NBC's decision to send anchor Brian Williams to Baghdad to check on the progress of US military operations made the Iraq War the Story of the Day. Both NBC and CBS covered the advance of the USArmy's 82nd Airborne Division into Baghdad's Sadr City section. ABC ignored the war in Iraq. Instead both ABC and CBS led with the ongoing scandal over the treatment of casualties disabled by the conflict.

NBC's Richard Engel entered Sadr City, the Shiite stronghold previously patroled by the Mahdi Army militia, while anchor Williams flew into the Sunni city of Ramadi by Blackhawk helicopter with Gen Ray Odierno. Williams found "a more peaceful" Ramadi but empty, "almost a ghost town." He was surprised at the unanimity of the officers he talked to. They all told him that local residents tell them that they do not want the US military to pull out of al-Anbar province. "The US has been handing out cash to certain tribes here," Williams noted. NBC's in-house military analyst Wayne Downing, a retired USArmy general, explained that there had been "a lot of heavy patrolling" in Ramadi to make the visit safe.

In the teeming Sadr City, a six-square-mile slum with a population of two million, NBC's Engel found a peaceful insertion of military forces. The Mahdi Army "seems to have just faded away. Its fighters no longer patrol the streets. They have even taken down their propaganda posters." Before the troops went in, there had been "meticulous" planning with local civic leaders, CBS' Allen Pizzey explained, negotiating time for the militiamen "to hide their weapons and disappear." Engel spoke to US military commanders: "They are not naive. They know the Mahdi Army is playing possum. US forces hope that now, if they can impose some sort of security, the people of Sadr City get used to it, like it, and then will not welcome the militias back in." On the other hand, the local police is "very sympathetic to the Mahdi Army."


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