Our analysts discovered quite a contrast on the evening news shows Monday night, displaying two different ways of covering Iraq. ABC's "World News Tonight" honored the Iraqi voter as part of a series on people of the year. "NBC Nightly News" aired another gloomy Richard Engel piece saying democracy in Iraq was like a kidnapped bride. MRC's Megan McCormack filed both transcripts to show the contrast.
NBC, 12/26: Anchor substitute Campbell Brown: “In Iraq, a Kurdish coalition and the main Shiite religious group have taken a third each of the earliest votes cast in the recent election. Those votes by expatriates, soldiers, prisoners and hospital patients are just a small percentage of the overall balloting. Meanwhile, the nation has suffered it’s bloodiest day since the election, with nine attacks that left at least twenty dead. NBC’s Richard Engel in Baghdad has the latest.”
Richard Engel: “With the re-emergence of violence and growing protests against the elections two weeks ago, this country is limping to its next political phase, the formation of a new government. For now, there’s a power vacuum, which insurgents are exploiting. Iraq’s Defense Ministry said today violence has returned to pre-election levels.”
General Abdul Aziz Jassam, Ministry of Defense: “The attacks now are designed to cast doubt on the elections.”
Engel: “In Baghdad, a motorcycle bomb killed three Shiites during a funeral procession, one of five bombings here this morning. In Diyala, the governor escaped an assassination attempt, a politician was kidnaped and an Iraqi police checkpoint was overrun. Five officers were killed.”
Unnamed Iraqi man: “We were attacked by sixteen gunmen in vehicles and another twenty came running from the orchards.”
Engel: “Violence fed by political uncertainty, stoked by Sunni Muslim parties disappointed that the Shiite majority won more power than they did. The election was like a blessed wedding in our city, said this cleric in Fallujah, but the bride has been kidnaped. More than forty parties plan to hold demonstrations here tomorrow to call for the elections to be re-held. It may just be political maneuvering, but Iraq now is fragile with no new government, doubts about the vote, and violence back in full swing. Richard Engel, NBC News, Baghdad.”
ABC, 12/26: Anchor substitute Kate Snow: "And finally tonight, all this week, we’ll take time to bring you what we consider the people of the year. Those who have gone above and beyond to make a difference. Tonight, they stood tall and went to the polls in the midst of war. And for that reason, we pay tribute to the courageous Iraqi voters. Here’s Elizabeth Vargas." [ABC plans to put its new anchors in the field a bunch.]
Elizabeth Vargas: "They walked for miles. They waited for hours. They braved very real threats of violence, and what they did changed their country. They were the Iraqis who voted by the millions. Voting, as a group of policemen told us, not because they were told to, but because they wanted to. They voted three times this year, in January, in October and then just two weeks ago. They approved a draft constitution, and they installed a parliament, the first democratically-elected assembly in a generation. In so many places, a cause for celebration.
"Across this war-torn country, one could sense the joy, the determination, the sense of shared responsibility. Every voter had to dip a finger in purple ink. It was a way to keep people from voting more than once. That purple smudge became a symbol, a badge of honor. Even children too young to vote showed off that badge. ‘My finger,’ another told us, ‘is like a thorn in the eyes of the terrorists.’ One man called it, ‘our purple revolution’. If it was a revolution, then these were the revolutionaries. A Shiite in Baghdad. A Sunni in Fallujah. A mother, her mother and her mother’s mother. Soldiers who voted early so they could guard the polls on election day. Voters had to be patient, as did this Kurdish boy in Irbil. The polls came to those who couldn’t go to the polls. The purple revolution, indeed. We cannot pretend to know what will come next for Iraq, what 2006 may hold. But we do know that in 2005, these millions of people made a difference, one purple ink stain at a time."
Snow: "And so we choose the Iraqi voters. The votes are still being tallied. Results are expected early in the new year. Then the hard work comes, forming the first permanent government in the new Iraq."