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
Sunday, January 22, 2006  
War's stunning price tag

By Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz
Los Angeles Times commentary
January 17, 2006

LINDA BILMES, a former assistant secretary of Commerce, teaches public finance at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. JOSEPH STIGLITZ is a professor at Columbia University. He won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001.

LAST WEEK, at the annual meeting of the American Economic Assn., we presented a new estimate for the likely cost of the war in Iraq. We suggested that the final bill will be much higher than previously reckoned — between $1 trillion and $2 trillion, depending primarily on how much longer our troops stay. Putting that into perspective, the highest-grossing movie of all time, "Titanic," earned $1.8 billion worldwide — about half the cost the U.S. incurs in Iraq every week.

Like the iceberg that hit the Titanic, the full costs of the war are still largely hidden below the surface. Our calculations include not just the money for combat operations but also the costs the government will have to pay for years to come. These include lifetime healthcare and disability benefits for returning veterans and special round-the-clock medical attention for many of the 16,300 Americans who already have been seriously wounded. We also count the increased cost of replacing military hardware because the war is using up equipment at three to five times the peacetime rate. In addition, the military must pay large reenlistment bonuses and offer higher benefits to reenlist reluctant soldiers. On top of this, because we finance the war by borrowing more money (mostly from abroad), there is a rising interest cost on the extra debt.

Our study also goes beyond the budget of the federal government to estimate the war's cost to the economy and our society. It includes, for instance, the true economic costs of injury and death. For example, if an individual is killed in an auto or work-related accident, his family will typically receive compensation for lost earnings. Standard government estimates of the lifetime economic cost of a death are about $6 million. But the military pays out far less — about $500,000. Another cost to the economy comes from the fact that 40% of our troops are taken from the National Guard and Reserve units. These troops often earn lower wages than in their civilian jobs. Finally, there are macro-economic costs such as the effect of higher oil prices — partly a result of the instability in Iraq.

We conclude that the economy would have been much stronger if we had invested the money in the United States instead of in Iraq.

To read the full text, see Los Angeles Times

12:54 PM

Threats to media cloud American view of Iraq

Jan 22, 2006

By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Kidnapping is the biggest nightmare of every Western journalist in Iraq but both foreign and Iraqi reporters face many other obstacles that obscure the U.S. public's understanding of the war.

Jill Carroll, an American freelance journalist missing in Iraq, was the 36th reporter to be kidnapped since April 2004, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Six of them have been killed.

"This has been our No. 1 threat and our worst nightmare for almost two years," Jackie Spinner, a Washington Post reporter who escaped a kidnap bid outside Abu Ghraib prison in June 2004, told Reuters.

"They grabbed me as I was walking out," she said. "I was wearing a scarf and an abaya. One man grabbed my wrist and another grabbed my waist and they started dragging me off."

Fortunately, U.S. Marines noticed and came to the rescue.

She recounts the incident in her book "Tell Them I Didn't Cry," due out on Feb 1. The book describes Spinner's experience reporting, including the 2004 siege of Falluja. But much of it is about her Iraqi colleagues, from drivers to cooks, guards and translators, and about how much she depended on them.

Most foreign journalists live and work outside the U.S.-controlled "Green Zone" but they do generally operate inside protected compounds, with blast walls and armed guards.

To read the full text, see Reuters

11:21 AM

Confidence Game
Iraq has taught us that 'unknown unknowns' make lousy targets. Will Washington heed that lesson when it responds to Tehran breaking its nuclear seals?

By Christopher Dickey

Jan. 10, 2006 - Lest we forget amid all the second-guessed accusations and explanations in the air these days, the Bush administration did not launch its invasion of Iraq some 2,200 dead Americans ago because it knew Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It invaded because it did not know. We went to war—and remain mired in that war—because of a hunch.

Remember Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s famous little discourse on "unknown unknowns" in the summer of 2002, just as Washington and London were secretly committing themselves to invasion? He'd been asked about claims that Saddam's WMD arsenal and links to terrorists were worse than many analysts thought. Undeterred, Rumsfeld explained that lots of intelligence only comes to light years after the fact, and that proves you just can't know everything. "There are no knowns," he said. "There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don't know."

To read the full text, see MSNBC.MSN.COM

8:11 AM

Is It Warm in Here?
We Could Be Ignoring the Biggest Story in Our History

By David Ignatius
Washington Post
January 18, 2006; A17

Blog editor's note: See the article on the 2005 U.S. TV news agenda that is referenced two items ago.

One of the puzzles if you're in the news business is figuring out what's "news." The fate of your local football team certainly fits the definition. So does a plane crash or a brutal murder. But how about changes in the migratory patterns of butterflies?

Scientists believe that new habitats for butterflies are early effects of global climate change -- but that isn't news, by most people's measure. Neither is declining rainfall in the Amazon, or thinner ice in the Arctic. We can't see these changes in our personal lives, and in that sense, they are abstractions. So they don't grab us the way a plane crash would -- even though they may be harbingers of a catastrophe that could, quite literally, alter the fundamentals of life on the planet. And because they're not "news," the environmental changes don't prompt action, at least not in the United States.

What got me thinking about the recondite life rhythms of the planet, and not the 24-hour news cycle, was a recent conversation with a scientist named Thomas E. Lovejoy, who heads the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment. When I first met Lovejoy nearly 20 years ago, he was trying to get journalists like me to pay attention to the changes in the climate and biological diversity of the Amazon. He is still trying, but he's beginning to wonder if it's too late.

To read the full text, see Washington Post

8:02 AM

The west has picked a fight with Iran that it cannot win
Washington's kneejerk belligerence ignores Tehran's influence and the need for subtle engagement

Simon Jenkins
January 20, 2006

Never pick a fight you know you cannot win. Or so I was told. Pick an argument if you must, but not a fight. Nothing I have read or heard in recent weeks suggests that fighting Iran over its nuclear enrichment programme makes any sense at all. The very talk of it - macho phrases about "all options open" - suggests an international community so crazed with video game enforcement as to have lost the power of coherent thought.
Iran is a serious country, not another two-bit post-imperial rogue waiting to be slapped about the head by a white man. It is the fourth largest oil producer in the world. Its population is heading towards 80 million by 2010. Its capital, Tehran, is a mighty metropolis half as big again as London. Its culture is ancient and its political life is, to put it mildly, fluid.

All the following statements about Iran are true. There are powerful Iranians who want to build a nuclear bomb. There are powerful ones who do not. There are people in Iran who would like Israel to disappear. There are people who would not. There are people who would like Islamist rule. There are people who would not. There are people who long for some idiot western politician to declare war on them. There are people appalled at the prospect. The only question for western strategists is which of these people they want to help.

To read the full text, see Guardian

8:00 AM

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