ABC: Iraqis Adapt to 'New Normal' as 'Violence on Downward Trend'

Both NBC and ABC on Tuesday night noted the smallest number of American servicemen killed in Iraq since March of 2006, but while NBC's Brian Williams stressed the total number killed since the war began, ABC's Charles Gibson segued to a story about “booming” markets and significantly improving life in Baghdad. Eight days ago, ABC uniquely highlighted Fallujah's “extraordinary comeback story.” [See below] Williams cited three soldiers killed, observing “that brings the toll for October to 37 Americans dead, which we should point out is the lowest monthly total in a year and a half. Since the war started almost four and a half years ago, more than 3800 Americans have died in the war in Iraq.”

Gibson listed 36 as killed, not 37, and clarified “some of them in non-combat-related incidents.” After relating how “that is the lowest number of U.S. deaths since March 2006,” Gibson described “violence on a downward trend” in Iraq so now “Iraqis are learning to adapt to what might be called a new normal.” Reporter Miguel Marquez conveyed how Baghdad's largest market is “booming. Big sales, says this vendor. Everything, 2,000 dinars. There hasn't been an attack here since February.” Marquez highlighted “pockets of security where life is starting to get back to normal,” but, he acknowledged, “it's not a normal by most standards” since though “large-scale violence between Sunnis and Shiites has stopped,” there "are still criminal gangs” so “most people...are too afraid to leave their homes.” Still, “with wedding season coming up,” a woman florist “is hopeful that business and life will get back to something like normal.”

An October 22 NewsBusters posting, “ABC Airs Upbeat Iraq Story on Fallujah's 'Remarkable Turnaround,” recounted:
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."

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..."
The brief item from Brian Williams, in Philadelphia, on the October 30 NBC Nightly News:
One issue certain to come up tonight [at the Democratic debate on MSNBC], the war in Iraq. Three more Americans were killed there today when an IED went off southeast of Baghdad. That brings the toll for October to 37 Americans dead, which we should point out is the lowest monthly total in a year and a half. Since the war started almost four and a half years ago, more than 3800 Americans have died in the war in Iraq.
The story on the October 30 World News on ABC:
CHARLES GIBSON: In Iraq today, another indication of how things are changing. This month, 36 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. Some of them in non-combat-related incidents. That is the lowest number of U.S. deaths since March 2006. With violence on a downward trend, Iraqis are learning to adapt, to what might be called a new normal. Here's ABC's Miguel Marquez in Baghdad.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ: Shorja market, Baghdad's largest, is booming. Big sales, says this vendor. Everything, 2,000 dinars. There hasn't been an attack here since February. Today, the market is secured with concrete barriers. Everyone entering gets frisked. All goods must be carted in by hand. "The security keeps out the bombs," says this businessman. "But we have a very hard time carrying in our merchandise." And shoppers take a risk getting out. Since February, at least 48 people have died in bomb, gun and mortar attacks in the area surrounding Shorja market. It's a similar story across Baghdad. Pockets of security, where life is starting to get back to normal. But it's not a normal by most standards. Captain Mark Battjes has been trying to get the Jamiah [?] neighborhood back on its feet for the past five months.

CAPTAIN MARK BATTJES, 3rd INFANTRY DIVISION, U.S. ARMY: We're at the process of going from being a ghost town to coming back to something like normal.

MARQUEZ: On this day, Captain Batttjes is helping businesses apply for grants, up to $25,000 each.

BATTJES: Things are starting to explode. That money is starting to grease the wheels in the economy.

MARQUEZ: Yustafa Roqman [sp phonetic] is one of 700 business people in Jamiah seeking a grant. Security is good enough, he says, that his computer store will open next week.

ROQMAN: I am beginning to building my future.

MARQUEZ: On one deserted lot, Achman Ahmad's [sp phonetic] flower shop is the first business to reopen in a year and a half. "Now that other people in the neighborhood have started to reopen," she says, "we reopened." But so far, not one customer. Large-scale violence between Sunnis and Shiites has stopped here. But there are still criminal gangs. Most people in Jamiah are too afraid to leave their homes. Still, with wedding season coming up, Achman is hopeful that business and life will get back to something like normal. Miguel Marquez, ABC News, Baghdad.
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