The following article below is about the pros and cons of the Iraq war as it was originally written for Demand Media’s culture section. The article was ultimately rejected by one of the editors and I subsequently lost my “writing privileges” with Demand Media. I feel the need to protest this decision, and in particular the remarks made by the senior editor reviewing my work, as I feel rather insulted by the way I was treated by the people who are working at a company that prides itself on hiring experts to produce their content. The way it works is Demand Media provides subjects/headlines for writers to pick from which they then have a certain period of time to submit a 400-500 word first draft. The editor asks for a rewrite and then the writer makes the changes and re-submits. After approval the writer is paid via PayPal within two weeks of the article going live. At first glance $25/article seems fair since it is all online work with no interviews and minimal expenses for the writer, however it’s not quite so simple.
Not only does the writer have to spend a good chunk of time picking and choosing assignments, finding credible sources approved by Demand Media, and going out of the way to ensure all the most important information is squeezed into under 500 words in a way which the writer can only guess is what one of the many different editors will be looking for, but then they have to deal with the editor’s often surprisingly insulting comments, find new sources deemed credible and unbiased by the editor, re-write, re-submit, find a picture, choose keywords, list the sources, and respond to the editors comments. For any quality work to be done by anyone who is an expert in their field then the timeframe one is looking at to complete an article runs between 2 and 3 hours, depending on how high of quality the writer wants his or her work to be, how quickly the internet is running, which editor the writer gets, and how long it takes to find a picture using Demand Media’s photo search tool. I personally spent about 5 hours on at least one article I wrote, and that doesn’t include the time I was locked out from Demand Media’s website because of whatever problem they were having with their server.
Anyway, here is my complaint about the rejected article: To begin with, the editor said the sources I used in my first draft were biased. I used a U.S. State Department report documenting Iraq's weapons arsenal and some of Saddam Hussein's brutal policies during his years in power. The editor said this report was biased because in the opening paragraph of my article I state that the evidence used to show Iraq had WMDs was proved false, so I had to assume the editor was considering the State Department report to be a part of that evidence. Fair enough I guess, but here’s the problem – what isn’t considered biased or part of the evidence that was presented to the public in this case? My intentions were to show not only that Iraq reportedly had these weapons, but that Saddam's policies were brutal and oppressive. Since I could not use the State Department as a source to back this up, I also had to assume that all U.S. government documents and media reports related to Iraq’s policies and use of chemical weapons under Saddam Hussein would be considered biased and part of the evidence presented to the public as well, and therefore I could not use any eyewitness accounts of torture or chemical weapons used by Iraq that was published by the U.S. government, shown to Congress, or reported to the public, as that would be considered part of the evidence I said was proved false. This is problematic because I also had to use a credible source as well, and eyewitness accounts would seem the most credible, as I’ve always been taught to get as close to the original source as possible for both academic papers and journalistic articles to ensure accuracy and credibility, as someone who has not experienced an event surely cannot be as credible a witness as someone who did experience that event, but who knows what the editor thinks credible and unbiased really means in this instance. I ended up replacing the State Department report with a Human Rights Watch report and an Amnesty International report documenting Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war and his brutal means of torturing and suppressing the Iraqi people. The editor seemed okay with that. Phew! Thirty minutes of my time finding and reading the reports not wasted.
But there were other problems. I used a Center for Strategic and International Studies report on U.S. strategies to counter Iran in the Gulf to showcase how the relationship between the U.S., international coalition partners, and Gulf Cooperation Council states was strengthened during the invasion and lead up to the war in Iraq. The editor said this was biased because it came from a right-wing think tank. Strange, she didn’t say anything about Noam Chomsky being a biased, left-wing source. Anyway, I replaced that source with a report by the U.S. Army detailing the support provided by international coalition forces during the lead up to and the subsequent invasion of Iraq to show how military, economic, and political relationships between the U.S. and other states (not just GCC states) were in fact strengthened during this time period. I backed the claim that GCC member states’ relationships improved with the U.S. during this time period with an academic article highlighting important parts of the history of the GCC-U.S. relationship. The report shows that U.S.-GCC relations were at a fairly high point in 2003 during the lead up to the war, and it shows that trade between U.S. and GCC states increased in 2003 and the following years. The relationship, which looked good politically and militarily in 2003, changed to being a bit shakier in the latter part of the decade, with GCC states working more closely with Iran then they had in the past, but that change in the relationship didn’t come until several years after the 2003 invasion. Apparently this was not good enough for the editor, as it didn't prove to her that the relationships I state were strengthened were really improved because of the move against Iraq at the time. This is all pretty straightforward stuff though. Saddam Hussein was a threat to GCC states and having him removed from power made the leaders of those countries feel more secure. As the old saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But it was just too much work for the editor to read the reports and do the fact checking herself, as she said it was my job to give her the page numbers on these documents to show her exactly where the documents proved my points. Of course, she didn't ask for page numbers on any of the other documents when making her initial comments for re-write. If she had, I would have provided them with my second draft. So all in all that was at least a good half hour of my time wasted. All together that’s one hour spent trying to find the “right” sources to back up just two of the sentences I wrote. Imagine if I had to spend that much time for each sentence that required a source to back it up.
I wasn't given the opportunity to re-submit a third draft with my explanations and the page numbers. I was just rejected, with no pay for my time! My advice is to not work for Demand Media. It is a waste of valuable writing time and in the end a big disappointment. Because I was not allowed to go over 500 words I don’t feel like I was ever able to provide the best quality work possible, but I did what I could with what I had to work with. If you do decide to work for a content farm like Demand Media just remember that for $25/article you are only getting paid $8.33 an hour for an article that takes three hours to complete. Time yourself and if you are able to find and complete every article you write in under two hours then go and double check your articles to see if what you are producing is really quality work written by an expert in the field. I’m sure many will argue that an expert won’t need to spend the time looking for those sources as they will already have them on hand from their prior expert-like experiences, but there’s no way anyone can be an expert on all the subjects Demand Media has to write about, and if you want to make any money at all with them you have to write on unfamiliar subject matter, and besides not every expert can remember all their best sources and will most certainly spend the time to find both new and old sources they think are relevant to what they are writing about. That means spending the time searching for and reading the source material over carefully to ensure it is indeed credible and in support of the writer's statements.
Others will say I’m just not a good writer, am not suited for the job, or probably just don’t know anything about Iraq. I’m modest enough to say the first two points may be true enough, but I do know a little about Iraq since I was helping to improve the military relationships between the U.S. and coalition forces just prior to the invasion while I stationed in Kuwait from November 2002 to March 2003, working with members of both Kuwaiti and British military units. While in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 I worked directly with Iraqi police officers helping to provide security at municipal government buildings where local and foreign dignitaries met and worked. I also stood guard with gurkhas from Nepal, and worked with subcontractors from all parts of the world. These joint international military/police operations demonstrated to me that at the very least the individual relationships between people of different global military units were enhanced, improved, or strengthened because of the U.S. decision to invade Iraq. Another experience I had which demonstrated this improved relationship occurred in 2002 when I trained with the Qatari military and spent time at a military installation in Bahrain. Although this was prior to the invasion, it became pretty obvious to me that the war only brought those two GCC member states even closer to the U.S. in the following years.
Before joining the military I lived in Egypt for six months, during which time I went to school at the American University in Cairo where I studied with Egyptians, Kuwaitis, Palestinians, Lebanese, Saudis, and other Middle Easterners. While living in Egypt I was also able to visit Israel, first going through military checkpoints in the Sinai and stopping off in Doha before crossing the border and going on to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Besides the first-hand knowledge and experiences I have of Iraq and the Middle East, I also have knowledge of this part of the world from my studies as both an undergraduate and graduate student, where much of my academic focus was on the politics of the Middle East and Southwest Asia. So I would say I’m more of an expert on Iraq than perhaps any other subject matter I've studied in school, learned about through work, or wrote about for Demand Media, but of course that probably just makes me more biased right? Well I guess that makes all of Demand Media’s experts biased, or they just aren’t experts. That’s something to remember when using ehow.com’s Demand Media content for whatever new insight one may be looking for. Chances are the person who wrote the article doesn't have any real knowledge in that area, and if they did their articles would just be rejected because of their bias. Anyway, enough of my complaints. Enjoy the rejected article:
Pros & Cons of the 2003 Iraq War
The March 2003 U.S.-led military invasion of Iraq was launched on the pretense that Iraq’s government was in possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The intelligence used to justify the invasion was later proved false, and in turn the U.S. lost credibility in the eyes of the international community. The ensuing violence, loss of life, and continuing unrest in the region has wreaked havoc on the people of Iraq and has created many drawbacks for the United States. Despite these negative consequences, some involved in the conflict still benefited as a result of the invasion.
Pro: Iraq’s Leadership Change Removed Oppressive Policies
Prior to the 2003 war, Iraq was ruled by Saddam Hussein, a brutal dictator who suppressed the political rights of the majority Shiite population and used violent force and chemical weapons against the country’s Kurdish people. The 2003 invasion led to the removal of Hussein and other Baathist party members from power, creating a political vacuum later filled by members of different religious and ethnic groups who share power through parliamentary representation in the central government. On October 2005 Iraq adopted a permanent constitution that guarantees the rights of all Iraqis to participate in the political process.
Pro: Removing Hussein Strengthened Regional Alliances, Reassured their Security
U.S., NATO and coalition forces involved in the invasion of Iraq coordinated their wartime actions on a massive and unprecedented scale. Such large-scale international cooperation helped create and strengthen military, political and economic relationships between the U.S. and its regional partners such as Gulf Cooperation Council member states Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman. Hussein’s fall from power helped reassure leaders of these countries they would not be attacked by Iraq’s military anytime in the near future, while it also encouraged closer cooperation with the United States and its western allies.
Con: U.S. Loses Credibility among International Community
When the media reported that no WMDs were found in Iraq the U.S. lost a lot of credibility among the international community. The U.S. government, under the leadership of George W. Bush, was accused of lying and manipulating the public in order to garner support for the invasion, which some have argued was really launched on behalf of commercial interests seeking to tap Iraq’s vast oil reserves. Because of the media’s revelations it has been much harder for the U.S. to garner domestic and international support to carry out further military actions in other parts of the world, and it has impeded the development of the relationships the U.S. had with its wartime partners.
Con: Death, Anti-Americanism and the Police State
Estimates for the number of deaths that occurred as a result of the conflict in Iraq since March 2003 range from Iraq Body Count’s conservative number of about 112,000 to Opinion Business Research’s estimate of over 1,000,000. In addition to the negative consequences of the unnecessary loss of life, many people, such as MIT professor emeritus and political activist Noam Chomsky, argue that the U.S. military actions in Iraq and its broader war on terror have also increased anti-Americanism abroad and have given executive, police, and military powers greater domestic control over the public decision making process in direct opposition to the American model of democracy.
Congressional Research Service: Iraq: Weapons Threat, Compliance, Sanctions, and U.S. Policy
Amnesty International: Iraq, State cruelty: branding, amputation and the death penalty
Human Rights Watch: Genocide in Iraq, The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds
Election Guide: Iraq
World Intellectual Property Organization: Iraqi Constitution
U.S. Army: Allied Participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom
Exploring the U.S.-GCC Relationship, A Discussion of Trade, Investment, and Commercial Opportunities: Rebecca Puckett, Joshua Abel and Sara Keefe
The New York Times: World’s View of U.S. Sours After Iraq War, Poll Finds
Research Center: A Year After Iraq War
Institute for Public Accuracy: Colin Powell’s Infamous U.N. Speech, 10 Years Later: Deceiving Public, Ignoring Whistleblowers Led to War
Fahrenheit 9/11: Michael Moore
Al Jazeera America: Memory of Iraq war vote lingers over Congress’ Syria decision
Congressional Research Service: The Persian Gulf States: Post-War Issues for U.S. Policy, 2003
Iraq Body Count: The War in Iraq: 10 years and counting
Global Research: New analysis ‘confirms’ 1 million + Iraq casualties
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting: How many Iraqis Died in the Iraq War?
Wars of Terror: Noam Chomsky
The Washington Post: “Chat with Chomsky”
George Washington University, National Security Archive: Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction