Politics

Couric Admits Her Rosy Report From Iraq Is Based On ‘What The U.S. Military Wants Me To See’

CBS News anchor Katie Couric is currently reporting from Iraq. Today she spoke to Bob Schieffer on CBS’s Face the Nation and largely reiterated Gen. Petraeus’s talking points on Iraq.

She said that Petraeus believes there “really is a trend” of success on the security situation in Iraq and believes President Bush’s escalation “needs to continue.” She also recounted “signs of life that seem to be normal” at a market she visited, but then conceded that the positive aspects of her report are based on “what the U.S. military wants” her to see:

Well, I was surprised, you know, after I went to eastern Baghdad, I was taken to the Allawi market, which is near Haifa, which was the scene of that very bloody gun battle back in January. And, you know, this market seems to be thriving. And there were a lot of people out and about. A lot of family-owned businesses and vegetable stalls.

And so, you do see signs of life that seem to be normal. Of course, that’s what the U.S. military wants me to see, so you have to keep that in mind as well. But I think there are definitely areas where the situation is improving.

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Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), who recently returned from Iraq and spoke with ThinkProgress, also admitted that it’s “very, very easy to be influenced, from their [the military’s] point of view, that things are better.” “I will tell you that when you get in the Green Zone, there is a physiological phenomenon I think called Green Zone fog,” said Tauscher. “It’s death by powerpoint. … It’s always that their argument is winning.”

Nonpartisan government reports dispute the Bush administration’s rosy claims of success. A leaked draft of an upcoming Government Accountability Office (GAO) analysis contradicts “the Bush administration’s conclusion in July that sectarian violence was decreasing as a result” of the surge. It concludes, “The average number of daily attacks against civilians remained about the same over the last six months; 25 in February versus 26 in July.”

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Transcript:

SCHIEFFER: Did you get the sense that he [Gen. Petraeus] is going to tell the president that he believes these extra troops, the so-called surge, is working and that we have to leave it in place for a while?

COURIC: I definitely got that impression. I mean, I think he concedes there’s certainly areas of Iraq that are really difficult and are true trouble spots. Al Qaida in the north, Shiite militias in the south of Baghdad still a lot of insurgency and still a lot of sectarian violence even in Baghdad.

But I believe he thinks that these are not just pockets of success, what I mentioned about Fallujah and Ramadi, but it really is a trend. And he told me he thought the trend was definitely going up rather than down. And to continue the progress he believes that’s being made here so far that the surge must continue and U.S. — a full U.S. presence should be here.

But he did talk about geometry on the battlefield, Bob, and about possibly drawing down some troops. But he thinks that certainly in these areas where the surge was needed, that it needs to continue.

SCHIEFFER: So he says there is the possibility that some troops may be drawn down. Katie, what are your impressions after being there on the scene? We’ve all followed this for years from afar but once you’re there, anything surprise you in particular?

COURIC: Well, I was surprised, you know, after I went to eastern Baghdad, I was taken to the Allawi market, which is near Haifa, which was the scene of that very bloody gun battle back in January. And, you know, this market seems to be thriving. And there were a lot of people out and about. A lot of family-owned businesses and vegetable stalls.

And so, you do see signs of life that seem to be normal. Of course, that’s what the U.S. military wants me to see, so you have to keep that in mind as well. But I think there are definitely areas where the situation is improving.

But everyone agrees, Bob, that if these people, the people of Iraq, do not get basic services like electricity, like running water, it will be impossible to win their hearts and minds and have them fully support the national unity government or anything that’s going on here.