NBC Catches Up With ABC to Highlight Safer, Better Life in Iraq

Three weeks after ABC's World News aired the first of three stories then and since about significant declines in violence and improving living conditions in Iraq, NBC Nightly News caught up Wednesday night as anchor Brian Williams acknowledged: “We are all hearing more and more these days about a significant drop in violence and deaths in Iraq, even though 2007 some time ago became the bloodiest year of the war, yet for U.S. forces these new stats show a different trend.”

From Iraq, reporter Tom Aspell illustrated how life has improved:
A few months ago, Ali Hamid could not have sold balloons here on Jadriyah Street. He might have been kidnaped or killed. A few blocks away, Azar Habud might have been shot for giving Western-style haircuts in his barbershop. And nearby, Mohammed Hassan's ice cream shop is still busy, even though it was bombed twice in April, killing nine customers. Back then, explosions were a horrifying part of everyday life. Now, the U.S. military says rocket and mortar attacks in Iraq have dropped sharply in the last few months from 1,000 in June to fewer than 400 in October. And so have civilian deaths.
Aspell noted how Iraqis get electricity for only seven hours a day and that many don't have access to clean water, but concluded with how “despite the everyday hardships, there is a bright note -- wedding halls are back in business” and “Iraqi authorities say weddings have tripled in the past month.”

On Monday night, only the CBS Evening News reported the drop in mortar and rocket attacks. See the November 13 NewsBusters item: “Only CBS Notes Fewest Rocket and Mortar Attacks in Two Years.”

My previous NewsBusters postings on how, until NBC's piece Wednesday night, ABC's World News has been the only broadcast network evening newscast airing reports from Iraq on improving conditions:
October 22: “ABC Airs Upbeat Iraq Story on Fallujah's 'Remarkable Turnaround.'”

October 30: “ABC: Iraqis Adapt to 'New Normal' as 'Violence on Downward Trend.'”

November 2, on the November 1 World News: “Only ABC Reports Military's Stats on Violence Plunging in Iraq.”
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the November 14 story on the NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: We are all hearing more and more these days about a significant drop in violence and deaths in Iraq, even though 2007 some time ago became the bloodiest year of the war, yet for U.S. forces these new stats show a different trend. When our own Tom Aspell went out in Iraq to report this story, he found there are, indeed, signs of change.

TOM ASPELL: A few months ago, Ali Hamid could not have sold balloons here on Jadriyah Street. He might have been kidnaped or killed. A few blocks away, Azar Habud might have been shot for giving Western-style haircuts in his barbershop. And nearby, Mohammed Hassan's ice cream shop is still busy, even though it was bombed twice in April, killing nine customers. The second time was right in front of the shop, he says.

Back then, explosions were a horrifying part of everyday life. Now, the U.S. military says rocket and mortar attacks in Iraq have dropped sharply in the last few months from 1,000 in June to fewer than 400 in October. And so have civilian deaths. Last December, 2,172 people died violently in Iraq. In October, the number was 750. Why the sharp drop? The U.S. military says the 30,000-troop surge and deploying them to live in troubled areas has made a critical difference. And 70,000 mainly Sunni fighters have turned against al-Qaeda and are now working with the U.S. as part of neighborhood watch programs.

REAR ADMIRAL GREGORY SMITH, U.S. MILITARY SPOKESMAN: We also have these growing numbers of concerned local citizens who are working neighborhood by neighborhood to secure their way of life.

ASPELL: Baghdad used to be under a strict dusk-until-dawn curfew. Only soldiers and death squads moved around at night. But with the number of attacks dropping, the curfew has been pushed back to midnight to give people a few hours out in the evening. But basic services are still a problem here. Iraqis still only get an average of seven hours of electricity a day. And according to a new U.N. study, only one in three Iraqi children under the age of five has access to safe drinking water.

But despite the everyday hardships, there is a bright note -- wedding halls are back in business. Hida and his bride have been waiting a year to tie the knot. "We decided to marry now because it became safer than before," he says. They are not alone. Iraqi authorities say weddings have tripled in the past month. Tom Aspell, NBC 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