is one piece that attempts to add some complexity to his background. The commentary in the London Observer that follows does so as well

"LOOK, the Jews are not easy people," Ariel Sharon, one of the least easy of people, said late one evening in 2004 on his farm in southern Israel. "Maybe that's the reason they managed to exist, I would say, for thousands of years." He chuckled.

"You cannot defeat Jews," Israel's prime minister went on. "You can maneuver them. You maneuver them, they maneuver you. I would say it's endless maneuvers."

It is hard to imagine Mr. Sharon's own gambits at an end. Having outmaneuvered Jew and gentile, enemy and ally alike, Mr. Sharon at 77 was losing ground at this writing to the invincible opponent he had also cheated more than once. It should have surprised no one - though it did - that he was caught, in this struggle, in mid-maneuver. Having torn up the Jewish settlements he founded in the Gaza Strip, he had been on his way to tearing apart the right-wing party he founded, Likud, in favor of a new, centrist party that was going to do - well, it may be that only Mr. Sharon knew exactly what, and some wondered if even he did.

He almost certainly planned to pull some Israeli settlers out of parts of the West Bank, but how soon, and from which areas? Did he envision signing a peace agreement with the Palestinians from behind the West Bank barrier he mapped out? One that would provide them sovereignty in a viable state? Or did he want to cage the Palestinians in barricaded enclaves like Gaza? Its ends still unknown, its ultimate achievements still uncertain, one of the most audacious exercises of leadership in Israel's history came to an abrupt close at a moment of resounding ambiguity.

"We will never know the real answer," said Tzaly Reshef, a founder of the left-wing Israeli group Peace Now. He said that his own feelings about Mr. Sharon were mixed. "Some good friends who share my views remember only the last two years," he said. "I remember the whole history of Sharon.

To read the full text, see New York Times

9:27 AM

Iraq war could cost US over $2 trillion, says Nobel prize-winning economist
· Economists say official estimates are far too low
· New calculation takes in dead and injured soldiers

Jamie Wilson in Washington
January 7, 2006

The real cost to the US of the Iraq war is likely to be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion (£1.1 trillion), up to 10 times more than previously thought, according to a report written by a Nobel prize-winning economist and a Harvard budget expert.
The study, which expanded on traditional estimates by including such costs as lifetime disability and healthcare for troops injured in the conflict as well as the impact on the American economy, concluded that the US government is continuing to underestimate the cost of the war.

The report came during one of the most deadly periods in Iraq since the invasion, with the US military yesterday revising upwards to 11 the number of its troops killed during a wave of insurgent attacks on Thursday. More than 130 civilians were also killed when suicide bombers struck Shia pilgrims in Karbala and a police recruiting station in Ramadi.

The paper on the real cost of the war, written by Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia University professor who won the Nobel prize for economics in 2001, and Linda Bilmes, a Harvard budget expert, is likely to add to the pressure on the White House on the war. It also followed the revelation this week that the White House had scaled back ambitions to rebuild Iraq and did not intend to seek funds for reconstruction.

To read the full text, see Guardian

9:14 AM

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