Dismissing Signs of Progress, ABC, NBC Paint Dismal Portrait of Iraq

Keying off the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war this Tuesday, the networks will be running overviews of the situation there all week. Judging by the opening salvos this morning on ABC and NBC, you might when tuning in want to hide the sharp objects and keep the Zoloft handy. The picture painted is ceaselessly dismal, with any bright spots ignored or explained away.

Take the report by ABC's Terry McCarthy on today's Good Morning America. After citing weekend casualty statistics, he began by claiming that "now more than ever" Iraqis are nervous about the future of their country. According to McCarthy, "the sound of bombings and gunfire are constant backdrops to everyday life." Constant? Really? I daresay that in the great majority of the country, people rarely hear either. Even in hotspots like Baghdad, while such sounds are not unusual, neither are they "constant" by any means.

One challenge for the MSM is explaining away the largely peaceful and prosperous Kurdish north. McCarthy did his unlevel best: "even in northern Iraq's Kurdish region, which is relatively peaceful, the fight to keep terrorists out takes up a lot of time and energy. The Kurds dug a six-foot ditch all around the largest city, Irbil, to stop car bombs from entering."

After a bleak assessment of the Iraqi economy, and more on the security situation, McCarthy concluded: "Iraqis are learning how to survive like this. But it is eating away at their souls." ABC News: your official surveyor of souls.

Note that McCarthy excluded reference to the encouraging developments in recent weeks, or to the progress toward democracy Iraq has made. Over on "Today" this morning, reporter Tom Aspell, doing a similar overview, did mention the steps toward democracy -- but only for purposes of dismissing them. After reciting a litany of woe compararable to McCarthy's, he continued:

"There have been two nation-wide elections, and a constitutional referendum. The country now has a free press, and dozens of political parties. But it means little to Iraqis when there's no security; two-thirds of them believe the situation is worsening."

It's not clear what poll Aspell was relying on, but when GMA cited similar findings, it acknowledged that the poll had been taken before the current surge, which has been yielding hopeful, if still early, signs of success.

Compare and contrast with the poll cited in this Times of London article today, Iraqis: life is getting better, which found that "most Iraqis believe life is better for them now than it was under Saddam Hussein, according to a British opinion poll published today. The survey of more than 5,000 Iraqis found the majority optimistic despite their suffering in sectarian violence since the American-led invasion four years ago this week." H/t reader paulnashtn.

Predictably, neither McCarthy nor Aspell cited that poll or its findings.

The situation in Iraq is difficult and too-often deadly. But much of the country is largely peaceful and there are indications the new policies may be yielding positive results. But since that doesn't fit the MSM script, it is ignored or explained away. Moreover, does not Aspell insult Iraqis in suggesting they don't believe freedom and democracy are worth sacrificing for?

Mark was in Iraq in November. Contact him at mark@gunhill.net

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.