Tag Archives: Irish Times

Media moguling is something that happens in other countries

  
The Irish Times recently printed a piece detailing the extent to which a concentration of media ownership in the UK enables “power to direct our national conversations and influence the development of national policies.” 

However, according to writer Natalie Fenton, that was only part of the story:

        

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Radio meltdown trumps climate meltdown every time

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Duncan Stewart of Eco Eye and About the House fame had a professional breakdown on Shane Coleman’s Newstalk show earlier today, or so you’d be led to believe if you read the Irish Times, Irish Independent, Irish Mirror or Journal.ie. All four of which jumped at an opportunity to produce a ‘famous person loses it live on air‘ headline, following a fairly inconsequential, if uncommon, argument about air time and radio convention.

And for good reason too, the stories were No.1 in the ‘Most Read’ stats for both the Times and the Indo. While the more discerning readers of the Mirror and Journal appeared more interested in other affairs (a ‘giant rat’ and a fatal traffic accident respectively).

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The “environmentalist” (if there’s an ‘ist’ at the end of someone’s title that typically means they’re an ideologue and thus unreceptive to reason) was said to have had a “meltdown” live on air. Caught in a “bizarre rant” or “fraught encounter”, depending on whether you prefer tabloid or broadsheet size, while discussing climate change.

Ironically, the thrust of Coleman and Stewart’s 18 minute discussion (of which 1.5 mins were taken up by the aforementioned argument) evolved around the Irish media’s, in Stewart’s words, “irresponsible” reporting of climate change:

“Everybody seems to avoid climate change because it’s not popular, it doesn’t bring in ratings, it’s not good for advertising, and that’s a fundamental issue with all media, including press”

And the Irish media’s response to Stewart’s criticism is to forefront the trivial, at the expense of the substantive points raised. Yet even in the course of the interview Stewart’s criticisms of RTE were discounted as little more than a ‘row with RTE’, reflecting succinctly the majority view of media criticism in the Irish news industry. Critical media analysis has only one value, the party political.

RTE’s reporting of climate change is a topic we covered back in 2008 in response to a Primetime segment titled ‘Questions raised over global warming’ and earlier in 2007 in relation to the Corrib gas project. In the first case, RTE fabricated one of those media ‘debates’ where a scientist is pitched against a ‘skeptic’ (in that instance, a documentary maker who’s documentary was funded by a mining company) to argue over decades of scientific research in a four minute window between ad breaks and serious sounding video segments fronted by one or more of RTE’s roving reporters.

More recently, two pieces by John Gibbons and the Irish Examiner’s Victoria White went over the same ground. Gibbons, whose climate change column in the Irish Times was cancelled four years ago (and who we interviewed at the time), pointed to a Sunday Times report which had identified clear deficiencies in RTE’s environment coverage:

“Sunday Times report pointed out, “30 major climate-related stories carried by other media between January 2012 and April 2013 were ‘entirely absent’ from Six One News, Prime Time and RTE News online”

Gibbons’ account suggests that RTE’s stubborn attachment to the “Is the climate change man made?” format is causing actual experts in on the subject to spurn requests to appear on the channel. Raising the question, what quality of information are we getting about the climate at all?

White’s Examiner piece echoed many of the same points:

“On RTÉ news climate change was almost always presented as an international news story so that the Irish farm fodder crisis, for instance, was never linked to climate change. Even as an international issue, coverage has collapsed to the point that the recent UN climate talks in Warsaw were not covered at all.”

Stewart later apologised to his Twitter followers, saying, “I honestly hope that with all that happened today that the seriousness of is not lost. Its too important an issue”, to which I responded, “you raised plenty of serious issues, the fact that Irish news orgs chose to forefront the ‘meltdown’ story proved your point”.

[You can listen to the interview here]

The Finance Bill, there is no alternative

Even in the absence of a functioning government the Irish Times continues to campaign relentlessly for passage of the Finance Bill, a move that will seal “the abnegation of our economic sovereignty“.

Both the parties and media pundits realise that if the bill is not passed before the Dáil is dissolved it will be rejected by the public in the election.

“Today’s controversy will surround the enactment of the Finance Bill. Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan claims that it would be logistically impossible for him to get the Bill through the Dáil by Friday. The normal timetable for the passage of the Bill would be the end of March. The main Opposition parties, now including the Greens, want it done by Friday so that the election can be called. It is worth remembering that this is no normal Finance Bill. Rather, it is the domestic requirement to satisfy the terms of the bailout by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. There is little wriggle room in this Bill for any party, including Sinn Féin. All of the hours of debate in the world won’t turn back the clock on our loss of sovereignty.” [A time for reckoning, 24/1/11]

“The Green Party will now be on the Opposition benches along with Fine Gael, the Labour Party, Sinn Féin and a number of Independents. The challenge facing all of them is to find a way of ensuring that the Finance Bill is passed over the next week or so, despite the absence of a government. All agree with Fianna Fáil that the Bill should become law before the general election begins. The problem is that there is a serious difference of opinion between Fianna Fáil and the rest as to whether it can be done.” [Drama far from over as FF seeks to pass Finance Bill, 24/1/11]

AT ANY other time, the publication of the Government’s Finance Bill might be expected to generate much discussion and debate but the current political turmoil dominates the media to such an extent that the Bill published yesterday is little more than a sideshow. However, the Finance Bill, which will put into legislation the measures announced in last month’s Budget, is the only reason the Government is still in existence. If there is one major item that Fianna Fáil and the Green Party are still in agreement on, it is that the Finance Bill must be passed by the 30th Dáil. Most of the significant measures in the Bill are necessary to fulfil the terms of the bailout that the Government negotiated with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. This State no longer has sovereignty over its fiscal policy and it will not reclaim it until many years have passed and many billions of euro have been repaid.” [Bill is tough but necessary, 22/1/11]

“The Green Party is standing by its commitment to remain in Government until the Finance Bill has been passed. It hopes that climate change and other legislation can also be secured. Spurred on by the farming and business lobbies, Fianna Fáil backbenchers are preparing to revolt over carbon control legislation and in the circumstances, Mr Cowen is unlikely to upset them any further. Political observers have suggested that Mr Gormley would have improved the party’s chances of avoiding annihilation in the election had he left Government, offering to support the Finance Bill from the Opposition benches.” [What a difference a day makes, 21/1/11]

“Passage of the Finance Bill will bring the 30th Dáil to an end. That legislation is due to be introduced next week. While the Opposition parties have offered to facilitate its speedy passage, Mr Cowen is sticking with traditional timing, much as he did in rejecting EU pressure to introduce an early Budget. The upshot is likely to be a late February/early March completion date. In the meantime – and in spite of grumbles of “jobs for the boys” from the Green Party – the Taoiseach is likely to refresh his Cabinet by replacing Mr Martin, Mary Harney, Dermot Ahern and perhaps others who have announced their retirement.” [Deckchairs on the Titanic, 20/1/11]

“The Opposition parties should guillotine the passage of the Finance Bill and bring on the election.” [They are where they are now, 19/1/11]

“As political events unfold, it might be in the national interest for Fine Gael and Labour to agree that they would guillotine the Finance Bill through the Dáil and Seanad – if their primary aim is to have a general election as soon as possible.” [Fianna Fáil convulsions, 17/1/11]

“This amounts to an unwillingness to face the electorate. Only one piece of legislation is required before the Dáil is dissolved and that is the Finance Bill. It could be enacted quickly if the political will exists.” [Edging towards a general election, 8/1/11]

“THE NEED for a general election at the earliest possible opportunity has increased, rather than diminished, in the aftermath of the Budget. There should be no question of a long, drawn-out debate on the Finance Bill in the New Year or waiting until special legislation on climate change or corporate donations has been adopted. The sooner the electorate is given an opportunity to shape the political future of this State, the better. We are at debt’s door and it is simply not good enough to revert to party politics.” [Election required as soon as possible, 10/12/10]

The irrationality of the Irish electorate

Irish Times editorials often characterise the Irish public as angry and irrational, responding emotionally to economic and political crises instead of pragmatically.

View from the Irish Times building

I initially wanted to write a post titled ‘The Dáil Gazette, or as its commonly known the Irish Times‘ looking generally at the how the Times’ opinion pages are so often adorned with analyses and editorials that seem to have been lifted from the crib notes to a speech at the Fianna Fáil tag-rugby club awards evening, for instance:

“THE FIANNA Fáil leadership issue will now be brought to a conclusion. Brian Cowen put it up to his critics, particularly Micheál Martin, to put or shut up.”

“The Taoiseach played a blinder in his press conference after a 48-hour consultation period with his parliamentary party last evening.”

“His message was courageous, open and democratic.”

“He hit the right note by stating that his decision to stay on as Taoiseach was in the interests of the country, not the party.” [Fianna Fáil convulsions 17/1/11]

But more specifically, I wanted to find out whether the Times’ seemingly populist calls for an early election were always immediately followed by various justifications for a delay of that necessity. For example, here is the Irish Times in December 2010 calling out for a general election:

“THE NEED for a general election at the earliest possible opportunity has increased, rather than diminished, in the aftermath of the Budget. There should be no question of a long, drawn-out debate on the Finance Bill in the New Year or waiting until special legislation on climate change or corporate donations has been adopted. The sooner the electorate is given an opportunity to shape the political future of this State, the better. We are at debt’s door and it is simply not good enough to revert to party politics.” [Election required as soon as possible, 10/12/10]

“THE SOONER a general election is called the better. Public approval for the way the State is being run has shrunk to 8 per cent while the level of dissatisfaction with the Government has ballooned to a staggering 90 per cent. Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s approval rating has shrunk to an all-time low of 14 per cent while, taken together, the Coalition parties now command a shrinking support base of 19 per cent. Such a comprehensive rejection of policies, personalities and parties should not be ignored.” [Volatile movements, 16/12/10]

However, before we get around to the difficult business of elections, there is a pressing issue at hand – a very good reason why an urgently needed election must be postponed just a little bit longer. If it’s not NAMA, or various bank nationalisations, or negotiations with the ECB and IMF, or emergency budgets etc, its the Finance Bill:

“This amounts to an unwillingness to face the electorate. Only one piece of legislation is required before the Dáil is dissolved and that is the Finance Bill. It could be enacted quickly if the political will exists.” [Edging towards a general election, 8/1/11]

“As political events unfold, it might be in the national interest for Fine Gael and Labour to agree that they would guillotine the Finance Bill through the Dáil and Seanad – if their primary aim is to have a general election as soon as possible.” [Fianna Fáil convulsions, 17/1/11]

“The Opposition parties should guillotine the passage of the Finance Bill and bring on the election.” [They are where they are now, 19/1/11]

But, trawling through the archives I was distracted by a phrase that kept popping up – ‘the angry electorate’:

“Brian Cowen will lead on. The general election may be deferred until March. But the outlook for the Government parties is so bleak that only a miracle can save them from the anger of the electorate.” [‘Looking towards a fresh start‘ 27/12/10]

The angry electorate is everywhere in the opinion pages of the Times, especially in the editorials.

“The anger and volatility of the electorate has been revealed in the latest Irish Time /Ipsos MRBI opinion poll that also shows an unprecedented shift of support between the Opposition parties as uncertainty grows about the composition and policies of the next government. The findings reflect the political turmoil that beset the State as the Government sought a financial bailout from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union; published a four-year economic plan and introduced an unpopular Budget that broadened the tax base and cut welfare payments.” [Volatile movements 16/12/10]

“The public has become angry and frustrated by the incompetence of the Government and the apparent insulation of many Oireachtas members from the realities of the daily grind.” [Facing up to the realities, 28/10/10]

“The frenzied reaction of the media was not pretty to behold but did reflect the level of anger that exists among an electorate shocked and bewildered at what is happening to the country – and the seeming inability of the Government to get to grips with it.” [Traumatised electorate deserves a leader at the top of his game, 16/09/10]

“For more than a year now, I have spent most of my working weeks mixing with people from many parts of Ireland. I have had time to gauge the public mood. There is deep anger and a feeling of helplessness; a fear of the future and a profound sense of betrayal. There is, to a worrying degree, disillusionment with the whole political system.” [FF and Greens must bow out while sanity still prevails, 13/1/11]

“Nobody has been held accountable for the damage done to the State. Public anger is palpable. Structural, indeed moral, reforms are needed.” [Holding banks to account, 15/12/10]

“At this stage, the public is so angry and disillusioned by economic mismanagement and the shenanigans of government ministers that it doesn’t really care who leads Fianna Fáil […] The anger out there is palpable.” [They are where they are now, 19/1/11]

In the last two cases, ‘the anger out there is palpable’ and ‘public anger is palpable’, it sounds as if the editor, or whoever was tasked with writing the editorial, imagines themselves trapped inside the Dáil along with the elected officials, attempting to save or salvage the country’s economy while the hounds of public opinion attempt to ram the gates with a cement truck.

This ‘anger’ is used as a unsubtle means of implying the public simply doesn’t understand economic realities. It is predicated on the assumption that the public is inherently irrational, that the reason for their disapproval of various measures, such as austerity budgets, bank guarantees and bailouts, is down to the fact they simply don’t understand there, is, no, alternative:

“[In Argentina] The failure to navigate between an angry public and the fiscal constraints of IMF conditionality cut short a dozen careers in the Argentina finance ministry in the last decade. Is this the future that awaits a potential Fine Gael-Labour coalition?” [Next government must be able to take decisions, 6/12/10]

“Growing and understandable public anger, coupled with extreme economic events, has prompted the political system to table a range of policy and legislative changes that could only be described as a mixed bag. Some measures, such as those aimed at reducing the cost of doing business and the broadening of the tax base, are sensible and long overdue. Others though are ill-advised, populist or poorly thought-out and will stifle economic regeneration.” [Danny McCoy (IBEC) and Paul Sweeney (ICTU) head-to-head, 31/12/10]

“From conversations with Opposition figures, I know they are genuinely angry at Government failures, and believe strongly it should be replaced. But I also sense a genuine desire to do what is right for the country.” [Strategy for tackling deficit widely seen as incomplete, 28/09/10]

That anger is a euphemism for the public’s perceived irrationality is demonstrated by those instances where it is mitigated with words like ‘justifiable’, ‘understandable’ or ‘righteous’:

“President Mary McAleese said the crisis engulfing Ireland “obliged” us to “to take a step back” and discuss the country’s future. Ireland needs to channel the “righteous anger” people are feeling into national debate” [Ireland needs a national forum for cogent debate, 26/10/10]

The ‘angry electorate’ is such a staple phrase of political reporting that journalists even make joking references to it:

“I think journalists’ fondness for public office, which usually strikes the journalists concerned in late middle age – hey, I am so there – comes from our communal conviction that we are running the country already. We shout about the state of the nation quite a lot when we’re on the phone to each other. We laugh knowingly. We curse and swear. We do a little bit of swaggering at our keyboards. Because we know the score. Politicians are idiots. These conversations constitute our political experience, and qualify us to dash out looking for a nomination, a book deal or a chance to address the angry horde and give it the benefit of our opinion.” [Being a TD could add up to being the perfect job, 17/1/11]

Politicians, on the other hand, can be seen showing the public how it should be done:

“IT SAYS something for the shell-shocked state of our politicians that yesterday’s Budget, certainly the most savage in living memory, was spelled out to a Dáil chamber that, for the most part, was resigned and subdued rather than angry and boisterous. The public was waiting for the hit that will determine their living standards, not just for Christmas but for the next couple of years or so. At least there is some certainty about the expectations we can have about our living standards now.” [Everybody takes a hit, 8/12/10]

‘Resignation’ is the proper, logical, adult reaction to necessary budgetary ‘tightening’ and tax base ‘broadening’. A sentiment hammered home in the headline, ‘Everyone takes a hit’.

There is also the inbuilt idea, that the public is tempestuous, or perhaps even childish, that they simply want to vent their frustration by voting for a different party or leader:

“The only argument for Cowen remaining on is that he would act as a lightning rod for all the pent-up anger felt by the electorate at the country’s plight. Once the voters have vented their frustrations on Cowen in an election, a new leader might be able to pick up the pieces and rebuild the party.” [Sharp decision on Cowen will return focus to election, 15/1/11]

“They have had time to reflect over the break. They have spent more time with their constituents and come face to face again with the extent of public anger at the party. They have also come to appreciate the extent to which that anger is focused, somewhat unfairly, on Brian Cowen in particular.” [Senior Fianna Fáilers hold fate of party in their hands, 15/1/11]

“An increasingly angry electorate has already demonstrated its determination to punish the junior Coalition partner with a severity that has shocked the Green base. The party went into the 2009 local elections with 15 city and county councillors and emerged with just three, making it practically impossible to keep Green issues anywhere near the top of local government’s agenda.” [Besieged Greens focus on electoral survival, 16/09/10]

And if this anger is not adequately “navigated” by politicians and journalists alike, it can lead to the masses being swayed by “crackpots”:

“In short, they are mostly realists because they have always had to be. But at times like this, they too can be swayed by crackpots offering easy solutions, particularly if these appear to be finding some echo amongst the elites.

The Irish public is being urged to “dismantle the power structures”, “take back the nation”, and “reclaim the Republic” by people who, given half a chance, would reduce the country to a perpetually bankrupt, pariah state. For just a start, they would default on international loans; leave the EU; and set about creating some pseudo-Marxist dystopia (a North Korea without the military hardware, a Cuba without the sun).” [FF and Greens must bow out while sanity still prevails, 13/1/11]

A potential that was clearly evident in the Lisbon Treaty referendum, where the public allowed the ‘crackpots’ to trick them into voting the wrong way:

“The potential of this dynamic, deeply angry at a political establishment perceived as out-of-touch, has already found expression in the two Lisbon referendums.” [I’m putting my money on a new political movement, 15/12/10]

It’s very easy for journalists to dismiss the public as angry and irrational, in fact, in a lot of ways, it is fundamental to what they do.

“the slow return in confidence”

“Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan said he believes the spread between Irish bonds and benchmark German bunds will ease from current “crisis” rates to the more sustainable levels seen in April of this year, if the Government’s fiscal policies are implemented.”

“”Much of the reason for the slow return in confidence [sic] lies in the parallel weakness of the fiscal situation,” he said.”[Irish Times, 10/11/10]

Where’s the evidence?

Forget austerity, we’ve won the lotto

Matt Cooper’s introduction to an interview with Lorna Siggins on The Last Word, Today FM, 7/10/10:

“For many people getting an oil or gas find is a bit like winning the lotto, untold riches flow, great benefits for everybody involved. Unfortunately it’s not always like that, certainly when it comes to the Corrib gas field discovery, made as far back as 1996. It is a decade since the works started, trying to have the gas from that field processed in Ireland and yet all we’ve had over the last decade is misery and anger and rows and disruption and people’s lives, in many cases, not quite ruined, but very very adversely effected, and it is all part of a new book by Irish Times journalist Lorna Siggins, Once upon a time in the West.”

Listen here. [starts Part 1 – 17:30 mins]

The remainder of the interview, while interesting in the areas covering the social consequences of the project and the safety concerns, entirely failed to explore the subject of these ‘untold riches’. Given the state of the economy, the tone of this introduction is depressingly familiar. Just as negotiations or, god forbid, proposals to renege on zombie bank debt are marginalised in public discourse, so too are suggestions to revisit contracts made by previous governments in relation to these finds.

We needn’t bother even mentioning the phrase ‘Climate Change’, it is so far removed from the discourse at this stage that even whispering it would be to make oneself an outcast of intelligent mainstream debate.

For more on those untold riches and how they are to be divided:

The Great Corrib Gas Controversy, Centre for Public Inquiry, November 2005

On a slightly unrelated note, there is a photograhpic exhibition of Canada’s tar sands between London and Tower Bridge:

Image via Oil Change International

Reuters – Bureau Chief, Iraq

There’s another article in today’s Irish Times about US plans to reduce troop numbers in Iraq. It makes the same ‘mistakes’ as previous reports mentioned here and here. But among the errors and distortions there is one howler that stands out…

Dear Michael,

Further to your report on the latest reduction in US troops numbers in Iraq [1], which I came across in the Irish Times [2], I wanted to point out the following. You write:

“up to 106,071 Iraqi civilians also died in fierce warfare unleashed between majority Shi’ites and minority Sunni Muslims who dominated the country under Saddam.”

This figure corresponds to that provided by Iraq Body Count [3], who count those civilian deaths reported in the media. Yet IBC freely admit their figures “can only be a sample of true deaths unless one assumes that every civilian death has been reported. It is likely that many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the media. That is the sad nature of war.” [4]

Further, the deaths recorded by IBC “includes deaths caused by US-led coalition forces and paramilitary or criminal attacks by others.” [5]

Kind regards,

David [Email, 19/8/10]

Reuters Bureau Chief, Iraq, Michael Christie responded as follows:

“thanks for outpointing” [Email, 19/8/10]

1. http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE67H62C20100819
2. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2010/0819/breaking2.html
3. http://www.iraqbodycount.org/
4. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6045112.stm
5. http://www.iraqbodycount.org/about/

Response to “War – Defense – Security – ?”

Response to War – Defense – Security – ?:

“Thank you very much for your email.
 
I thought I was entering a note of caution when I made clear that the shift from the combat fighting role was largely a linguistic one – noting Obama’s acknowledgment that there would still be “American sacrifice”. And of course the reduction from 140,000 or so in early 2009 has been a longer term process.
 
Indeed, the August 2010 date was always something of a midway point between the dates the Bush administration agreed with the Iraqis, for withdrawing US troops from Iraqi cities in summer of 2009 and supposedly pulling out altogether at the end of 2011.
 
So I take your wider point that there was a certain amount of spin in the speech – which is why I described it as an attempt to boost his standing as a war president and contrasted his claims with the casualty figures, in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

All best and thanks again” [Email, 4 August, 2010]

My bad. Sometimes you just need a bigger magnifying glass to find the criticial analysis.

War – Defense – Security – ?

Yesterday’s Irish Times featured two reports on Iraq. The first of which declared: “US combat troops to leave Iraq by end of month“. The second claimed that “Violence [in Iraq] has fallen sharply in the last three years.”

The second report states that “nearly 400 civilians were killed in bombings and other attacks in July.” Iraqi government officials however put the figure at 535, with a further 1,000 injured, in what they describe as “the deadliest month in Iraq since May 2008.”

Yet the Irish Times goes on to say “violence has fallen sharply in the last three years.” What this doesn’t tell you is that a) civilian deaths are roughly back to where they were in the two years following the invasion and b) any which way you look at it, 400 deaths or 535 deaths, even using conservative estimates this is the most deadly month in Iraq of 2010.

But, Irish Times, let’s stick to the good news.

The first report looks like the kind you or I might write, if we chose to limit our research to whatever we can find in US government press releases. While they’d be basically accurate, albeit within the strict limits we’d set out, inevitably, what we would have left out would have been of far more interest.

For example, we wouldn’t have discussed whether the reduction in troops signifies any change in terms of policy, we wouldn’t have asked whether the situation that necessitated the troops presence yesterday no longer applies today (which relates neatly back to the second report) and most importantly we wouldn’t have asked the leaders of the country being (partially un)occupied what they thought of the whole charade.

In late 2008 Obama pledged that he “would remove combat troops from Iraq in 16 months.” It’s now about 16 months on, so that explains why we have an Irish Times report declaring the “US would meet its deadline of ending combat operations in Iraq at the end of this month.” However, as you’d imagine that’s not the whole story, a few paragraphs later we are told: “US forces in Iraq are scheduled to be cut to just 50,000.” So actually what the writer is trying to tell us, in a roundabout way, is that troop numbers are to be reduced from “a peak of more than 140,000” to about a third that number.

That’s not really the whole story either though, the peak in troop numbers over the last few years was more like 170,000, but that’s back in October 2007. Troops numbers prior to this news were neither 140,000 nor 170,000, they were more like 98,000. So the troop numbers are only planned to be halved.

But again, that’s not even half the story. Actually, its almost exactly half the story.

As of May 2010 there were approximately 250,000 contractors (or mercenaries to you and me) working in Afghanistan, Iraq and the U.S. Central Command, with almost 100,000 of them active in Iraq (and at least 11,000 of these armed). Which is exactly the same as the number of US troops deployed there.

So, in total the US has approximately 200,000 military or contracted military personnel in Iraq at present. With Obama’s ‘withdrawal’ the US has reduced numbers by about one quarter. Which hardly warrants a headline like “US combat troops to leave Iraq by end of month”.

This headline is essentially justified by Obama’s rhetorical trick of calling this particular quarter of the US occupying force “combat troops” and the work they were undertaking the “combat mission”.

In reality though, where rhetorical gadgets like the one above are dismissed, the US is not withdrawing from Iraq, it is simply switching from what is referred to as a “military” force to a “security” force. According to Jeremy Scahill, writing in The Nation, “The [US] State Department is asking Congress to approve funds to more than double the number of private security contractors in Iraq,” apparently submitting a request to the Wartime Contracting Commission for up to 7,000 further hired guns. Which may just signal another rebranding, from the Department of War, to the Department of Defense, to the Department of Security.

[Update: A response to this post from the writer of the second report can be found here]