ABC Finds Optimistic Iraqis and Kids Playing Safely on the Street

Marking the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, ABC's Wold News on Monday provided a status check on how Iraqis view their lives and, consistent with how the newscast has been the most willing of the broadcast network evening shows to acknowledge positive developments, anchor Charles Gibson explained “we have polled inside Iraq and there is some good news.” Specifically, “today, 55 percent of Iraqi say their lives are going well. Last summer that number was 39 percent.”

From Iraq, Terry McCarthy reported “you cannot say that life is good in Iraq today. Not yet. Only that life is less bad.” However, McCarthy outlined:
As our poll takers spread across the country they found that for the first time in three years, people were more worried about economic and social problems than violence. And almost half think their country will be better off in a year -- double the number six months ago. In Dora, in southern Baghdad, we found these kids playing on the street. A year ago, they would haven't dared to come outside....
McCarthy noted how “73 percent still oppose the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq,” but he observed, “in a telling reality check, only 38 percent want U.S. troops to leave now, afraid that the gains in security might be reversed.”

“Even Fallujah has turned around,” McCarthy learned, “as the local population has largely abandoned the insurgency and now they're focusing on rebuilding the city from the ruins of war,” though tough tasks remain with most complaining about electrical shortages and poor health care services.

In contrast, NBC Nighty News anchor Brian Williams stressed the negative Monday evening as he reported that two soldiers killed in Iraq “brings the total American death toll to 3,990.” Richard Engel then provided a full story on a suicide bomber in Karbala and the visit to Iraq by John McCain and Vice President Dick Cheney.

ABC anchor Charles Gibson also noted the suicide bombing as he introduced McCarthy's story.

(The MRC on Monday posted a Media Reality Check compilation of highlights from several reports and studies on war coverage, “Five Years of Slant Against Iraq War Success; MRC Studies: Nets Minimize Iraq Success and Heroism, Emphasize Setbacks and Purported Atrocities.”)

From the Monday, March 17 World News on ABC:
CHARLES GIBSON: Next we turn to Iraq, where both Vice President Cheney and Republican nominee John McCain were visiting today. The Vice President came to mark the fifth anniversary of the war and called the improved security situation “phenomenal.“ There was a major security breech, however. In southern Iraq today, a woman blew herself up near one of Iraq's holiest shrines in the Southern city of Karbala. More than 40 people were killed.

We're going to begin a special series tonight aimed at getting beyond the headlines and answering a basic question: How are Iraqis doing five years later? We have polled inside Iraq and there is some good news. Today, 55 percent of Iraqi say their lives are going well. Last summer that number was 39 percent. Here's our Baghdad correspondent Terry McCarthy.

TERRY McCARTHY: You cannot say that life is good in Iraq today. Not yet. Only that life is less bad. As our poll takers spread across the country they found that for the first time in three years, people were more worried about economic and social problems than violence. And almost half think their country will be better off in a year -- double the number six months ago. In Dora, in southern Baghdad, we found these kids playing on the street. A year ago, they would haven't dared to come outside. But now, says young Mustafa, “Things are not half bad.” As security has improved so have household finances. Iraqis now earn an average of $403 a month compared to $322 last year. With more money in circulation and commerce booming. We found gold-sellers are opening for business again.

Though the U.S. troop surge has clearly made a difference, 73 percent still oppose the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. But in a telling reality check, only 38 percent want U.S. troops to leave now, afraid that the gains in security might be reversed.

The city of Fallujah became an icon for all that was worst in the war in Iraq. It on this bridge that they hung up four American contractors who were killed and burned back in the back in March of 2004. But today even Fallujah has turned around as the local population has largely abandoned the insurgency and now they're focusing on rebuilding the city from the ruins of war. Huge challenges remain. 62 percent said medical care was bad and 88 percent told us they didn't have enough electricity. “It is true they put up wires and transformers,” says this man in Fallujah. “But what is the use? There's no power.”

The number of Iraqis wanting to emigrant is still increasing. Over a third now say they would like to leave if they could, including these Christians we met in the north.. “How many people here want to go to another country, want to leave Iraq completely?” [most hands go up] Most Iraqis are staying.

In Fallujah, we met [woman's name], the town's first woman radio talk show host. She gets calls from listeners about marital and relationship problems, not about the war. “I enjoy talking about my feelings and other people's problems,” she says, “no matter how small they are.” Many Iraq's problems are far from small. But ever so slowly, Iraqis are facing up to their problems and beginning to talk about what a normal life might be. Terry McCarthy, ABC News, Fallujah.
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