COMMENTS: Model of Success

In Washington, George Bush and Nancy Pelosi exchanged words over funding for the Iraq War. The Speaker wants the money tied to a promise to withdraw US troops: "Calm down with the threats. There is a new Congress in town…This war must end." The President wants no such thing: "I am going to veto it." CBS took the Capitol Hill angle with Sharyl Attkisson. She characterized the President as criticizing Democrats for "the worst kind of meddling." NBC covered the feud from the White House with David Gregory: "The Democrats face the fallout of being the architects of withdrawal," was how he put it, without countenancing the possibility that Democrats might receive kudos from their supporters, not fallout. Gregory observed that the President insists his strategy is succeeding. When Bush quoted a couple of Iraqi bloggers to bolster his case, Gregory called that an "unusual step."

Bush's argument was undercut by bloody events in Iraq. Both ABC's Terry McCarthy and NBC's Tom Aspell reminded us of the President's frequent invocation of Tal Afar as a model of US military success in Iraq--the city had been cleared of insurgents, pacified and security had been handed over to local forces. "The story of Tal Afar gives me confidence in our strategy," Bush had declared last year. "In this city we see the outlines of the Iraq that we and the Iraqi people have been fighting for."

Those claims looked hollow after the rampages in Tal Afar of the past 24 hours. NBC's Aspell described initial attacks that "tricked and killed 85 people, mostly Shiites. The bombers had hidden explosives under sacks and had gathered a crowd with the offer of free flour." Then "after nightfall, Shiite gunmen, including police officers, seek bloody revenge in a Sunni neighborhood," ABC's McCarthy narrated, abducting and killing as many as 60 men. The Tal Afar strategy, McCarthy noted, "is broadly the same as the new security plan for Baghdad today."


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