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War Funding Coverage Full of Omissions

June 18, 2009

(Editor’s Note: This is the first is a series of news analysis pieces that will look at the Grand Rapids Press coverage of the US occupation/war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This new GRIID study began on May 26 and will continue through the end of August. This article begins with analysis of the GR Press story and then includes the article at the bottom. Note that the text that is bold is the portion of the original story that was omitted in the GR Press version.)

This Associated Press story ran on page 2 of the GR Press on Wednesday, June 17. The headline points readers to the Senate vote, even though the story is about the House vote on a $106 billion piece of legislation that is primarily for the funding of the US occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At one point the article reads, “Democratic leaders pushing the bill on behalf of the Obama administration had to overcome an unusual alliance.” This is an inaccurate statement, since there was no alliance between anti-war Democrats and the Republicans who voted against it. The Democrats who voted against the bill did so because they were opposed to the continual funding of the US occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but most Republicans voted against it for very different reasons, as was noted by independent journalist Jeremy Scahill is a recent article.

The article also states, “President Obama has argued that it is crucial to winding down operations in Iraq while boosting personnel and fighting power in Afghanistan.” While it is true that the US has increased troop strength in Afghanistan, the idea that the US is “winding down operations in Iraq” is still very debatable. 

In a recent interview, author and writer Anthony Arnove said, “although Barack Obama promised he would have all troops out by 2012, the ground is being laid for troops to stay in Iraq for years and years to come. The army chief of staff, Gen. George Casey, said that the Pentagon was making preparations to keep troops in Iraq until the year 2019.”

Also, it should noted that the only Congress person cited in the original story was omitted from the Press version as well as the comment about the Obama administration’s removal of a provision in an earlier draft of the bill which would have allowed for the release of torture photos. 

Lastly, it should be mentioned that there are no independent voices in this story, none from anti-war sectors, military families, Iraqis, nor Afghanis, all of which will be directly impacted by the increase of war funding for US operations in both countries.

GR Press articleSenators to tackle war funding bill

War-funding legislation survived a fierce partisan battle in the House on Tuesday, a major step in providing commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan the money they would need for military operations in the coming months.

The $106 billion measure, in addition to about $80 billion for military operations, provides for an array of other spending priorities, including $7.7 billion to respond to the flu pandemic and more than $10 billion in development and security aid for Pakistan and Iraq, as well as countries such as Mexico and the nation of Georgia.

Democratic leaders pushing the bill on behalf of the Obama administration had to overcome an unusual alliance. Anti-war Democrats opposed continued war spending and Republicans condemned $5 billion in the measure to secure a $108 billion U.S. line of credit to the International Monetary Fund for loans to poor countries.

Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, contended that Democrats were endangering troops by shifting money to create room for a “global bailout loan program.”

The vote was 226-202, with five Republicans voting for the bill and 32 Democrats against it.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., unsuccessfully appealed to Republicans for support, saying 80 percent of the package still went to the troops. “Stand up for them,” he said.

The Senate could move as early as this week on the legislation, which includes $1 billion to fund government rebates for consumers who trade in their old vehicles for more fuel-efficient models.

The Pentagon has said that without the bill, the Army could start running out of war funds as early as July. President Obama has argued that it is crucial to winding down operations in Iraq while boosting personnel and fighting power in Afghanistan.

Republicans also objected to a decision by House-Senate negotiators to remove a provision prohibiting the release of photos depicting U.S. troops abusing detainees. It was taken out, “at the demands of the fringe left,” said House Republican leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. 

Obama, in negotiating the removal of the provision, guaranteed that he would stop the release of such photos.

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