ABC's McCarthy Begins Series for Iraq Invasion Anniversary, Sees 'Optimism'

On World News Sunday, ABC correspondent Terry McCarthy filed his first report in a weeklong series, "Iraq: Where Things Stand," which will give a progress report on the six-year anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom's beginning. After anchor Dan Harris introduced the story by relaying that McCarthy had found "optimism" in Iraq, McCarthy began his report by informing viewers of some positive effects of the country's lower violence levels, and that Iraqis are now more concerned about the economy than security. The ABC correspondent continued: "Iraqis are slowly discovering they have a future. We flew south to Basra, where 94 percent say their lives are going well."

McCarthy also informed viewers of economic improvements, relaying that, since last year, "shipping has increased threefold," that people have more money to buy expensive items like $600 cell phones, and that hospitals are able to purchase expensive equipment, even taking in eight percent of their patients from other countries.

As it appears that this series from ABC's World News will inform viewers on the successes of the Iraq war, it is also notable that last January, the day after President Obama's inauguration, ABC's World News also ran a report by Martha Raddatz highlighting concerns by some in the military that a troop withdrawal that was too quick could lead to a return of security problems in the country and endanger U.S. troops. Anchor Charles Gibson introduced the January 21 story: "The President also met with his National Security Council, the first step toward fulfilling his campaign promise of withdrawing all U.S. combat forces from Iraq within 16 months. But military planners are worried that his plan is too ambitious."

Raddatz filled in viewers on the potential consequences of withdrawing from Iraq too slowly – that there would be fewer troops to send to maintain order in Afghanistan. But she also raised concerns about withdrawing troops too quickly, and played a soundbite of an unidentified member of the U.S. Army who was reacting to Obama's inauguration speech:

MARTHA RADDATZ: The other extreme? All combat troops out by June 2010, which is what Mr Obama has promised. General Odierno and others fear this could mean an increase in violence – fears echoed by U.S. soldiers who watched the inauguration from Baghdad.

UNIDENTIFIED U.S. ARMY SERVICEMAN: My only concerns would be that the lower number of troops in the country would probably lead to less security and more attacks on troops that are still left in the country.

Raddatz concluded her report by relaying the hopes of some Pentagon officials that Obama would be willing to compromise on his troop withdrawal plan: "President Obama made no final decisions today. He will have more meetings next week, but Pentagon officials I spoke to today say they hope there is some sort of compromise, Charlie, between the three-year drawdown and the President's 16-month plan."

Below are complete transcripts of the relevant stories from the March 15 World News Sunday and the January 21 World News with Charles Gibson, from ABC:

#From the March 15 World News Sunday:

DAN HARRIS: It was six years ago this week that the U.S. and its allies invaded Iraq. And all this week, ABC News will be taking a look at what life is like in Iraq right now in our series, "Iraq: Where Things Stand." ABC's Terry McCarthy has been traveling all over the country, and this time, he found something new: optimism.

TERRY MCCARTHY: Markets without bombs, hummers without guns, ice cream after dark, busy streets without fear. Six years after the war started, more Iraqis now say the economy, rather than security, is the biggest concern in their lives: 32 percent against 20 percent. Sixty percent expect things to get better next year – almost three times as many as a year and a half ago. Iraqis are slowly discovering they have a future. We flew south to Basra, where 94 percent say their lives are going well. Oil is plentiful here. So is money, which they like to spend on expensive imports.

MCCARTHY, TO UNIDENTIFIED IRAQI MAN #1: You have many people buying cell phones for $600?

MCCARTHY: At the port, shipping has increased threefold since last year. But we didn't realize quite how quickly Iraq was returning to normal until we visited the new modern Al-Musawi Hospital.

MCCARTHY, TO UNIDENTIFIED IRAQI MAN #2: How much do you pay for that machine?

UNIDENTIFIED IRAQI MAN #2: 80,000 U.S dollars..

MCCARTHY: 80,000.

MCCARTHY: What surprised us most is that 8 percent of their patients come from overseas. But as Iraq rejoins the world, it is not immune to the global recession. Iraq's economy is almost entirely dependent on oil, so, with oil prices down this year, they have less money to spend on everything else. The private sector may be booming, but state-owned factories like this petrochemical plant cannot get the spare parts they need. It was idle the day we visited.

HUSSEIN AL SHAMMARI, BASRA PETROCHEMICAL PLANT: Very important for us on the technology side.

MCCARTHY: Much of the country is still stuck in the past. But now violence has gone down, Iraqis have a chance to start building a future that, until recently, they couldn't even imagine. Terry McCarthy, ABC News, Basra.

HARRIS: And there will be more of Terry's reporting on where things stand in Iraq all week here on ABC News.

#From the January 21 World News with Charles Gibson:

CHARLES GIBSON: As Jake Tapper mentioned earlier, the President also met with his National Security Council, the first step toward fulfilling his campaign promise of withdrawing all U.S. combat forces from Iraq within 16 months. But military planners are worried that his plan is too ambitious. Our senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz recently returned from her 18th trip to Iraq.

MARTHA RADDATZ: The presentation was made via video conference to the President by General Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. He talked about the current situation in Iraq, and will be presenting a plan. On one extreme, a three-year plan, withdrawing all forces by December 2011, which is what the U.S. agreement with the Iraqis calls for. The risk? The slower the drawdown, the slower the buildup of badly needed forces in Afghanistan. The other extreme? All combat troops out by June 2010, which is what Mr Obama has promised. General Odierno and others fear this could mean an increase in violence – fears echoed by U.S. soldiers who watched the inauguration from Baghdad.

UNIDENTIFIED U.S. ARMY SERVICEMAN: My only concerns would be that the lower number of troops in the country would probably lead to less security and more attacks on troops that are still left in the country.

RADDATZ: Security is not the only concern. On a recent visit to Kuwait and Iraq, commanders told us pulling out quickly would present a huge logistics challenge. In addition to returning more than tens of thousands of soldiers, acres and acres of equipment would have to be moved. Only about 10 percent of the equipment in Iraq returns to the U.S. by air. The rest goes back by sea, on these huge cargo ships. And all that equipment would have to be moved to port through what is still an active war zone – a potential choke point that could mean major delays. President Obama made no final decisions today. He will have more meetings next week, but Pentagon officials I spoke to today say they hope there is some sort of compromise, Charlie, between the three-year drawdown and the President's 16-month plan.