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ABC: Iraqis Hate U.S.; NBC: Iraqis Still Fear Hussein's Wrath -- 03/27/2003 CyberAlert


1. ABC: Iraqis Hate U.S.; NBC: Iraqis Still Fear Hussein's Wrath
When the Red Crescent food trucks arrived in Safwan, ABC's Mike von Fremd heard Iraqis denouncing America. "People are sick and hungry" because of the U.S. invasion one woman complained and von Fremd highlighted a man who channeled Phil Donahue: "It is all because of U.S. greed for Iraqi oil." But NBC's Don Teague suggested the uniform expression of revulsion towards the U.S. and fidelity for Hussein was based on fear and playing to cameras: "Wherever there are cameras, Saddam Hussein is still the hero. Iraqis, not yet convinced he's lost control, worry they'll pay with their lives for speaking against him."

2. Jennings and Stahl Raise Vietnam, "Are You...Feeling Deja Vu?"
Barely a week into the war, with coalition forces sweeping through Iraq, ABC's Peter Jennings and CBS's Lesley Stahl decided to raise the ghost of the Vietnam quagmire. Jennings teased Wednesday's World News Tonight by hyping how "one Marine" told an ABC reporter that given the landscape, weather and guerrilla tactics, "sometimes" Iraq "feels like Vietnam." The night before, on CBS's 48 Hours, Lesley Stahl asked a Vietnam vet: "You fought in Vietnam. Are you getting any feelings of deja vu?"

3. Stahl Frets Over War Problems, Powell Dismisses Her "Nonsense"
Colin Powell 1, Lesley Stahl 0. In an interview which aired on Tuesday's 48 Hours and Wednesday's Early Show, Lesley Stahl pounded away at Colin Powell over problems encountered in the war as if the coalition were losing. "We're beginning to hear that this force isn't massive enough," Stahl argued before fretting about how "the rear is exposed" and chastising Powell: "But you can't get your supplies" delivered safely. Stahl demanded that Powell explain why the whole world hates President Bush. Powell aggressively undermined Stahl's concerns. It isn't often that you hear a high-ranking official dismiss a journalist's premise as "nonsense."

4. NBC's Couric & Miklaszewski Refute Arnett's Baghdad Reporting
Peter Arnett's unquestioning relaying of Iraqi claims that the U.S. employed anti-personnel "cluster bombs" in a residential Baghdad neighborhood prompted NBC's Katie Couric and Jim Miklaszewski to do some fast backtracking on Wednesday's Today to cover for Arnett's unsupported reporting.

5. "Financial Compensation" for Victims of U.S. Bombing Errors?
Biased question of the day. Usually the wackiest "questions" at the Centcom briefings in Doha come from non-U.S. or British reporters, often those for Arab or African news agencies. But at Wednesday's briefing, an ABC News producer's concern was whether the U.S. would provide "financial compensation" to victims of errant U.S. bombs.

6. BBC Reporter "Gobsmacked" by BBC's Distorted War Reporting
A BBC reporter covering the war from coalition headquarters in Qatar, denounced his network's coverage as "one-sided" and distorted. In his memo to his bosses, which was obtained by London's The Sun newspaper, BBC correspondent Paul Adams asked: "Who dreamed up the line that the coalition are achieving 'small victories at a very high price?'" In fact, he contended, "the truth is exactly the opposite" since "the gains are huge and the costs still relatively low."


ABC: Iraqis Hate U.S.; NBC: Iraqis Still
Fear Hussein's Wrath

When the Red Crescent food trucks arrived in Safwan, ABC's Mike von Fremd heard Iraqis denouncing America. "People are sick and hungry" because of the U.S. invasion one woman complained and von Fremd highlighted a man who channeled Phil Donahue: "It is all because of U.S. greed for Iraqi oil." But NBC's Don Teague on Wednesday night suggested the uniform expression of revulsion towards the U.S. and fidelity for Hussein was based on fear of the Iraqi dictator: "Wherever there are cameras, Saddam Hussein is still the hero. Iraqis, not yet convinced he's lost control, worry they'll pay with their lives for speaking against him."

A Sky News story, run of FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, made a similar point.

Jennings set up the March 26 World News Tonight story by pointing out how the Iraqis in Safwan "made a point to say the Americans are not welcome." Von Fremd, in Safwan, showed video of the "frenzied mob" which attacked the Red Crescent trucks filled with water, bread and cheese.

Von Fremd relayed: "While these Iraqis are desperate for this humanitarian aid, they also have a very strong message for the world. 'You brought us chaos,' this mother said. 'People are sick and hungry.' 'Women and children have been killed,' this man says. 'It is all because of U.S. greed for Iraqi oil.'"
Von Fremd to the angry Iraqi man: "The people of the United States thought you would be grateful to be liberated from Saddam Hussein."
Man: "No."
Von Fremd: "'We are not happy,' he says, 'you have humiliated us more than our enemies.' But as we were leaving, one camera-shy Iraqi pulled us aside to say, 'we do not all love Saddam, but we do not love the United States either.'"

But they love the free food.

Over on the CBS Evening News, Erin Moriarty noted the ingratitude as she highlighted their support for Hussein: "A bizarre scene greeted the first trucks filled with 20,000 packaged meals as they arrived today near the Iraqi border town of Safwan. Young men pledging to give their lives to Saddam Hussein, even as American and Kuwaiti groups were trying to save them. But they suddenly lost their appetite for politics when the food appeared" and their chanting ended and "a near riot" began.

NBC's Don Teague, however, in story which ran on MSNBC as well as the NBC Nightly News, figured out that maybe the cameras influence events. Teague observed: "U.S. soldiers escorted this convoy into Iraq, but publicly few here were singing their praises."
Man in crowd in bad English: "Saddam good. Saddam gives eat and water and clothes."
Teague suggested: "Wherever there are cameras, Saddam Hussein is still the hero. Iraqis, not yet convinced he's lost control, worry they'll pay with their lives for speaking against him."
Sergeant Johnny Monds, U.S. Army: "They do it for the cameras because they're scared."

Tuesday night at about 8:50pm EST on MSNBC, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth observed, ITV's Bill Nealy revealed how Iraqis are afraid of Hussein agents in their midst:
"Through streets that last week were ruled by Saddam Hussein's secret police and troops, Royal Marines walked today, and they came as liberators. Amid the cheers of the children, guarded smiles from the men of Umm Qasr, many of whom told me they could not talk openly today. 'Saddam's men are still around, it's still too dangerous.'"

Jennings and Stahl Raise Vietnam,
"Are You...Feeling Deja Vu?"

Barely a week into the war, with coalition forces sweeping through Iraq, ABC's Peter Jennings and CBS's Lesley Stahl decided to raise the ghost of the Vietnam quagmire. Jennings teased Wednesday's World News Tonight by hyping how "one Marine" told an ABC reporter that given the landscape, weather and guerrilla tactics, "sometimes" Iraq "feels like Vietnam." The night before, on CBS's 48 Hours, Lesley Stahl asked a Vietnam vet: "You fought in Vietnam. Are you getting any feelings of deja vu?"

Jennings teased at the top of his March 26 show: "One Marine tells our reporter: Given the landscape and the weather sometimes it is Desert Storm and sometimes it feels like Vietnam."

In the subsequent story, embedded reporter John Berman with the Marines near Nasiriyah, recounted the challenges faced by the swampy terrain and how the Iraqis disguise themselves, a point which led into his conclusion which mentioned Vietnam and which Jennings elevated to one of the most newsworthy events of the day:
"The militias wear plain clothes, so often the Marines are forced to go into town, villages, houses, dealing with innocent people, asking them many questions, not knowing who is friend or who is foe. One Marine said to me, 'the other military forces are in Iraq fighting Desert Storm II; we're here in Nasiriyah fighting Vietnam.'"

Tuesday night on a 48 Hours at 10pm EST devoted to the war, CBS's Lesley Stahl provided a segment on the "surprising resistance" offered by the Iraqi regime and how "Americans at home are confronting the reality of this war: Not everything is going as expected."

Interviewing former Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb, Stahl proposed: "Was there a miscalculation here of some kind?" Webb suggested planners did not consider the threat of guerrilla war.

Stahl soon asked the Vietnam vet: "You fought in Vietnam. Are you getting any feelings of deja vu?" Webb agreed with Stahl's premise, arguing this is the first time since Vietnam that the U.S. is taking casualties and still moving forward.

Stahl Frets Over War Problems,
Powell Dismisses Her "Nonsense"

Lesley Stahl Stahl versus Powell and Powell wins a knockout on points. In an interview which aired on Tuesday's 48 Hours and Wednesday's Early Show, Lesley Stahl pounded away at Secretary of State Colin Powell over problem encountered in the war as if the coalition were losing. "We're beginning to hear that this force isn't massive enough," Stahl argued before fretting about how "the rear is exposed" and chastising Powell: "But you can't get your supplies" delivered safely.

In a portion shown only on 48 Hours, Stahl proceeded to demand that Powell explain why the whole world hates President Bush: "How did we get to a place where much of the world thinks that George Bush is more evil than Saddam Hussein? How did this happen?"

Usually CyberAlert relays the questions posed by reporters and largely skips over the answers since we are interested in the bias or agenda of the journalist. But as MRC analyst Brian Boyd noted in catching the interview, Powell's retorts to Stahl, point by point, are so good and so well undermine her fussing that they are worth reciting. It isn't often that you hear a high-ranking official dismiss a journalist's premise as "nonsense."

(Stahl's interview on 48 Hours aired after her segment devoted to setbacks to the expected war progress in which she asked, as detailed in item #2 above: "You fought in Vietnam. Are you getting any feelings of deja vu?")

So here, in near complete form, is the Powell interview, starting with the portion carried on the March 25 48 Hours and March 26 Early Show, followed by the part run only on 48 Hours:

Stahl: "The Secretary of Defense said that there are intelligence reports that the chain of command in Iraq has been told to use chemical weapons against our soldiers once that battle of Baghdad starts."
Powell: "We listen to such reports and we make sure that we have in our contingency planning how to handle such an attack. Our troops went into this battle knowing that they might be exposed to chemical weapons and, God forbid, biological weapons."
Stahl: "But, so these reports are not so specific, they're pretty vague or they don't even exist?"
Powell: "They're pretty vague. I mean, they're reports, people say that such instructions have been given. It's a war, there is a living, breathing enemy out there who is doing everything he can to keep us from knowing what his instructions are. We are quite good with our intelligence but not perfect."
Stahl: "The Powell Doctrine in military terms is that you throw a massive force, if you're going to go to war, make it huge. There are now criticisms, we're beginning to hear, that this force isn't massive enough."
Powell: "It's nonsense. It's the usual chatter, I mean we have commentators everywhere. Every General who ever worked for me is now on some network commenting on the daily battle and, frankly, battles come and wars come and they have ups and downs, they have a rhythm to it. The Powell Doctrine was you use decisive force, and the plan that General Franks and his commanders have put together is a decisive force that will get the job done. So don't let one day's ups and downs suggest that the battle isn't going well. The United States armed forces with our coalition partners, the British principally and the Australians, have gone 300 miles deep into Iraq in a period of five days. That is a heck of an achievement."
Stahl: "Yeah, but our, the rear is exposed."
Powell: "It's not. Exposed to what? Exposed to small-"
Stahl: "Exposed to fedayeen, exposed-"
Powell: "Fine. So? We'll get them in due course. They are not exposed to a massive Iraqi army that is operating in a coordinated way that can assault our flanks and stop our assault."
Stahl: "Are you saying you're not worried or concerned about guerilla warfare?"
Powell: "Of course we are and that, and we're trained to handle this, but this chatter for the last 24 hours that everything is coming apart because on Sunday we took a few casualties. The casualties for this operation have been low. You don't want to slow your advance to go into a particular city and spend all your time rooting out people that you will get in due course. They're not threatening the advance."
Stahl: "But you can't get your supplies, well you can't-"
Powell: "Who says?"
Stahl: "-can't get the humanitarian-"
Powell: "Who says?"
Stahl: "-well you can't get the humanitarian aid in there."
Powell: "Only because the minefields haven't been cleared at the port of Umm Qasr, but our troops are being supplied and water is slowly being restored to places like Basra. It's up to 40 percent of the water capacity now and that was a question of fixing the pumping stations in Basra. And as soon as the mines have been cleared, the ships are waiting to deliver the humanitarian supplies to Umm Qasr and the situation will change rapidly."

The Early Show ended there, but viewers of 48 Hours the night before were treated to more of Stahl's haughtiness, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
Stahl: "How did we get to a place where much of the world thinks that George Bush is more evil than Saddam Hussein? How did this happen?"
Powell: "I don't know that that is the case. I think people are unhappy with our policy with respect to Iraq. Now, is there anti-American opinion around the world with respect to this issue? Yes, there's no question about it. But when this war is over, and we have liberated Iraq, and the people of Iraq are facing a better life where their treasure, their oil treasure, is not being used to develop weapons of mass destruction or to threaten their neighbors, I think those opinions, those attitudes will change rapidly."
Stahl: "What I'm looking at is a poll, really not about the war, it's just about the United States, and our friends, it's kind of, makes you feel terrible, India, Mexico, they have negative opinions about the United States."
Powell: "You tell me why then I have consular officers all over the world with visa lines going out in all direction, people trying to come to America. They want to be Americans, they want to go to our hospitals, to our schools and other places."

NBC's Couric & Miklaszewski Refute
Arnett's Baghdad Reporting

Peter Arnett's unquestioning relaying of Iraqi claims that the U.S. employed anti-personnel "cluster bombs" in a residential Baghdad neighborhood prompted NBC's Katie Couric and Jim Miklaszewski to do some fast backtracking on Wednesday's Today to cover for Arnett's unsupported reporting.

Arnett asserted: "Well, Katie, the Iraqi peoples are complaining that two cruise missiles or cluster bomb units did land in a residential area."

Couric alerted viewers: "I know Peter that the Pentagon is, is refuting that cluster bombs have been used in Baghdad." Miklaszewski later maintained that "as far as we know there were no plans to use cluster bombs inside Baghdad" and that "if you look at pictures, so far, outside of Baghdad a cluster bomb would create a Swiss-cheese effect. Thousands and thousands of holes in the target and we don't see that quite yet."

MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed how the Today team realized Arnett was simply relaying Iraqi propaganda and felt compelled to distance themselves from it.

During the 8am half hour on the March 26 Today, Lauer asked Arnett by phone: "We want to go to Baghdad now where veteran correspondent Peter Arnett is reporting for National Geographic Explorer and NBC. And Peter joins us on the phone. Peter, I would like to ask you about the reports that there may have been some collateral damage in the bombing of Baghdad recently. Civilian casualties. Have you seen that with your own eyes?"
Arnett confirmed: "Yeah well considerably, Matt. We went, I just come back from there. We went out early afternoon. It, it was in a, in a residential neighborhood called Al-Sha'abal. [Footage of Arnett walking through the wreckage] [Garbled]...northeast Baghdad. We traveled down a wide road and we got to the scene and shops on both sides of this highway had been destroyed, Matt, and there was smoldering, 20 or so smoldering vehicles in the street. Residents said that 11 o'clock this morning local time two missiles came in, exploded. And the, the first journalists there earlier said they counted 15 corpses. It was smoldering on the road. We saw body parts being handed around by people and it was, later the Information Minister, El, Mr. El Sahaf, complained that the U.S. has started using cluster bombs in the Baghdad area."

An hour later, Arnett told Couric: "Well, Katie, the Iraqi peoples are complaining that two cruise missiles or cluster bomb units did land in a residential area of the city at 11 o'clock this morning. Me and my crew did go over there around noon and the whole area was devastated. Two sides of a wide street and storefronts blown-in, there were 20 cars are burning. Newsmen had been there earlier, counted 15 scorched corpses and they said there were 30 or 40 wounded. Soon after Minister of Information of Iraq, Mr. El Sahaf complained that these, these were cluster bomb units and they're being used infrequently, more frequently in the Baghdad area, Katie."
Couric: "I know Peter that the Pentagon is, is refuting that cluster bombs have been used in Baghdad. Meanwhile can you give us a sense of how many residents of Baghdad are staying put? One would think that because this is gonna be the central focus of the war that many of them might have led, fled, rather the city?"
Arnett: "Well no, unlike the first Gulf War, Katie, where many thousands just took off and left. What happened, this crisis has been going on for so long, for so many months that I know several families who, for example, went to Syria or went to Jordan and have since returned. Others have gone to their home villages and have come back. I mean there, there hasn't been a greater sense of crisis. There is now...."

A few minutes later, after Today cut off coverage of a Centcom briefing, Miklaszewski at the Pentagon reviewed the briefing and then went out of his way to refute Arnett: "Now there were also reports from the Iraqis that cluster bombs were being used in Baghdad and as Peter Arnett reported earlier they are indeed anti-personnel weapons. As far as we know there were no plans to use cluster bombs inside Baghdad. There were plans, apparently, to use them, perhaps, against arrayed troops outside of Baghdad. So it would be very unusual if in fact cluster bombs were used inside Baghdad. And if you look at pictures, so far, outside of Baghdad a cluster bomb would create a Swiss-cheese effect. Thousands and thousands of holes in the target and we don't see that quite yet."

"Financial Compensation" for Victims of
U.S. Bombing Errors?

Biased question of the day. Usually the wackiest "questions" at the Centcom briefings in Doha come from non-U.S. or British reporters, often those for Arab or African news agencies. But at Wednesday's briefing, an ABC News producer's concern was whether the U.S. would provide "financial compensation" to victims of errant U.S. bombs.

MRC analyst Ken Shepherd took down the question during te 8am EST briefing on March 26, but like me, he couldn't make out the questioner's name, though he did identify himself as an "ABC News producer." He asked: "Iraqi civilians will probably die. We don't know how many or if any have died thus far in the war. If they do die and if it is determined that they die because of a coalition force bomb or a horrendous accident by coalition forces, will the coalition forces provide financial compensation for their families?"

BBC Reporter "Gobsmacked" by BBC's
Distorted War Reporting

A BBC reporter, covering the war from coalition headquarters in Qatar, denounced his network's coverage as "one-sided" and distorted. In his memo to his bosses, which was obtained by London's The Sun newspaper, BBC correspondent Paul Adams asked: "Who dreamed up the line that the coalition are achieving 'small victories at a very high price?'" In fact, he contended, "the truth is exactly the opposite" since "the gains are huge and the costs still relatively low."

FNC's Brit Hume on Wednesday night highlighted the Sun's story about Adams' scolding of the BBC, a story to which the MRC's Liz Swasey first alerted me.

An excerpt from the March 26 Sun story by Trevor Kavanagh:

The BBC was last night sensationally condemned for "one-sided" war coverage -- by its own front line defence correspondent.

Paul Adams attacks the Beeb for misreporting the Allied advance in a blistering memo leaked to The Sun....

On Monday, he wrote from US Central Command in Qatar: "I was gobsmacked to hear, in a set of headlines today, that the coalition was suffering 'significant casualties'.

"This is simply NOT TRUE. Nor is it true to say -- as the same intro stated -- that coalition forces are fighting 'guerrillas'.

"It may be guerrilla warfare, but they are not guerrillas."

Adams' memo was fired off to TV news head Roger Mosey, Radio news boss Stephen Mitchell and other Beeb chiefs.

It adds stunning weight to allegations that BBC coverage on all its networks is biased against the war.

In one blast, he storms: "Who dreamed up the line that the coalition are achieving 'small victories at a very high price?'

"The truth is exactly the opposite.

"The gains are huge and the costs still relatively low. This is real warfare, however one-sided, and losses are to be expected."...

END of Excerpt

The story is online at (scroll down the page):
http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2003140559,00.html

Now that is definitely the first time in 1,466 CyberAlerts that the word "gobsmacked" has appeared. Oxford defines the word as an informal British term for "utterly astonished."

I'll be gobsmacked if any U.S. network reporter ever has the guts to take on any war coverage bias at his or her own network.

> Don't forget: Those planning to attend the MRC's DisHonors Awards, they are tonight, Thursday March 27, at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, DC. -- Brent Baker