Of the broadcast network evening newscast stories Tuesday night on the House debate over the non-binding resolution that “disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush...to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq,” only ABC’s Jake Tapper included the views of soldiers in Iraq. Tapper's report on World News featured soundbites from two Army Sergeants in Ramadi, and both condemned the resolution. First Sergeant Louis Barnum declared: “It makes me sick. I was born and raised a Democrat, but when I see that it just kind of makes me sad.” Sergeant Brian Orzechoski went even further: “I don't want to bad-mouth the President at all. I mean, to me it's treason.”
Earlier in the story, Tapper ran clips from those for and against it as he highlighted how Maryland Republican Wayne Gilchrest is in favor, before noting that “most Republicans criticized the non-binding resolution as worthless.”
One of the anti-resolution soundbites came from Republican Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia on the House floor:
“If the troops in Baghdad watched what Congress was doing today, they would be outraged. Fortunately for us and the free world, they don't sit around and watch C-SPAN and what silly politicians do.”
Jake Tapper took up the challenge: “ABC News asked these Army Sergeants in Ramadi what they thought of the resolution.”
Army First Sergeant Louis Barnum: “It makes me sick. I was born and raised a Democrat, but when I see that it just kind of makes me sad.”
Sergeant Brian Orzechoski: “I don’t want to bad-mouth the President at all. I mean, to me it’s treason.”
Tapper concluded his story: “It is a very simple resolution, Charlie. It basically just says that the Congress supports the troops but opposes the President's plan. It is not binding, it does not cut off any funding for the troops. But simple or not, Charlie, the debate, as you heard, was passionate.”
In highlighting anti-war effort remarks from soldiers in Iraq, ABC and Tapper echoed how the January 26 NBC Nightly News gave rare voice to soldiers in Iraq disturbed by criticism of the war back home. My NewsBusters item recounted (with video):
Embedded with the Army's Stryker Brigade's Apache Company (the Fort Lewis, Washington-based 1st Battalion of the 23rd Infantry Regiment in Hurriya, Richard Engel relayed how “troops here say they are increasingly frustrated by American criticism of the war. Many take it personally, believing it is also criticism of what they've been fighting for. Twenty-one-year-old Specialist Tyler Johnson is on his first tour in Iraq. He thinks skeptics should come over and see what it's like firsthand before criticizing." Johnson asserted: “You may support or say we support the troops, but, so you're not supporting what they do, what they're here sweating for, what we bleed for, what we die for. It just don't make sense to me."
Staff Sergeant Manuel Sahagun directly took on the spin of war critics, complaining that “one thing I don't like is when people back home say they support the troops, but they don't support the war. If they're going to support us, support us all the way." Engel soon powerfully concluded: "Apache Company has lost two soldiers, and now worries their country may be abandoning the mission they died for.”
Exactly two weeks later, however, the February 9 NBC Nightly News ran a dispatch from Engel which showcased soldiers who want the war to end. My NewsBusters item reported:
Engel ran just one soundbite, from a Staff Sergeant with the First Infantry Division, who declared: “It is pretty much almost a lost cause. I mean, nothing it seems we do is doing any good. Every country goes through a civil war. So, I mean, maybe it'd be better for them to have a civil war and hash it out and then try to help them after that." Engel added about the unit he had traveled with which narrowly escaped an IED explosion: “They all told me it's time to end this war. And, Brian [Williams], the soldiers also asked why it seems from here there are no plans to end the war, just discussions of battle tactics?"