Only ABC Marks One Year Anniversary of the Successful Surge in Iraq

If the surge in Iraq did not work, you can be sure the networks would all use its one-year anniversary to highlight its failure, but on Thursday night only ABC's World News, of the three broadcast network evening newscasts, marked the anniversary. With “Surge Success” on screen, anchor Charles Gibson noted “it was one year ago today that the surge began in Iraq -- the troop buildup ordered by the President when so many of his critics were calling for a draw down of troops. 30,000 additional troops started arriving a year ago.” From Iraq, Clarissa Ward began over matching video:
If you're looking for one measure of the impact of the surge, look at General David Petraeus, walking through a Baghdad neighborhood with no body armor and no helmet. It's one year since the beginning of what's known here as "Operation Fardh al-Qanoon." According to the U.S. military, violence is down 60 percent. One key to the success, reconciliation.
Ward proceeded to outline how residents of one Baghdad neighborhood “who had fled have flooded back in droves. "There is work," this mechanic told me. "Shops have reopened." But the Iraqi government has yet to capitalize on the relative peace. The hope is that the passing of the budget this week will spur the Iraqi government to act.”

Ward concluded with how Petraeus is “normally very guarded in his assessment of the surge,” but “now expresses cautious optimism.” Petraeus asserted: “I have to tell you that having been here for a number of years, this is very encouraging, actually. This is potentially a big moment.”

Thursday's CBS Evening News didn't have time for Iraq, but did make room for a five-minute long taped Katie Couric interview with Michelle Obama and the NBC Nightly News skipped the anniversary, but did end with a story on two-year old girl brought from Iraq (by Marines via a Tennessee church pastor) to Vanderbilt Hospital for a life-saving operation.

My February 13 NewsBusters item, “ABC Uniquely Lists 'Crucial' New Laws Passed by Iraq's Parliament,” recounted:
Unlike the Wednesday CBS and NBC evening newscasts, ABC's World News highlighted a favorable development in Iraqi political progress as anchor Charles Gibson gave 20 seconds to:
Overseas, in Iraq, a breakthrough for the country's government that has been so often criticized. Iraq's parliament approved three contentious, but crucial, new laws long sought by Washington. The laws set a budget for 2008, grant amnesty to thousands of detainees and define the relationship between the central government and the provinces.
Media interest in Iraq has declined as conditions have improved. The February 1 NewsBusters item by the MRC's Rich Noyes, “As U.S. Troops Succeed, Network News Retreats from Iraq War Story,” reported:
...over the last five months, the broadcast networks have consistently reduced their coverage of Iraq, as if the story of American success in Iraq is less worthy of attention than their old mantra of American failure in Iraq.

Media Research Center analysts tracked all coverage of the Iraq war on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from September 1 through January 31, and we documented a steady decline in TV coverage of Iraq that has coincided with the improving situation in Iraq. Back in September, the three evening newscasts together broadcast 178 stories about the war in Iraq; in January, that number fell to just 47, a nearly fourfold decrease....
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the story on the February 14 World News with Charles Gibson on ABC:
CHARLES GIBSON: It was one year ago today that the surge began in Iraq -- the troop buildup ordered by the President when so many of his critics were calling for a draw down of troops. 30,000 additional troops started arriving a year ago. Most remain. For our "Closer Look" tonight, we take stock of a year's changes. And the U.S. commander, General David Petraeus, found a way to demonstrate the changes. Clarissa Ward reports from Baghdad.

CLARISSA WARD: If you're looking for one measure of the impact of the surge, look at General David Petraeus, walking through a Baghdad neighborhood with no body armor and no helmet. It's one year since the beginning of what's known here as "Operation Fardh al-Qanoon." According to the U.S. military, violence is down 60 percent. One key to the success, reconciliation.

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS: And a big part of the effort over the last year has been to determine who is reconcilable? Who literally is willing to put down his rifle and talk? Who is willing to shout instead of shoot?

WARD: This is the Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad. It used to be one of the most violent areas of the city. One year into Operation Fardh al-Qanoon, and that level has dropped dramatically. But there is still a desperate need to restore basic services. Before Shiite militiamen wreaked havoc in the streets. Then, U.S. and Iraqi troops moved into the neighborhood, earning the trust of local people, finding those men willing to put down their guns. In recent months, residents of Jihad who had fled have flooded back in droves. "There is work," this mechanic told me. "Shops have reopened." But the Iraqi government has yet to capitalize on the relative peace. The hope is that the passing of the budget this week will spur the Iraqi government to act.

PETRAEUS: So that they can start going about the jobs that are so essential, like patching the roads that we bounced down today, improving electricity, fixing water systems.

WARD: Normally very guarded in his assessment of the surge, the General now expresses cautious optimism.

PETRAEUS: I have to tell you that having been here for a number of years, this is very encouraging, actually. This is potentially a big moment.

WARD: A big moment the General wants to make the most of. Clarissa Ward, 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