View Full Version : Katie Couric in Iraq - Part I

09-05-07, 09:17 AM
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
The Tank

Katie Couric in Iraq - Part I [W. Thomas Smith Jr.]

Last night was a preview. Tonight, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric hosts Part I of America in Iraq: The Road Ahead, a look at Iraq from her various vantage points there.

The segment leads with President Bush’s announcement in March 2003 that he had ordered coalition forces to begin striking military targets in Iraq. Then Katie hits the hard numbers:

Sixteen-hundred-thirty days after the president gave those orders, Saddam is long gone, but the war in Iraq goes on at an enormous cost: More than 3,700 American servicemen and women killed. More than 28,000 wounded. Estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths alone range from 70,000 to more than 80,000. The cost to American taxpayers: $567 billion.

She then rolls into troop numbers, the president’s “hope” that “the surge would turn the war around,” his appeal to Americans for more time, a promise of a “full accounting,” Gen. Petraeus’s forthcoming report, and – as she says – “the stakes could not be higher.” Lots of fiery, machine-gun rattling footage, maps, and today’s Government Accountability Office report, which she reminds us, says, “violence in Iraq remains high,” and the Iraqi government has not met 11 of 18 benchmarks.

Katie then takes a Black Hawk helicopter ride with Petraeus from – what appears to me to be – Landing Zone Washington in the Green Zone out to Fallujah. The two chat about the success in Al Anbar Province, specifically Fallujah and Ramadi, and she narrates a brief history of the region.

Lots of talk, as it should be, about what’s going wrong in Iraq – the government’s inability to provide basic services (electricity, water, trash pickup) – to what’s going right – high recruiting numbers for the army and police, the turnaround in Anbar, the dramatic reduction in violence, and the demand from all corners that the Iraqi government live up to its mandate.

In southern Iraq, where British troops have withdrawn from the city center of Basra to the airport, Katie calls it, “the surge in reverse.”

Overall, the segment is solid, militarily accurate, and surprisingly thorough considering the time allowed. She interviews Iraqis of various stripes, and among them there seems to be an underlying thread that the anti-war crowd (I’m not saying Katie’s a member) can no longer deny: As one tribal leader, Sheik Saddoun Al Bou’issa, explains, Al Qaeda “says they care about Islam … but they’re lying.” Thirty members of his tribe were killed by terrorists, and his greatest worry is that Al Qaeda will return if the Americans leave.

No mention, however, of some of the war's watershed events good and bad: Operation Steel Curtain (an enormously successful U.S. military operation in 2005 that, among other dynamics such as Al Qaeda’s brutal targeting of civilians, was key to the “Anbar Awakening.”), and the bombing of Samarra’s Golden Dome mosque in 2006, which spiked sectarian violence to previously unseen levels. Perhaps those things will be covered over the next three nights.


09-05-07, 09:19 AM
Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Couric in Iraq [NRO Staff]

Video of her opening report tonight:



09-06-07, 08:19 AM
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
The Tank

Katie Couric in Iraq - Part II [W. Thomas Smith Jr.]

Last evening on America in Iraq: The Road Ahead, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, currently on assignment in Iraq, led the segment with hard numbers: How many casualties – combatant and collateral – and taxpayer costs to wage what she contends some Americans might label “a nightmare.”

Tonight – Part II – she leads with, “Four years and counting,” followed by the comments of soldiers expressing the necessity of the American presence, as well as their personal desires to go home.

I’m actually surprised … and pleasantly.

In a world where reporting war and providing frontline analysis is often slanted, skewed, and just plain wrong, Katie is doing it right. Not perfect to be sure: Iraq is simply too difficult, and military operations (both static and rolling) are usually far too complex for observing journalists to fully get their arms around. But either CBS’s producers on this project have real defense-sense, or Katie has made the decision to avoid any preconceptions she may have previously held about the war and instead report life as she sees it in the trenches.

In tonight’s segment – the wee hours of Thursday morning in Baghdad – Katie begins the program with a declaration of “new violence here today.” Though I don’t see the comment as deliberate: “New violence” is actually more real-time perception than hardened opinion or fact. The viewer should understand that there is violence everyday in Iraq, because Iraq is a nation at war. Moreover, much of the violence – even ordinary crime – is traceable to the instigating Jihadists.

Katie then makes the typical civilian-reporting gaffe:

Thirteen Iraqi civilians were killed when a roadside bomb exploded alongside buses used by commuters in a Shiite neighborhood. Three American soldiers were killed when another roadside bomb hit their Humvee. And three more were killed in combat.

… suggesting inaccurately that the three killed by the roadside bomb were not combat casualties.

Katie then flies the Black Hawk routes, strolls the streets, and chats it up with Multi-National Corps commander, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno: Discussing everything from improving local economics and security issues, to gangs, insurgents, terrorists, to the state of the Iraqi Army, to the ability of ordinary Iraqis to work, play, and survive.

“A significant improvement from last year,” Katie says, adding, Baghdad is a “shell of its former self” and “still a mess.” Granted it is the latter two, but Baghdad is, again, a city at war. And I would argue it is only noticeably “a shell” and “a mess” because it may now be seen through a new sense of security and a real hope of normalcy thanks to U.S.-led coalition forces.

Also tonight, CBS’s chief correspondent in Iraq, Lara Logan (who reported last evening on the British withdrawal from Basra’s city center), described the chilling new armor-piercing hand-grenades being employed by terrorists against U.S. forces.

The overall strength of the series lies in the fact that most of it is just good, solid, J-school 101 reporting: Lots of rich interviews with soldiers – privates, generals, and every rank in between – Iraqi men, women, and, yes, children.

Katie’s segment features a superb sub-segment on Iraqi television news broadcasting, focusing on the Suleimanic courage of a handful of Iraqi journalists – men and women, Sunni and Shiia – who have launched an independent television program, Common Ground, under a real threat of death. They reject extremism. Many of their colleagues have been murdered. And so the handful remaining, and still broadcasting, must be under the constant protection of American forces.

Tomorrow night Katie will be reporting from Syria. We’ll be reviewing right here.

"Significant Improvement" video