01 September, 2007

Katie Couric in Baghdad

It's been awhile since I dipped into the negative with a fisking, but I can't resist in this case...

Does news anchor Katie Couric realize what a nitwit she sounds like? It starts with only the third sentence:

We arrived at the airport this morning on a private plane. I was surprised to hear that there are now three Royal Jordanian flights into Baghdad every day.

She'd be even more surprised to know that nine different civilian airlines run flights in and out of the Baghdad International Airport! Great job of keeping up on the news, Anchor.

She continues, full of hearsay/assumptions until she's experienced it herself...
I had heard a great deal about the corkscrew landing into Baghdad airport, ostensibly to avoid being a clear target for SAMs, or surface-to-air missiles.... But the airport has gotten much more secure; we banked slightly, but it wasn't nearly as jarring as I had anticipated.

Again, some research might have been helpful. Of course the airport has gotten more secure! Was the last time she heard any facts about it the Thanksgiving that Bush visited?? And she obviously had no idea what a "corkscrew landing" actually is. Discovered via a quick Google search:
...pilots employ an old, trusted tactic: the spiral, or corkscrew, landing approach. Once the plane arrives at about 18,000 feet—still safely beyond the range of weapons like the SA-7 shoulder-fired missile—the pilot banks sharply and descends toward the runway in a slow, tight circle, like someone walking down a spiral staircase...The whole thing takes seven to 10 minutes, roughly the same as a regular approach, but it all takes place directly overhead, instead of beginning 20 miles from the runway....

Though it sounds like something from a flying circus, the corkscrew is actually a straightforward tactic that uses fairly standard piloting skills. Airline pilots sometimes use a similar maneuver, descending quickly through clouds to get under bad weather.

I'm gritting my teeth, but let's continue...
I was not looking forward to the road from the airport, having heard so many stories about how dangerous it was.

Oooh! The intrepid little Katie is so brave! From a the San Diego Union-Tribune, November 2005 (a more recent report here):
It used to be the most dangerous highway in Iraq, five miles of bomb-blasted road between Baghdad International Airport and the capital cityscape. It was a white-knuckle ride, coming or going. To reach Baghdad or leave it, you had to survive the airport road first.

Then, two months ago, the killings stopped. In October, one person was wounded on the road and no one was killed...

Back to the intrepid Katie... After a wrenching description of the "mess" it is and all the scary military vehicles, she goes on to mention that the "army has made a point of" securing Route Irish, but finishes with:
Despite improved security along what the military calls Route Irish, I was relieved when we reached our CBS compound, just outside the Green Zone, which is something I had been anxious to see.

Can't let facts get in the way of our fears, huh? Apparently her on-site producer doesn't let facts get in the way, either. He's been there since the American invasion:
I asked him if he thought things had improved since he got here. He said no, he was afraid not. But his personal opinion was that the U.S. has a responsibility to continue its presence here because, as he put it, "We tipped over the apple cart."

A laudable sentiment, but you gotta love the logic: things aren't any better after five years than during the initial invasion, but we gotta stay there and keep screwing things up? Got it.

Katie goes on to describe visiting an Iraqi family, but doesn't say what part of the city she was in. Baghdad neighborhoods vary widely in wealth and stability (depending on whether or not Americans have cleared them out yet), so context is everything. Sadly, she doesn't supply the context necessary to form a rational interpretation of her report.
All the stores I saw were closed, some for good, some were not open because it was Friday, a holy day in Islam.

Katie, let me correct that for you: "All the stores I saw were closed (It was Friday, a holy day in Islam)." In case that wasn't clear, MOST (all?) stores are going to be closed on Fridays! But to acknowledge that might undercut the image you're trying so hard to paint; I understand.
They told us that their electricity is very spotty. They get only about an hour or two at the most from the national grid ... more from the generator that is for their neighborhood, and then they have a small generator themselves, but fuel is very, very expensive.

First a personal note. Last week I received a letter from a friend in a major city in Pakistan--a "Middle Eastern" country not occupied by the American army, a country so advanced that it has the capacity to make nuclear weapons. In the time it took him to write three short pages, his neighborhood lost electrical power four times (not unusual for him). Must be because the American military has gone in there and destroyed the place, huh?

Secondly, did you notice that they get an "hour or two" from the national grid, but "more" from the neighborhood facilities? I wonder how much "more" is, but Katie somehow neglects to mention it. Again, it would take away from the narrative of destruction, anarchy and failure she's so desperately trying to hold onto.
They have three children ... nine, seven and eight months, and the older boys looked dazed. It's too dangerous for them to play outside. It was heartbreaking.

"Look dazed?" Because of the heat? Because of the confinement? Maybe because they are old enough to be in awe of the perky white woman who has come to visit them (likely with cameras in tow)? Like the rest of her post, the message is all between the lines.
The parents said they don't blame it on U.S. forces, and said they hope American troops stay, because if they don't, the "militias will kill everyone."

The father, who works as a radio reporter, said he blamed the government and said a more secular government would do a better job. The mom told me, "It's hard for us to be good citizens, when you always have to worry about electricity and water and food." Staying inside all day in sweltering heat, no running water, and three children. Only buying enough food for the day because you have no place to refrigerate it. Being scared to death every time your husband goes to work. Fearing for your life because you've talked to an American journalist, and there are those who kill anyone who has anything to do with Americans. Not having enough money to leave Iraq. This is life for one Iraqi family, and they are probably luckier than some.

There go those "journalistic" assumptions, again... Assumptions of informed professionals can be given some credit, but Katie has not been showing herself to be very well-informed thus far...

At least she closes with some perspective, albeit wrapped within a non-sequitur:
It's ironic that I was in New Orleans last week, which seems like nirvana compared to Baghdad. You can’t help but wonder if this place will survive, much less thrive. Meanwhile, all U.S. and Iraqi soldiers patrolling the streets have my renewed respect and appreciation. One-hundred-and-ten degrees with full-body armor and heavy uniforms. I don't know how they do it. But they do, and we should be grateful.

Katie, as a woman I cringe when subjected to you, but were I a "journalist" I'd be downright embarrassed.

[P.S. Funny how the word "journalist" used to at least imply someone in an educated, professional career field attempting to bring events to those who weren't there... these days it's feeling more and more like an insult.]

Update: Greyhawk and Soldiers' Dad make some points that I overlooked.