CBS Sees Iraq Improvement—Again


Despite the widespread violence in Iraq, CBS Evening News offered a different take on its June 2 broadcast: Things are getting better.

Anchor John Roberts acknowledged that while the past month has seen tremendous bloodshed, "Some U.S. and Iraqi officials are hopeful the terror campaign may soon begin to ease." That storyline was advanced by reporter Kimberly Dozier, who managed to claim that despite the dramatic upsurge in suicide bombings (more in May than in the previous year combined), "U.S. commanders tell CBS News they're seeing signs the militant bomb-makers may be running out of willing delivery men."

And what was the evidence? Apparently just their word. "Commanders believe the recruiting pool is shrinking further as a result of this week's joint U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown," Dozier reported, adding that U.S.-Iraqi forces "have imposed an unusual calm in the capital, for now. One senior official told CBS News they believe the insurgents have reached their peak, in terms of manpower and resources, whereas the Iraqi government and security forces are growing stronger by the day. Eventually, the official said, one will be no match for the other."

The month of May was one of intense violence in Iraq—as ABC World News Tonight reported (6/2/05), "a staggering 90 suicide attacks contributed to the death toll of more than 750.... In April, there were 69 suicide attacks, more than all of the last year." The Brookings Institution's regular assessment of Iraq ("The Iraq Index") counted 77 U.S. casualties in May—the highest total since January 2005. Brookings also estimated (New York Times, 6/3/05) that 600 Iraqi civilians were killed last month, as well as 270 Iraqi security personnel killed (about four times the average monthly total).

This is not the first time CBS has gone out of its way to put a pro-occupation spin on seemingly bad news from Iraq. On April 21, Pentagon correspondent David Martin advanced this theory about the level of attacks coming from the insurgents: "Well, certainly, the number of attacks, which had been going down since the election, are now back up. Whether that means the insurgents are making a comeback or are simply getting desperate, it's very hard to say. In recent months, the insurgents have lost their sanctuary in Fallujah, they failed to stop the elections, and so far they've been unable to prevent the development of the Iraqi security forces. They have interfered in a major way with reconstruction, but overall, I think you'd have to say that they are failing to achieve a number of their major strategic goals."

Anchor Bob Schieffer went along: "But you feel, as I understand what you're saying here, that this thing is moving in the right direction, even though we're having this string of attacks that we're going through right now."

A few weeks later (5/5/05), Schieffer and Martin were on the same track—despite the fact that violence seemed to be on the rise, Martin reported: "Every person I talk to, which includes both military officers and intelligence officials, believes that events are going in the right direction. They all do seem to believe that there's real progress being made here."

Of course, by month's end those sources would prove to be spectacularly wrong. Perhaps if "every person" Martin talked to included more than military and intelligence officials, he could give viewers a more realistic view of the Iraq situation.