Another helicopter was shot down in Iraq, the fifth--four military, one civilian--in the last three weeks. All three networks led with the crash of the USMC Sea Knight outside Fallujah that killed all seven on board: CBS and ABC from Baghdad, NBC from the Pentagon. Curiously, CBS decided to label its report an Exclusive, without spelling out why.

The sole unique content that CBS' Lara Logan (no link) included was some video from the Website of the Islamic State of Iraq claiming responsibility for the shootdown (NBC's John Yang also reported the group's claim). The Website Logan showed, however, erroneously referred to the Sea Knight as a Chinook, a similar helicopter used by the army. Furthermore, the video purported to be of a previous shootdown at the weekend.

Both Logan and ABC's Martha Raddatz (subscription required) seemed appropriately rattled by the spate of helicopter crashes. "It is considered so dangerous to travel by road that troops and cargo move mostly by air. Last week we were flown on an eight minute chopper ride just to get from one part of Baghdad to another," Logan recounted. "For the past two days we have flown extensively throughout al-Anbar province in Marine Corp helicopters," added Raddatz. "The pilots were keenly aware of the increased threat all over Iraq."

NBC's Yang got this explanation from his unnamed Pentagon sources: both insurgent forces and Shiite militias are now using new shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles; they are manufactured in North Korea or China and are being shipped into Iraq via Iran; they are more accurate and have longer ranges. Accordingly, military helicopters "often fly at lower altitudes just above the treetops where it is harder for those missiles to lock in on them--that makes them more vulnerable to smaller weapons."

UPDATE: Lara Logan's colleague Allen Pizzey reported five months later that, according to US military authorities, the Islamic State of Iraq does not exist. ISI was a fabricated organization with a fictional leader named abu-Omar al-Baghdadi, played by an actor, created for propaganda purposes, existing only in cyberspace.


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