The first test by fire of President George Bush's expanded military plan for Iraq was the Story of the Day. A police station being used by the US military as a forward operating base in the Sunni Arab town of Tarmiyah came under daytime attack by a coordinated trio of carbombs. The fighting, in which two GIs were killed, was the lead item on all three network newscasts. ABC and CBS both recreated the scene using computer animation. NBC's lead, by Jane Arraf in Baghdad, consisted only of a stand-up.

The Tarmiyah attack was significant because it dramatized two key elements in the Bush build-up. First, by concentrating forces in Baghdad, CBS' Lara Logan suggested, it makes sense that insurgents would look for targets elsewhere: "This was a rare and brazen assault on a US base carried out in broad daylight." Second, deploying troops in neighborhoods 24-hours-a-day makes them more vulnerable: "These small bases are not as well protected," noted NBC's Richard Engel. ABC's Martha Raddatz (no link) consulted her USArmy sources. They told her that that such forward deployment is the correct military move but is probably being adopted too late in the war. When the inevitable extra casualties occur, "patience will grow thin" back in this country.

From Baghdad itself, ABC's Miguel Marquez (subscription required) reported that the Islamic State of Iraq had taken unverified credit for the attack. He called them "an al-Qaeda group." The Shiite militias, by contrast, have "stopped fighting. They have decided to wait out the process," NBC's Engel added. Their tactic is to let the US military and Sunni insurgents battle it out, then "consolidate power, wait for the Americans to leave and then just take over."


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