Osama bin Laden Cites ABC News Story in Denouncing U.S. Role in Iraq

In an ABC News Special Report shortly before 3:30pm EDT, Brian Ross revealed that in a new video, Osama bin Laden “even refers to a broadcast on ABC News on an American soldier in Iraq complaining about the war.” Anchor Elizabeth Vargas explained: “Seems to be referring to that particular story that was run on July 16th of this summer by our Nick Watt in Baghdad.” An ABCNews.com posting quoted bin Laden:
“It would benefit you to listen to the poignant messages of your soldiers in Iraq, who are paying -- with their blood, nerves and scattered limbs....Among them is the eloquent message of Joshua which he sent by way of the media, in which he wipes the tears from his eyes and describes American politicians in harsh terms and invites them to join him there for a few days.”

The Tuesday, July 17 edition of the MRC's CyberAlert recounted how “ABC's World News on Monday night featured video of what was described as 'great candor' from 'bitter' soldiers in Iraq, one of whom demanded: 'I challenge the President or whoever has us here for 15 months to ride alongside me.'”

[UPDATE, 7:35pm EDT: On Friday's World News, Ross again noted how bin Laden cited the complaining soldier in ABC's story, and Ross added: “Perhaps, says bin Laden, his message 'will find in you an attentive ear so you can rescue him' and others in Iraq."

From the September 7 World News:

BRIAN ROSS: ....Bin Laden makes several references to a range of recent world events: The new French President, the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis, the August anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, even a July report, carried on ABC News and British television, about a U.S. soldier in Iraq complaining about U.S. politicians.

SPECIALIST MICHAEL VASSELL (from the July story, see screen shot of him below): Who don't know what they're doing.

ROSS: Perhaps, says bin Laden, his message “will find in you an attentive ear so you can rescue him” and others in Iraq....

PDF of a transcript of bin Laden's rant, as posted by ABCNews.com.]

The July 17 CyberAlert continued:

Fill-in anchor David Muir explained how "photographer Sean Smith of the British newspaper The Guardian was recently embedded with the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division in Baghdad. Tonight, what he returned with: American soldiers speaking with great candor about what they face there every day." Unsaid by Muir, that The Guardian is a far-left socialist newspaper.

Nick Watt, who narrated the piece which showcased an incident in which the soldiers killed an apparently innocent taxi driver, relayed how "the soldiers of Apache company are tired and they're bitter." Viewers then heard from Specialist Michael Vassell: "Because we have people up there in Congress with the brain of a 2-year-old who don't know what they're doing, they don't experience it. I challenge the President or whoever has us here for 15 months to ride alongside me. I will go on another 15 months if he comes out here and rides along with me every day, 15 months." Following up with Martha Raddatz, Muir repeated his "candor" characterization: "How unusual is that they would use such candor to express what their up against?"

The ABCNews.com online version of the story.

A search of The Guardian's site determined that ABC's "exclusive" is two months old, as the paper in May printed the same still shots ABC showed Monday night.

The transcript of the report on the July 16 World News on ABC, [in which Specialist Michael Vassell, not Corporal Joshua Lake, made the comment cited by bin Laden]:
ANCHOR DAVID MUIR: We turn now to Iraq and an ABC News exclusive. Tonight we have an extremely rare and raw look at what American soldiers are going through on the front lines. Photographer Sean Smith of the British newspaper The Guardian was recently embedded with the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division in Baghdad. Tonight, what he returned with: American soldiers speaking with great candor about what they face there every day. Here's ABC's Nick Watt.
NICK WATT: They have been here for a year. For the soldiers of Apache company, this day is like so many others. They're investigating a bomb-making factory hidden in a private home. Then an explosion [screams]. An Iraqi soldier bears the brunt. Neighbors, including children, are hit. U.S. soldiers, only one of them a medic, set up a first aid station and do what they can. Specialist Michael Vassell is among them.

SPECIALIST MICHAEL VASSELL: I challenge anybody in Congress to do my rotation. They don't have to do anything, they just come hang out with me and go home at the times I go home and come stay here 15 months with me.

WATT: Apache company was sent to Iraq in June 2006, on a 12-month rotation. Then extended to 15.

CORPORAL JOSHUA LAKE: It's a joke. We will have to spent 14 months in contact [meant 'combat'?], basically.

WATT: Corporal Joshua Lake's platoon is on what's known as rapid reaction duty one morning when the call comes in [shouting and swearing]. A Bradley armored vehicle is hit by a roadside bomb. Six American soldiers and an Iraqi translator are burning to death inside. Lake and his fellow soldiers raid a nearby house, searching for the attackers. [lots of yelling]

LAKE: We got grenades going off. We've got an IED blowing up your vehicle and then you are expected to go back in those four to six, four to five hours and get -- and relax. To come back and do another six hours, you don't have time. You just don't have time to do it. Your body never gets to come down, you're always on that heightened sense of alertness. You just don't have that. You don't have the rest.

WATT: Two days later, Specialist Lake is back in the neighborhood. His unit raids a house, looking for weapons and insurgents. They find neither, just an old woman and her dogs. Next day, U.S. soldiers spot a suspicious car circling the block where the old woman lives. They order the driver to stop. When he doesn't, they open fire. [Various voices: "No he's dead," "He's moving," He got one in the throat."] They try unsuccessfully to revive him. This woman says he was a taxi driver coming to pick her up. He was just looking for her house. The soldiers of Apache company are tired and they're bitter.

VASSELL: Because we have people up there in Congress with the brain of a 2-year-old who don't know what they're doing, they don't experience it. I challenge the President or whoever has us here for 15 months to ride alongside me. I will go on another 15 months if he comes out here and rides along with me every day, 15 months. I'll do 15 more months. They don't even have to pay me extra.

WATT: For Apache company, there is no rest. Nick Watt, ABC News.

DAVID MUIR: The soldiers' platoon was supposed to come home in May. Their tour has been extended to September. ABC's Martha Raddatz has been to Iraq 13 times since the war began, each time covering the troops themselves. And Martha joins us tonight. Martha, I know that you just heard what these soldiers had to say. How unusual is that they would use such candor to express what their up against?

MARTHA RADDATZ: David, I think it's highly unusual they would say that to a camera. But really, the longer you spend with them, the more they'll talk about their frustration and exhaustion. I've heard similar things on many trips over there. They really do believe that people back in Washington have no idea what they're going through day after day.

MUIR: We know that General Peter Pace is in Baghdad right now. Is it likely that he will hear comment like these?

RADDATZ: I've heard a few soldiers be very candid with some senior leaders, but not to the extent these soldiers were. You really have to be out with them to hear that sort of talk.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center