ABC Airs Upbeat Iraq Story on Fallujah's 'Remarkable Turnaround'

<img src="/static/2007/10/2007-10-22-ABC-WNCG-Gibson.jpg" align="right" />A rare upbeat story on Iraq ran Monday night on ABC's World News. Anchor Charles Gibson touted “an extraordinary comeback story” about Fallujah, the city of one of the war's bloodiest and longest battles, but now where reporter Miguel Marquez discovered bustling markets, Marines welcomed by kids and no car bombs or shootings of Marines in several months. Gibson effused about how “we have an extraordinary comeback story tonight from the place where the Marines suffered their worst losses of the war. Fallujah is undergoing a remarkable turnaround. Tribal leaders, local officials and the U.S. Marines have united behind a common cause. Bringing security to a place that had been one of Iraq's most insecure.” <br /><br />Over matching video, Marquez described how “the markets bustle. Traffic chokes the streets. Marines, once despised here, are now a welcome sight.” Viewers saw video of a Marines with kids before Colonel Rich Simcook told Marquez: “This is one of my big measures of effectiveness, where, you know, kids will come up to you, you know, they feel safe to come out and play.” Speaking with a Marine Sergeant, Marquez wondered: “When's the last time you were shot at these days?” The Marine replied: “I'd say, end of March.” Marquez saw a corollary sign things are going well: “The last car bomb in Fallujah was in May.” Though Marquez added some caveats about high unemployment and the lack of weapons for the Iraqi police, he concluded on the bright side: “There are encouraging signs. Schools just opened, and enrollment is at its highest since before the war. Construction, from huge infrastructure projects to fixing sidewalks, is everywhere. Fallujah even sports solar street lights...” <br /><!--break--><br />ABCNews.com, in the <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/wn#" target="_blank">World News section</a>, has video of a shortened (about one minute) version of the Marquez story. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=3747189" target="_blank">Direct link</a> to the abbreviated video.<br /><br />The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the October 22 World News story:<br /><blockquote>CHARLES GIBSON: In Iraq itself, we have an extraordinary comeback story tonight from the place where the Marines suffered their worst losses of the war. Fallujah is undergoing a remarkable turnaround. Tribal leaders, local officials and the U.S. Marines have united behind a common cause. Bringing security to a place that had been one of Iraq's most insecure. ABC's Miguel Marquez reports tonight from Fallujah.<br /><br /><img src="/static/2007/10/2007-10-22-ABC-WNCG-kids.jpg" align="right" />MIGUEL MARQUEZ: The markets bustle. Traffic chokes the streets. Marines, once despised here, are now a welcome sight.<br /><br />COLONEL RICH SIMCOCK, U.S. Marines: This is one of my big measures of effectiveness, where, you know, kids will come up to you, you know, they feel safe to come out and play.<br /><br />MARQUEZ: Colonel Rich Simcock has been the main battlefield commander in Fallujah for the past ten months.<br /><br />SIMCOCK: Every day, it just gets a little better.<br /><br />MARQUEZ: In that time, he has witnessed a sea change.<br /><br />SIMCOCK: For someone that doesn't know Fallujah, you know, you'd look around like, well, this is kind of a dirty city. We're walking almost in the center of the city. Numerous battles have been fought in this area, and we're walking around, no one shooting at us.<br /><br />MARQUEZ: Battles that left the city devastated.<br /><br /><img src="/static/2007/10/2007-10-22-ABC-WNCG-Burton.jpg" align="right" />SERGEANT CHUCK BURTON, U.S. Marines: And there was times, we were rolling through the city, you get there through sundown, you were guaranteed to either get popped on or get shot at.<br /><br />MARQUEZ: And when's the last time you were shot at these days?<br /><br />BURTON: I'd say, end of March.<br /><br />MARQUEZ: The last car bomb in Fallujah was in May. Soon after, tribal leaders, fed up with al-Qaeda's violent ways and strict Islamic codes, looked to the Marines for help. This is something that was unthinkable just a few months ago -- shops that are filled with produce, people on the streets, but Fallujah still has a very, very long way to go. As security has improved, tens of thousands of people have returned. The downside, unemployment has rocketed to 70 percent, a problem Fallujah's young mayor is trying to solve now. &quot;Terrorists give money to out-of-work civilians,&quot; says the mayor. &quot;We are under pressure to create jobs quickly so young people won't be tempted to fight.&quot; So they are expanding the police force rapidly. &quot;We're getting lots of volunteers,&quot; says the police chief. &quot;When we ask for 50 more officers, we see 200 people step forward.&quot; The Iraqi police, not the Marines, are now in charge of security here. But many officers don't have proper weapons, training, or even uniforms. Does this stop bullets?<br /><br /><img src="/static/2007/10/2007-10-22-ABC-WNCG-Marquez.jpg" align="right" />UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No, no.<br /><br />MARQUEZ: There are encouraging signs. Schools just opened, and enrollment is at its highest since before the war. Construction, from huge infrastructure projects to fixing sidewalks, is everywhere. Fallujah even sports solar street lights. It is a city in recovery, with a lot of hard work ahead. Miguel Marquez, ABC News, Fallujah.<br /></blockquote>

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