ABC Sees 'Impressive Gains in Iraq' While CBS Finds Bad Hospitals

As was pattern earlier this year and last, ABC's World News is much more willing -- than its CBS and NBC competitors -- to acknowledge good news in the Iraq war. On Tuesday night, ABC's Martha Raddatz cited “some really impressive gains” as she reported the plummeting number of attacks in Baghdad, falling from 1,278 in June of 2007 to 112 last month. The night before, only anchor Charlie Gibson highlighted the “upbeat assessment of security in Iraq today from Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen.”

Neither the CBS Evening News nor NBC Nightly News mentioned Mullen on Monday night while NBC's Jim Miklaszewski only noted less violence in Iraq in contrast to a “record number of Americans killed in Afghanistan last month,” so “if there's any bright side here...it's that the level of violence in Iraq has come down enough” to allow the military to move resources to Afghanistan.

Tuesday night, CBS anchor Katie Couric offered just a clause on violence in Iraq -- “Iraq's national security adviser called today for setting a timetable, a sign Baghdad is growing more confident as the violence decreases” -- before finding a away to deliver depressing news about Iraq: How though Iraqi oil profits “are on the rise,” the “money is not going to one place it's desperately needed.” That would be ill-equipped hospitals.

Tuesday's NBC Nightly News aired nothing about Iraq.

Recent items on how the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts have approached Iraq:

The Tuesday, July 1 NewsBusters posting, “Hume Correctly Predicts Only FNC Would Report Progress in Iraq,” recounted:
After leading Tuesday's Special Report with how "last year the administration reported satisfactory progress on only about eight of 18 benchmarks" while this year, in a report disclosed Tuesday, the administration determined "there has been satisfactory progress on 15 of the 18," FNC's Brit Hume doubted "word of this progress is going to get through" to the public as he predicted: "I suspect that this broadcast tonight -- and maybe some others on this channel -- are the only ones who are going to make a headline out of this. This is not going to be a big story elsewhere."

Indeed, neither the CBS Evening News nor NBC Nightly News mentioned Iraq while on ABC's World News anchor Charles Gibson read a short update about "increasing dangers for U.S. troops in Afghanistan" since "in the month of June there were 28 American fatalities in Afghanistan, just one less than died in Iraq last month." CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 was also silent Tuesday night about the benchmarks....
The shows didn't catch up on Wednesday night.

The Monday, June 23 NewsBusters item, “Only ABC Airs Full Good Iraq News Story, NBC Can't Resist Caveat,” revealed:
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.
The Tuesday, June 17 NewsBusters article, “Takes Bombing for NBC to Note 'Letup in Violence of Late in Iraq,'” reported:
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."
The Monday, June 16 NewsBusters item, “Williams: Afghanistan Deadlier Than Iraq, As
If Iraq Not Improving,” recounted:
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 to this week:

Martha Raddatz on the Tuesday, July 8 World News in a story about how the Iraqi government wants to set a timetable for the departure of U.S. troops:
But listen to some of these security gains, Charlie. June of 2007 -- 1,278 attacks; April 2008 -- 740; June 2008 -- 112; and July 2008, this month -- only 19 attacks so far. Those are some really impressive gains.
Katie Couric set up the Tuesday night CBS Evening News coverage of Iraq:
Iraqi officials are at odds tonight with the Bush administration over U.S. troop withdrawals. Iraq's national security adviser called today for setting a timetable, a sign Baghdad is growing more confident as the violence decreases. Iraqi oil profits meanwhile are on the rise, but the money is not going to one place it's desperately needed. Here's Elizabeth Palmer.
Palmer began:
In the five short minutes it takes Dr. Haider Rashid to examine this patient, Iraq will have pumped more than a million dollars worth of oil, that's more than $300 million worth every day. But you wouldn't know it looking at the emergency room of the Khadimiya hospital. U.S. Army doctors say it's one of the best in the city, and yet it lacks the most basic supplies....

Political in-fighting has so squeezed Iraq's health budget that only $68 is allocated per person. Compare that to, for example, $650 per person in Mexico and $2,500 in the United States....
Gibson on ABC's World News on Monday, July 7, as caught by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
An upbeat assessment of security in Iraq today from Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen, who is touring the country. He said reduced sectarian violence, more political reconciliation, and the strengthening of the Iraqi army all could lead to the withdrawal of more American troops. And no Americans have been killed in action in Iraq in the last 11 days. However, the violence in Afghanistan continues to escalate. This time a suicide bomber set off a powerful explosion in the capital city of Kabul. The blast ripped through a crowd waiting to apply for visas at the Indian embassy. At least 40 people killed, over 140 wounded. It was the worst attack since the Taliban fell in 2002.
Jim Miklaszewski concluding a Monday evening NBC Nightly News story on more resources going to Afghanistan:
With violence on the rise, the record number of Americans killed in Afghanistan last month, and all those commanders say they need all the firepower they can get. If there's any bright side here, Brian, it's that the level of violence in Iraq has come down enough that commanders feel confident turning the Lincoln loose, leaving no American aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf to help fight that war.
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