COMMENTS: Missing Trio in Triangle of Death

All three networks had their Baghdad correspondents file on the deployment of 4,000 US troops--"as well as dog teams, helicopters, drones and satellite surveillance," as ABC's Terry McCarthy pointed out--in search of three soldiers who were taken prisoner after an ambush near Yusufiyah on Saturday. Such an enormous search some 20 miles south of Baghdad "comes at a particularly bad time" for the US military, McCarthy observed, just as it is trying to focus on the "complex and highly risky strategy" of making the capital secure.

Both ABC, with its Virtual View, and CBS with its News Animation used computer graphics to depict the pre-dawn ambush in which the three were captured and their five comrades killed. NBC's Ian Williams reported on the online claim by the Islamic State of Iraq that it was avenging the rape-murder of a 14-year-old girl last year and the killing of her family by US soldiers in the same rural area, the so-called Triangle of Death.

To repeat a Tyndall Report pet peeve, CBS anchor Katie Couric should not have referred to the incident as "soldiers kidnapped by terrorists." Terrorism is defined as attacks on civilians; attacking soldiers thus is guerrilla warfare. To their credit none of the Baghdad correspondents called the ambushers "terrorists" although CBS' Mark Strassmann did refer to the capture in Couric's terminology as a "kidnapping," which is surely not accurate for the act of taking soldiers prisoner on the battlefield.

Back on Capitol Hill, CBS' Sharyl Attkisson got hold of a Government Accountability Office report on Iraq's oil and electricity sectors. The electricity supply is getting worse despite a $5bn investment by the United States: in 2006, half the electric needs of Iraq were met; in the past three months power has been supplied to Baghdad for only nine hours a day and to the rest of the country only five. As for oil, between 100K and 300K of the 2m barrels of crude pumped each day is "vanishing" due to "corruption, smuggling and other illicit activities." Later at the refinery, a further 30% of fuels "are being diverted to the black market or smuggled out of Iraq."


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