COMMENTS: Diverted from the Green Zone

Minor developments concerning three different aspects of the Iraq conflict combined to make the war the inconsequential Story of the Day on a very light day of news. ABC and NBC both led from Baghdad: ABC with attacks on the governmental Green Zone, NBC with the trio of missing GIs in the so-called Triangle of Death. CBS did not assign a correspondent to the war, although the network reported from London on the British Army's decision not to send Prince Harry to fight there. Instead CBS led with a crisis in FEMA's emergency housing trailers.

The US military offered a reward of $200,000 for information on its missing men and 4,000 continue to be "diverted," as NBC' Ian Williams put it, in their search of villages around Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad. Williams asked Gen David Petraeus about his operational assumptions: "We believe they are still alive." Back in Baghdad, ABC's Terry McCarthy reported on the concerns of Americans living in the Green Zone about "the increasing frequency and accuracy" of mortar attacks from nearby civilian neighborhoods. Many sleep in trailers with soft roofs. Staff at the US Embassy has been told "to wear flak jackets and helmets when walking outside."

Back in Washington, the US Senate defeated a proposal to withdraw all US troops from Iraq by next spring. What ABC's Jake Tapper (subscription required) found newsworthy in the vote was that "what was considered radical just a few months ago" is now "mainstream Democratic thought." A majority of the party's caucus supported the pullout plan and "once-cautious Democrats are now trying to outflank one another on the anti-war left." Neither CBS nor NBC mentioned the vote.

British military authorities announced that second lieutenant Harry would be such an inviting target for anti-occupation forces in Basra that his mere presence would expose his comrades in arms to unacceptable dangers. NBC's Keith Miller noted politely that the decision had been reached after "several weeks of internal debate;" CBS' Mark Phillips called it "months of go-no-go dithering." Mused Phillips: "Killing or capturing a prince might have been a huge insurgent propaganda victory" but on the other hand "a prince not going to war at all is a victory in its own right."

NBC's Miller reported that there is a debate in London over whether "there is special treatment for royalty." Well, of course there is.


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