Only ABC Airs Full Story on Good Iraq News, NBC Can't Resist Caveat

The Pentagon on Monday released a quarterly report showing dramatic reductions in violence in Iraq compared to a year earlier, but only ABC aired a full story Monday evening while NBC gave it short-shrift as anchor Brian Williams cited the reduction in violence “by as much as 80 percent” since “before the so-called troop surge.” He then added a caveat about how the report “also warns the positive trend here remains, quote, 'fragile, reversible and uneven.'” CBS didn't mention the Department of Defense report, but gave a few seconds to a front page USA Today story on how the number of Americans killed by roadside bombs has plummeted 88 percent from a year ago.

Fill-in ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased, “Report card: The government says there's good news from Iraq. Violence is down dramatically, while security and the economy are improving.” Reporter Terry McCarthy recited how “civilian deaths are down 75 percent since last July. Total security incidents are at their lowest level in over four years.” McCarthy credited “a number of reasons for the progress: Better performance by the Iraqi security forces; surprising new leadership by Prime Minister Maliki, who's confronting both al-Qaeda and the militias; and the creation of 103,000 Sons of Iraq -- local security forces, many of them recruited from the insurgency.” Indeed, McCarthy confirmed the Pentagon's assessment:
For the past three weeks, we've traveled the length of Iraq, from Basra in the south to Mosul in the north, and the reduction in violence is remarkable everywhere.

McCarthy also highlighted an up side to rising oil prices, the increased revenue is helping Iraq: “One other thing that's going Iraq's way, Elizabeth, the rising price of oil. At over $130* a barrel, the government is generating substantial revenues that it can use to rebuild the economy.”

Couric's short item on the Monday, June 23 CBS Evening News:

Tonight, dramatic evidence that Iraq has become safer. According to USA Today, last month 11 Americans were killed by roadside bombs. That's down 88 percent from a year ago when 92 Americans were killed. Officials credit better protection and more help from Iraqi forces.

The brief report from Brian Williams on the NBC Nightly News:

 

The Pentagon reports tonight that overall major violence is down, as much as 80 percent compared with the peak of the violence in that period before the so-called troop surge. The report gives credit to Iraq's own security forces as well, but it also warns the positive trend here remains, quote, “fragile, reversible and uneven.”

The NBC Nightly News has been the most reticent of late to acknowledge improvements in Iraq. My June 17 NewsBusters item, “Takes Bombing for NBC to Note 'Letup in Violence of Late in Iraq,'” recounted:

It took a bombing which killed 51 Iraqis for NBC anchor Brian Williams to acknowledge "there's been a letup in the violence of late in Iraq." Unlike his ABC and CBS colleagues, two weeks and a day earlier Williams failed to report the death toll for Americans in Iraq in May was the lowest for any month since the war began. On Tuesday night, however, he announced: "Last night here we reported there were more Americans killed in Afghanistan than in Iraq in the month of May. It's generally believed there's been a letup in the violence of late in Iraq. That is until today."

Also check my June 16 NewsBusters item, “Williams: Afghanistan Deadlier Than Iraq, As If Iraq Not Improving” and June 2 NewsBusters posting, “NBC Nightly News Spikes News About Fewest Troop Deaths of War.”

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the story on ABC's World News:

ELIZABETH VARGAS: Now, to Iraq and a report today to Congress about the state of the war there. The Pentagon said that indicators of major violence are down 40 to 80 percent since before the surge began in February of 2007. And while the political and economic situation continues to improve, the situation is fragile and reversible. ABC's Terry McCarthy is in Baghdad tonight.

TERRY McCARTHY: The Iraq war is not over, but according to today's report, the situation on the ground has improved substantially in the past year. Civilian deaths are down 75 percent since last July. Total security incidents are at their lowest level in over four years. And the report notes that many Iraqis are now settling their differences through the political process, rather than with violence.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: They have started to fight in a way that they hadn't before. And so certainly all the progress is tenuous, but the good news is we now have a viable partner fighting with us and for their own country.

McCARTHY: However, the military is careful not to declare victory prematurely.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL LLOYD AUSTIN, III, MULTINATIONAL CORPS-IRAQ: While the improved security is a great achievement, we clearly understand that our progress is fragile, and we continue to work to make this progress irreversible.

McCARTHY: There are a number of reasons for the progress: Better performance by the Iraqi security forces; surprising new leadership by Prime Minister Maliki, who's confronting both al-Qaeda and the militias; and the creation of 103,000 Sons of Iraq -- local security forces, many of them recruited from the insurgency. For the past three weeks, we've traveled the length of Iraq, from Basra in the south to Mosul in the north, and the reduction in violence is remarkable everywhere. In Basra, we walked through neighborhoods that were too dangerous even for the military to patrol last year. In the Hawija area near Kirkuk, the local U.S. commander told us al-Qaeda is defeated in his area. And in Mosul, the last major urban holdout of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, we met today with the mayor, who said his main job now is economic development. "We are inviting companies," he says, "to come invest in the city."

One other thing that's going Iraq's way, Elizabeth, the rising price of oil. At over $130 a barrel, the government is generating substantial revenues that it can use to rebuild the economy.
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