All three broadcast evening newscasts on Monday ran full reports on President Obama’s declaration that all combat troops would leave Iraq by the end of this month, leaving behind 50,000 troops designated for training and support. But only ABC’s World News bothered to point out how the end of American combat involvement in Iraq can be credited “in large part, because of the final actions of the last administration.”
Correspondent Yunji de Nies uniquely pointed out: “Just before leaving office, President Bush sent an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq and extended the tours of many more — a move then-Senator Obama opposed.”
ABC even showed a clip of Obama on the Senate floor in 2007 predicting the surge would fail: “I cannot in good conscience support this escalation. It is a policy that has already been tried and a policy that has failed.”
Neither CBS nor NBC pointed out how Obama was capitalizing on a policy he opposed, but all of the networks were skeptical of Obama’s claim that Iraq was a healed nation:
On NBC, correspondent Richard Engel in Baghdad threw cold water on Obama’s optimism: “Many people here don't share the same kind of optimism that was expressed not only by the President, but by analysts across the United States today. Life in Baghdad right now is very difficult. This is not what you could consider a normal or a stable city.”
And on CBS, White House correspondent Chip Reid juxtaposed Obama’s claim that “violence is near the lowest level in years” with the Iraqi government, which reports that “July was the most violent month in more than two years. And the political in-fighting is so intense that five months after national elections, they still don't have a functioning government.”
Reid then showed a soundbite from the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Stephanie Sanok: “It certainly is not the stability that we had envisioned when President Obama rolled out his strategy for Iraq.”
Here’s the transcript of how ABC’s World News covered the Iraq story Monday night:
DIANE SAWYER: Eight years after American troops hit the ground in Iraq, this is the month the combat troops come home. Today, President Obama reaffirmed the promised withdrawal will take place, leaving security and training forces behind. As their mission ends, most Americans, 55%, say the war was not worth fighting. [On screen: "Iraq War Worth Fighting? Yes 42%; No 55%"] Yunji de Nies was with the President today.
YUNJI DE NIES: President Obama delivered on a major campaign promise, telling a group of disabled veterans that all combat troops will be out of Iraq by the end of the month.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I made it clear that by August 31, 2010, America's combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing, as promised and on schedule.
DE NIES: When the President took office, there were 144,00 troops in Iraq. Over the last year and a half, there's been a steady reduction, and by the end of this month, only 50,000 forces will remain. Mr. Obama reached this milestone, in large part, because of the final actions of the last administration. Just before leaving office, President Bush sent an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq and extended the tours of many more — a move then-Senator Obama opposed.
OBAMA ON SENATE FLOOR (January 2007): I cannot in good conscience support this escalation. It is a policy that has already been tried and a policy that has failed.
MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Mr. Obama had opposed the surge, and that if we had not surged, we would be in a much different place today, in a much worse place.
DE NIES: Today, the President did not credit the surge directly, though he did say Iraq is increasingly able to stand on its own.
OBAMA: Because of the sacrifices of our troops and their Iraqi partners, violence in Iraq continues to be near the lowest it's been in years.
DE NIES: Violence escalated in July with 161 civilians killed. Still, at the height of the violence in late 2006, civilian deaths reached 1,500 a month.
O'HANLON: If you value political liberty, as most Americans do, you would say Iraq's a lot better off now. If you value personal safety on the street, Iraq is still somewhat worst off than it had been in the latter years of Saddam's rule.
DE NIES: Five months after national elections, Iraq is still without a fully functioning government, and with this month's troop withdrawal that political vacuum could lead to further instability and continued violence. Diane.