Almost a month ago, Media Matters for America noted the media's near-total silence regarding an October 11 Los Angeles Times revelation that the Bush administration planned to delay major assaults on insurgent strongholds in Iraq until after the November 2 U.S. presidential election. Such major assaults could result in large numbers of U.S. military casualties. As MMFA noted at the time, no network TV news program mentioned the Times article.
On November 8, the top story on each of the major TV networks' morning shows was the U.S.-led forces' assault on Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah. ABC's Good Morning America and CBS's Early Show did not address the possible political timing of the assault; only NBC Today co-anchor Matt Lauer, in an interview with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), raised the issue.
From the November 8 edition of NBC's Today:
LAUER: Let me ask you about the timing of this. It comes a week after elections, and critics are saying that U.S. officials didn't want to run the risk of more soldiers dying, more images of wounded and killed soldiers, from the battlefield in Iraq prior to those elections. Is that a fair assessment in your opinion?
GRAHAM: Well, I think it's pretty clear to anybody who was watching the elections that there was gonna be a major operation in Fallujah. What we tried to do with Prime Minister [Ayad] Allawi is to negotiate a political settlement like we did in the south with [cleric Muqtada] al-Sadr. It just hasn't worked, and we probably put this battle off too long, but --
LAUER: Yeah, this has been a hotbed of insurgent activity for a long time. It does appear this has been much delayed.
GRAHAM: Well, it's been delayed with the hope of trying to find a political settlement. We did that with Prime Minister Allawi in the south with al-Sadr. It just hasn't worked here, but the day of reckoning is here. That's the bottom line.
LAUER: You know, a lot of people are worried that because the buildup of this assault, Senator, took so long and it was talked about so often over the last several months, many of these insurgents have now fanned out and are in other cities and towns waiting to fight another day. Is that a real fear?
GRAHAM: Well, it is a real fear. I mean, the bottom line is when you see forces congregate and start to organize, you shouldn't let that happen. But there's a political dynamic here that you can't ignore. We tried to empower the moderate forces in Iraq and throughout the Middle East to deal with these folks, and we have to let them sort of pave the way. Militarily, it will be a joint operation. Politically, we have given a lot of authority to Prime Minister Allawi to avoid this day, but we were unsuccessful. So yes, we put it off too long, I think, in the past, but now we're gonna clean up this mess.