During the 11pm hour of the March 21 Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper moderated a discussion on the media’s coverage of Iraq. Among those featured in the debate was Baghdad bureau chief for Time magazine, Michael Ware, who asserted that the "main winners" in Iraq were al-Qaeda and "superstar of international jihad" Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Cooper started off the debate by asking conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt why he believes that the public is only hearing bad news out of Iraq. Hewitt slammed the media:
"Anderson, I think the coverage of the Iraq invasion right from the start, all the way through to the present day, has been abysmal in the mainstream media...A lot of new media that goes to Iraq, whether it’s Michael Totten, whether it is Michael Yon, Bill Roggio, whether it’s Victor Davis Hanson or Laura Ingraham or, especially, Robert Kaplan, whose book, Imperial Grunts, is must reading on this, report back enormous progress being made in the country."
Ware sounded defensive as he went after those who dared to criticize the media:
"All of these critics who are saying that we’re not telling the good news stories, I’d like to know just how many of them have spent any time here on the ground? Or any of these people who are reporting the good news from within the belly of the U.S. military, how much time have they spent on the Iraqi street?"
Ware continued his rant: "I mean, what do you think ordinary Iraqis are talking about? Do you think they’re talking about the unfurling of the flag of democracy or that they’re grateful that the Americans have unveiled a new electricity plant, when they have not had electricity in their house for four days? When they have to queue at a gas station for two days. When the marketplace is blowing up with car bombs. When their cousins are showing up dead in the morning as a result of, of sectarian death squads through the night. What do you think is the refining experience for an Iraqi family?"
Hewitt, who acknowledged that Iraq remains a dangerous place, challenged Ware to say whether Iraqis are worse off today than under the regime of Saddam Hussein:
Hewitt: "Five years ago, we did not know what the quality of life for the Iraqis was. But it was a dismal, totalitarian regime, from which escape was not possible. And so while ‘the boom’ matters, and while those conditions are certainly desperate, in many parts of the country, and Baghdad is a dangerous place, compared to what, Mr. Ware? Compared to Baghdad under Saddam? Are you arguing that Iraqis are worse off today than they were four years ago?"
Ware did not fail to disappoint those eager to hear the United States is losing in Iraq.
Ware: "Yeah, well, I think if you asked a lot of Iraqis, I think you’d be surprised by what the answer is. A, a lot of them say, what, this is democracy? The joke is, you call this liberation? And, ok, let’s look at the context, as you suggest. Let’s look at the even bigger picture. What is the bigger picture? Who’s winning from this war? Who is benefitting right now? Well, the main winners so far are al-Qaeda, which is stronger than it was before the invasion. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a nobody. Now he’s the superstar of international jihad. And Iran, Iran essentially has a proxy government in place, a very, very friendly government. Its sphere of influence has expanded and any U.S. diplomat or seeing a military intelligence commander here, will tell you that. So that’s the big picture."
Ware finished by asking sarcastically: "Where’s that being reported?"
Cooper then asked CNN correspondent Nic Robertson how difficult it was to move around Baghdad. To his credit, Robertson admitted that while traveling around Iraq is more difficult now than immediately following the invasion, it is still a better situation than when Hussein was in power.
Nic Robertson: "If I go back to my days here under Saddam Hussein, when we would sit around waiting days to go out anywhere because we wouldn’t be given permission, it’s better."