2. Statue Toppling Conspiracy? Almost Seen as U.S. "Conquest"
3. Jennings Wonders If Hussein Cares What People Think of Him
4. Koppel: "Hard Part" Ahead; Potter: U.S. "Conquering" Iraq
5. Arrival of U.S. Marines Makes ABC's Engel Feel Safe
6. Jennings Rues Loss of Hussein Sculpting Jobs
7. NBC Throws Cold Water on Military Triumph, Iraqis "Fear" U.S.?
8. Now Reporters Admit that "Minders" Blocked the Truth
9. CBS's Logan Claims Sight of Hussein on TV "Buoyed" Iraqis
10. Cronkite Rues How "We're Still Not Seeing the Bloodletting"
11. Brokaw and Russert Argue Victory in Iraq Should Bar Tax Cuts
12. "Top 10 Things Iraq's Info Minister Has to Say About the War"
Peter Jennings just can't bring himself to describe American forces as "liberators" of Iraq without couching it as what "many" say or adding what "others" think. "American Marines and soldiers greeted as liberators by many," he announced at the top of Wednesday's World News Tonight before adding this caveat: "Others fear the U.S. will stay." Later, during an ABC News prime time special, Jennings referred to how Saddam Hussein's "capital city is controlled by the U.S., the liberators, many Iraqis would say."
Jennings opened the April 9 World News Tonight, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
At the top of ABC's prime time War with Iraq special, which started at 10:06pm EDT after an extended episode of The Bachelor, Jennings asserted: "Saddam Hussein's rule is definitely over. He has imposed his will in Iraq for nearly a quarter of a century and today, in ways both symbolic and real, he is finished. His capital city is controlled by the U.S., the liberators, many Iraqis would say. After three weeks or war American forces swarmed into Baghdad today..."
ABC made sure viewers understood that the Arab media see the U.S. as occupiers of Iraq, and why they do. In a prime time special, Jennings characterized Middle East TV coverage as seeking to learn: "Is this liberation or occupation?" Cynthia McFadden declared that "the pictures that play in America as liberation play in the Arab world as domination."
Soon after McFadden's story, Robert Krulwich saw the toppling of the Hussein statue as a parable for how Arabs see the U.S. action in Iraq. Krulwich provided a very strange blow-by-blow account of the toppling, a time line in which he implied some sort of conspiracy by the Iraqi citizenry ("two men who just happen to have a 12 foot ladder with them....then a third man just happens to have...a long, two-inch thick rope") before noting that had the Iraqis managed to fell the statue "it would have looked like the Iraqis liberating themselves," but since the Marines stepped in, Krulwich warned that if the statue had fallen with the U.S. flag over Hussein's face, "the world would have seen an image of American conquest."
Jennings warned on ABC's 10:06pm EDT special: "As for what happened in Baghdad today and the change it may ultimately unleash in other countries, that's the issue. We monitored today the various Arabic language television networks. There's been one sort of issue that has threaded its way throughout all of the country, which in many respects has looked like our coverage, but they want to know, is this liberation or occupation?"
In the subsequent story Cynthia McFadden argued that "the pictures that play in America as liberation play in the Arab world as domination, says professor Fawaz Gerges."
Over matching video, Krulwich soon offered an odd event-by- event rundown of how the Hussein statue was toppled. Krulwich began: "Two men, who just happen to have a 12 foot ladder with them. The first one hoisted himself up onto the pedestal. Followed by another guy in blue, who just makes it. And then a third man just happens to have, look to the right there, a long, two-inch thick rope."
Showing how they managed to place a "loose noose" around the statue, Krulwich noted that "all around the circle, from a distance, Marines are calmly watching as an extremely large man arrives with a sledge hammer and begins pounding the pedestal. Then there's a tug of war over who gets to pound next. Had the statue fallen at this moment it would have looked like the Iraqis liberating themselves. But then a U.S. tank retrieval vehicle shows up..."
After showing a Marine climbing up the 25-foot high statue, Krulwich explained: "Seconds later that soldier is handed an American flag, which in a light wind stays on Saddam's face. Had the statue fallen at this moment, the world would have seen an image of American conquest. But after a minute and thirty two seconds" the Marine takes down the U.S. flag and places an Iraqi flag as a scarf.
Skipping ahead to the end, Krulwich recounted: "The episode ends with Saddam's head being dragged down the street, followed by a guy in a maroon T-shirt who's banging the head repeatedly with a mallet. And if you stop the tape here, you'll notice seven people in this crowd are journalists taking photos and only eleven are Iraqis celebrating. There was extensive coverage of this event. But that does not mean that the coverage will be the same all over the world. In America we have already chosen our defining image."
At that point viewers saw the Baghdad statue tumbling over. Then, over video of the guy hitting the statue's head and of a U.S. flag over Hussein's face, Krulwich ominously concluded: "The question is, when the Arab world opens its morning papers, given the choices, what image will they see?"
Saddam Hussein sensitive and caring? Peter Jennings wrapped up his Wednesday night prime time special by sharing with viewers how he "wonders" sometimes: "Did Saddam Hussein ever understand what people thought about him? Did he care?"
Jennings concluded the 10:06pm EDT War with Iraq special on an curious note: "That is our broadcast for this evening. This is not, as you heard so many times today, the end of the war. But it is an occasion to wonder, as we sometimes do, did Saddam Hussein ever understand what people thought about him? Did he care? I'm Peter Jennings. On behalf of all my colleagues at ABC News, here and out there, good night."
Undeterred by his unfulfilled dire warning of a month ago about a very tough and bloody war ahead that would be far longer than engagements in Haiti, Panama and Bosnia, Ted Koppel on Wednesday night concluded Nightline by warning that because "there are hundreds of thousands of scores to be settled in this country, blood debts to be repaid," the "hard part" is ahead.
Back on the March 24 Nightline, Koppel predicted: "Success will come at a significant cost. Forget the easy victories of the last twenty years; this war is more like the ones we knew before."
Fast forward to Wednesday night and Koppel concluded a 45-minute Nigtline: "It may seem an ungracious note on which to end, but beware the euphoria. Ripping down Saddam's pictures, toppling his statues. Those are the benign, photogenic events that can delude us into misunderstanding what lies ahead. There are hundreds of thousands of scores to be settled in this country. Blood debts to be repaid. The U.S. military doesn't want to get into the middle of that, but if it doesn't there are likely to be lynchings and massacres that will sicken the world and make the establishment of a new government hideously complicated. It is good that people are finally able to believe that Saddam's regime has been crushed. The military victory was difficult enough. But now comes the hard part."
Koppel may turn out to be correct, but so far he's 0 for 1.
Earlier, on World News Tonight, Ned Potter, who contended that "the U.S. must now bring order to the country it is conquering," offered a similarly dire warning about future perils: "With the old order gone, there could be all sorts of troubles: Ethnic violence between the different factions that divide Iraq, released prisoners settling scores with their former jailers. American combat troops will have a tough job becoming peacekeepers."
A couple of mea culpas. Richard Engel, ABC's reporter in Baghdad upset hours before about a U.S. tank attacking the media hotel, affirmed to a Marine, "I certainly do," when the Marine asked him: "Do you feel safer now that we're here?" On the NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw recalled how Brent Scowcroft "worried" that attacking Iraq "could set the entire region into a caldron and destroy the war on terrorism." Brokaw asked him: "Do you have any second thoughts after this day?"
Shortly before 9am EDT, on Wednesday's Good Morning America, Engel recalled from Baghdad as U.S. Marines rolled into downtown: "There was a very upset group of journalists here last night who were quite angry at the American soldiers and felt very resentful that this incident had happened. But I still think, at the same time, most journalists who are here were uncomfortable about being in Iraqi hands. We haven't, you know, we were basically, we had no choice but to stay here. We didn't all converge on this hotel because we wanted to be here. We were concentrated here by the government and we felt very victimized, and I think we all feel a lot better, Charlie."
Minutes later, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, Engel expressed relief about the arrival of U.S. troops: "I feel now, just relieved that it's over, that I'm in charge of my own life again, that I have my own ability to move and that some people that I trust are now here protecting me."
In his World News Tonight piece, Engel played this exchange between himself and a couple of Marines:
Over on the April 9 NBC Nightly News, Brokaw set up an interview with 41's National Security Adviser: "He set off a considerable stir last summer when he wrote an editorial advising the current President not to invade Iraq....you went on to say, General Scowcroft, to Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation, you worried that it could set the entire region into a caldron and destroy the war on terrorism. Do you have any second thoughts after this day?"
And thanks to President Bush, a whole sector of the Iraqi economy has been decimated. Jennings noted that "the sculpting of Saddam Hussein, which has been a growth industry for 20 years, may well be a dying art." Jennings empathized with the plight of a man who "was doing a new sculpture for the Ministry of Electricity even as this war was beginning," but now must abort his project.
After 10:45am EDT, before the statue came down, Jennings rambled, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
Quite a loss.
NBC's sourpuss coverage. While viewers were still in the glow of the Hussein statue toppling, NBC featured an interview in which a reporter grilled a military spokesman about how Iraqis, "who've lived with one kind of fear, the regime of Saddam Hussein, might feel a different kind of fear now thinking that U.S. forces will now be the people they must answer to."
Minutes later, less than an hour after the moment of triumph for the U.S. troops and Iraqi citizens, NBC gave NBC News analyst Raghida Dergham, of the Al-Hayat newspaper, a lengthy segment to spout off about misguided U.S. foreign policy and how it's alienating Middle Easterners.
At about 11:15am EDT, less than a half hour after the statue fell, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed that Kelly O'Donnell, in Doha, pressed Commander Frank Thorpe of U.S. Central Command: "Let's talk for a moment about that brief image we saw of a U.S. flag being put around the face on the statue of Saddam Hussein. Happened once earlier in the conflict where a U.S. flag was put into the ground. Is that not a disservice to the overall image that you're trying to put out that this is about helping the Iraqi people?"
O'Donnell thought Iraqis will "fear" the U.S.: "Is it possible that people who've lived with one kind of fear, the regime of Saddam Hussein, might feel a different kind of fear now thinking that U.S. forces will now be the people they must answer to. Isn't that a risk?"
About 15 minutes later, NBC went back to the Today set in New York where NBC News analyst Raghida Dergham, of Al-Hayat, told Katie Couric Middle Easterners are troubled by U.S. policy:
Couric soon kvetched about Bush's plans for a post-war Iraq: "Do you have any confidence in the words of President Bush and Tony Blair recently that this interim authority or government would really be made up of individuals after consulting with a number of groups within the country after consulting with some Iraqi, not only members of the Iraqi opposition but exiles as well and that ultimately the main goal is to put, you know the ruling or the leadership of Iraq back into the hands of the Iraqi people?"
Now they tell us. When their "minders" from the Hussein regime didn't show up on Wednesday morning, three reporters conceded the minders had inhibited them from telling the truth about what was happening in Baghdad and the real level of support for Hussein.
A gleeful Richard Engel gloated on ABC: "My minder, who had been on my back for throughout this war, is nowhere to be seen."
On FNC's Fox & Friends, E.D. Hill asked German reporter Chris Jumpelt: "How much did you have to omit from your reports just for fear of being kicked out of the country?" Jumpelt revealed: "Well anything between forty percent and a little bit more sometimes, depending on the current situation."
Sky TV's David Chater told FNC that the minders "were controlling you very carefully, they were always monitoring what you were saying." He acknowledged: "There were people whipping up support for President Saddam Hussein in front of your cameras everywhere you went."
At about 1:15pm EDT on Wednesday, Sky TV's Chater informed FNC anchor Shepard Smith, as transcribed by MRC analyst Patrick Gregory: "It was always difficult talking to anybody who was not being controlled in the way that we were. We had minders literally listening in to us. There was always a tightrope you were walking. You had to have their cooperation in order to go out and see what we had to see. But at the same time they were controlling you very carefully, they were always monitoring what you were saying....
Speaking of reporting which pleased the minders, on Saturday morning, the day after Iraqi TV showed the video of Saddam Hussein walking through a cheering crowd, CBS's Lara Logan gushed about how the sight "buoyed" the Iraqi "people."
MRC analyst Patrick Gregory caught this from Logan in Baghdad on the April 5 Saturday Early Show: "And people here have been buoyed by the sight of Saddam Hussein on Iraqi television last night, greeting with, greeting people in a residential area of Baghdad."
Don't confuse me with the facts. Before the war began, Walter Cronkite denounced the "dangerous precedent" of Bush's "pre-emptive war." Bush's policy has been vindicated by success, but that hasn't swayed Cronkite, who told a North Carolina college audience on Tuesday night: "I have not changed my mind one iota. We should not be in Iraq without United Nations support."
Cronkite grumbled that "we're still not seeing the bloodletting, which is essential to seeing the horror of war, why we shouldn't be at war."
An excerpt from an April 9 Greensboro News & Record story by reporter Margaret Moffett Banks:
Just after the war in Iraq began, retired CBS anchor Walter Cronkite criticized the Bush administration for setting a "dangerous precedent" by going it alone.
The past three weeks haven't softened his position.
"I have not changed my mind one iota. We should not be in Iraq without United Nations support," Cronkite said Tuesday at Elon University....
[H]is voice is clear and his mind is sharp, especially when he's expressing his strong views about President Bush and the war. Cronkite said it was "grossly arrogant" for Bush to ask the United Nations for support, then end his speech saying America would fight Iraq with or without that support.
Cronkite also called the idea of a world alliance against Iraq a "myth," since only American and British forces are fighting.
With that said, he offered his support and admiration for the troops, saying he knows from his days as a war correspondent that the job is tough.
"You get a great admiration for our troops when you get an opportunity to be that close to them and to see them in action," said Cronkite, who started covering World War II just days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor....
Americans are still drawn to his voice, which somehow is reassuring even when he's talking about the brutality of war -- and how Americans should be faced with more of it.
"We're still not seeing the bloodletting, which is essential to seeing the horror of war, why we shouldn't be at war," said Cronkite, who admitted he was "something of a pacifist."...
END of Excerpt
Read the story in full as posted on www.news-record.com.
The March 20 CyberAlert reported: At a forum at Drew University former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, the Daily Record of Parsippany, New Jersey reported, "said he feared the war would not go smoothly, ripped the 'arrogance' of Bush and his administration and wondered whether the new U.S. doctrine of 'pre-emptive war' might lead to unintended, dire consequences." The newspaper also relayed how Cronkite "said that the smartest President he ever met was Jimmy Carter" and that journalists tilt to the left because "they see the poverty. They see the want." Read the entire March 20, 2003 CyberAlert item.
Victory in Iraq means Bush's plans for a tax cut should be withdrawn. Barely two hours after celebrating Iraqis toppling the Hussein statue, NBC's Tom Brokaw admired a "quite a powerful piece in the New York Times on the opinion editorial page...saying this is not the time for the tax cut" because rebuilding Iraq "is gonna cost a lot of money." Tim Russert gleefully chimed in: "And it's not a partisan issue any longer, Tom. Republican John McCain has stepped forward and said that we have to see how much this war costs before we determine the size of a tax cut."
At about 1:05pm EDT, during NBC's live Iraq coverage, Brokaw proposed to Russert: "Tim on the very day that, that this was going on, on the screens across America there was a very, quite a powerful piece in the New York Times on the opinion editorial page signed by former Senator Sam Nunn, former Senator Bob Kerrey, Pete Peterson, Warren Rudman and others saying this is not the time for the tax cut. I don't mean to involve American tax politics on a day when Baghdad is being liberated but we cannot remove it from the equation because this is gonna cost a lot of money and the health of the American economy will be a major part of how the American people judge whether this is successful or not."
Indeed, that's why Bush wants a tax cut -- to boost the economy. Bush's father followed the Russert-McCain prescription.
Brokaw was relishing an op-ed titled, "No New Tax Cuts," by
From the April 9 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things Iraq's Information Minister Has to Say About the War." Late Show Web site.
10. "We're pulling down statues of Saddam to have them cleaned"
9. "Don't believe that stuff you see on CNN...or NBC or CBS, ABC, Fox or MSNBC"
8. "If you ask me who the winner is, it depends on what your definition of 'is' is"
7. "Iraqi television is off the air because we didn't want you to have to sit through 'Becker'"
6. "Do you know of any job openings for a lying weasel?"
5. "Wolf Blitzer and I are engaged"
4. "Iraqis are in the streets celebrating Cher's 40 fabulous years in show business"
2. "Saddam's not dead -- he's just out with a case of the shingles"
1. "War? What war?"
I'll end with a Letterman joke from earlier on Wednesday night's show: "It was the U.S. troops and the Iraqi citizens and it was a big 25-foot statue and they get a hold of it and they rope it off and they pull the thing down and it lands [pause] right on top of Geraldo!"
-- Brent Baker