Williams: Afghanistan Deadlier Than Iraq, As If Iraq Not Improving

NBC anchor Brian Williams on Monday evening rued that Afghanistan “is too often called the other war or perhaps even the forgotten war” when “in the month of May, for the first time ever, American and allied combat deaths were higher in Afghanistan than the monthly loss in Iraq.” But that's as much because of good news from Iraq, which Williams ignored, as bad news from Afghanistan. The number of U.S. service personnel killed in Iraq in May was the fewest in any month since the war began in 2003 -- a positive trend Williams, unlike his colleagues at ABC and CBS, failed to share with his viewers two weeks ago.

Back on Monday, June 2, the other networks noted how 19 died in May as a result of combat in Iraq. In the same month, total U.S. (15) and allied troop deaths in Afghanistan rose to 23, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

The update from Williams on the Monday, June 16 NBC Nightly News:
To Afghanistan now where we reported from last week. We went there to take a closer look at the U.S.-led war effort there, the one that started, after all, in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks. But these days it is too often called the other war or perhaps even the forgotten war. And it's been a tough go. In the month of May, for the first time ever, American and allied combat deaths were higher in Afghanistan than the monthly loss in Iraq. And today came word that hundreds of enemy Taliban invaded villages just outside the city of Kandahar just three days after a Taliban attack on Kandahar's prison freed 400 insurgents.
My Monday, June 2 NewsBusters posting, “NBC Nightly News Spikes News About Fewest Troop Deaths of War,” recounted:
As lead-ins to short reports on the posthumous presentation of a Medal of Honor, ABC and CBS on Monday night managed to squeeze in -- more than 20 minutes into their evening newscasts -- brief mentions of how in May the fewest number U.S. servicemen were killed in Iraq in any month since the war began five years ago. But not NBC Nightly News. (And Sunday's Today and Nightly News, as well as Monday's Today, also skipped the good news.) NBC anchor Brian Williams on Monday led with worries that “because it's been underfunded for decades, mass transit may not be ready for all the Americans leaving their cars behind,” and ran his short update, on the Medal of Honor going to Army Private First Class Ross McGinnis, without anything about the decline in troops killed.

Two days later, FNC's Bill O'Reilly named Brian Williams his “pinhead” of the day for not reporting the low death level, enraging MSNBC's Keith Olbermann who made O'Reilly one of his “Worst Persons in the World” for relying on “the hilariously inept right-wing Web site NewsBusters.”

My Friday, June 6 NewsBusters item, with video, “Inaccurate Olbermann Ridicules O'Reilly for Relaying Accurate Item from 'Hilariously Inept Right-Wing Web Site NewsBusters,'” reported:

Erroneously recounting a Tuesday NewsBusters post I wrote about how, unlike ABC and CBS, the NBC Nightly News did not report the lowest U.S. death level in May for any month since the war in Iraq began, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Friday night made FNC's Bill O'Reilly his “Worst Person in the World” runner-up for “picking up some of his features from the hilariously inept right-wing Web site NewsBusters.” Olbermann proceeded to claim that NewsBusters had “criticized our colleague Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News for leading Monday's newscast not with the lower May casualty figures from Iraq, but with a story on how underfunded mass transit system can't keep up with increased ridership caused by the rape of the driver by Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and their oil buddies.”

But Olbermann is the inept one. The June 2 NB item did not scold Williams for failing to lead with the development (nor, of course, for any “rape” of drivers by Bush), but for not mentioning it at any time in his newscast: “ABC and CBS on Monday night managed to squeeze in -- more than 20 minutes into their evening newscasts -- brief mentions of how in May the fewest number U.S. servicemen were killed in Iraq in any month since the war began five years ago. But not NBC Nightly News.”

Derogatorily impersonating O'Reilly, Olbermann recited O'Reilly's Wednesday hit on Williams as his “pinhead” of the night. Olbermann then asked and answered about O'Reilly: “Surprised that you're a blithering sociopath cutting and pasting items from NewsBusters? No, I am not...”
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