COMMENTS: Lack of Fanfare

The Baghdad Summit of regional powers in which US diplomats will meet openly with those from Iran and Syria continues to be undercovered by the networks. ABC and CBS mentioned it only in passing. NBC, whose anchor Brian Williams had been in Iraq this week, did not refer to it at all.

Williams aired parts of the Exclusive interview he conducted with Gen David Petraeus while he was in Baghdad--although he implicitly conceded that the general's words hardly represented much of a scoop now Petraeus has held an open press conference. NBC had promoted the interview prominently yesterday but today aired it sans fanfare some 20 minutes into the newscast. Williams did not even tease it during his intro.

Williams pointed out that it is no surprise that Baghdadis should attack the US military presence when their lives consist of electricity blackouts and raw sewage running through neighborhoods. Petraeus acknowledged that it is "fair to ask" why living conditions are so much worse under US occupation than under Saddam Hussein's regime. Interestingly Petraeus, who is a Pentagon expert in counterinsurgency, did not refer to the guerrillas who sabotage Iraq's infrastructure as "insurgents." He called them "pretty savvy terrorists" instead.

ABC offered no report from Iraq. CBS' Allen Pizzey filed a feature on "how fast the insurgents have improved their capabilities." In February alone, the Pentagon spent $210m on newly-designed mineproof vehicles, Pizzey pointed out, while he showed the guerrilla response. Propaganda videotape demonstrated the next generation of roadside bomb--Improvised Explosive Devices costing $30 a pop--exploding new USArmy minesweepers.


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