ABC's World News omitted Abizaid's rebuttal of McCain's criticism on troop levels

››› ››› ROB MORLINO

An ABC World News report on the "tense exchange" between Sen. John McCain and Gen. John Abizaid omitted Abizaid's rebuttal to McCain's assertion that Abizaid had ignored calls for more U.S. troops in Iraq.

During the November 15 broadcast of ABC's World News, ABC News senior national security correspondent Jonathan Karl reported on a "tense exchange" between Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and U.S. Central Command head Gen. John P. Abizaid during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that day about progress in Iraq but omitted Abizaid's rebuttal to McCain's assertion that Abizaid had ignored calls for more U.S. troops in Iraq.

At the beginning of the segment, Karl stated that Abizaid's position against increasing troop levels in Iraq had "prompted" the "tense" exchange with McCain; however, he did not note that Abizaid directly refuted McCain's accusation that Abizaid had ignored the advice of other top military officials on troop levels necessary to stabilize Iraq. McCain's accusation itself was also cropped out of the exchange, but the report gave no indication of having edited video of the hearing. The report showed the following exchange between McCain and Abizaid:

McCAIN: General Abizaid, is al-Anbar Province under control?

ABIZAID: Al-Anbar Province is not under control, Senator.

McCAIN: Yet, we have enough troops to take care of the problem, which you say Baghdad is the primary area? I don't understand, General. I don't know how many American lives have been sacrificed in al-Anbar Province, but we still have enough, and we will rely on the ability to train the Iraqi military when the Iraqi army hasn't sent the requested number of battalions into Baghdad.

In fact, McCain had asked Abizaid:

McCAIN: Did you note that [retired] General [Anthony] Zinni who opposed of the invasion now thinks that we should have more troops? Did you notice that [retired Maj.] General [John] Batiste, who was opposed to the conduct of this conflict, also says that we may need tens of thousands of additional troops? I don't understand, General. When you have a part of Iraq that is not under our control and yet, we still -- as al-Anbar Province is -- I don't know how many American lives have been sacrificed in al-Anbar Province, but we still have enough, and we will rely on the ability to train the Iraqi military when the Iraqi army hasn't sent the requested number of battalions into Baghdad.

As the weblog Think Progress noted, but Karl did not, Abizaid responded to McCain's statement by saying, "Senator McCain, I met with every divisional commander, General [George] Casey, the core [sic] commander, [Lt.] General [Martin] Dempsey -- we all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no." The ABC News report left viewers with the impression that McCain's criticism of Abizaid on troop levels went unanswered during the exchange.

During an October 27 campaign event for Republicans in New Hampshire, McCain proposed sending 20,000 more troops to Iraq, which he said would "mean[] expanding the Army and Marine Corps by as much as 100,000 people." McCain subsequently asserted on the November 12 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press that "[w]e're either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months." As Media Matters for America has documented, a number of media outlets have ignored significant questions regarding the feasibility of McCain's proposal.

From the November 15 broadcast of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

KARL: Just back from Iraq, General Abizaid rejected virtually every major proposal for changing course in Iraq. No timetable for withdrawal; no partition of the country; and no increase in U.S. forces. That prompted this tense exchange with Senator John McCain.

McCAIN: General Abizaid, is al-Anbar Province under control?

ABIZAID: Al-Anbar Province is not under control, Senator.

McCAIN: Yet, we have enough troops to take care of the problem, which you say Baghdad is the primary area? I don't understand, General. I don't know how many American lives have been sacrificed in al-Anbar Province, but we still have enough, and we will rely on the ability to train the Iraqi military when the Iraqi army hasn't sent the requested number of battalions into Baghdad.

KARL: Abizaid said he was encouraged by what he saw while he was in Iraq earlier this week.

McCAIN: Was it encouraging when in broad daylight that -- yesterday or the day before that -- people dressed in police uniforms were able to come in and kidnap 150 people and leave with them and go through checkpoints? I'm, of course, disappointed that, basically, you're advocating the status quo here today, which I think the American people in the last election said that is not an acceptable condition.

ABIZAID: Well, Senator, I agree with you. The status quo is not acceptable. And I don't believe what I'm saying here, today, is the status quo.

KARL: General Abizaid said again and again the solution is increasing the training of Iraqi troops, although time is running out.

SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): General Abizaid, how much time do you think we have to bring down the level of violence in Baghdad before we reach some type of tipping point where it accelerates beyond the control of even the Iraqi government?

ABIZAID: I think it needs to be brought down within the next several months.

REED: Ninety days? Sixty days?

ABIZAID: Four to six months.

REED: Four to six months.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
ABC
Show/Publication
ABC World News Tonight
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.