"Reality Check" for Raj: CBS4's Chohan criticized Salazar Iraq proposal, ignored widespread reporting that Iraq already is in "civil war"

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In a "Reality Check" segment, KCNC CBS4's Raj Chohan claimed U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar's (D-CO) proposal to move U.S. troops out to Iraq's borders would likely lead to "full-blown civil war" and cause "a flood of refugees." Chohan did not note widespread reports from experts and media outlets including CBS4 that such conditions already exist in Iraq.

While giving Colorado U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar's (D) proposed Iraq strategy a "Reality Check" during the February 5 broadcast of KCNC's CBS4 News at 10 p.m., reporter Raj Chohan criticized Salazar's proposal to move U.S. troops from central Iraq to the nation's borders, claiming that this strategy "would likely have the effect of allowing Iraq to slip into full-blown civil war." However, Chohan failed to note that in numerous reports, government experts and national media outlets have been identifying the conflict in Iraq as a civil war for several months -- a trend reported by Chohan's own CBS4.

Chohan also asserted that Salazar's proposal would cause "a flood of refugees" to Iraq's borders, ignoring reporting that indicates such an exodus already is occurring.

During the "Reality Check" segment, Salazar said that under his proposed strategy, "We should put our troops ... into safe places in Iraq, in between the border of Iraq and Iran and Iraq and Syria, helping them secure the territorial integrity of Iraq, and keeping Iran and Syria from infiltrating into the country."

Chohan then asserted that Salazar's proposal is "not the whole story" and stated without any substantiation that "pulling U.S. troops out of sectarian hot spots would likely have the effect of allowing Iraq to slip into full-blown civil war." Claiming that civil war is "exactly the scenario the president is trying to avoid" and that there are some "who think civil war is inevitable no matter what the U.S. does," Chohan ignored reporting by media outlets and government experts who have stated that the situation in Iraq already constitutes a civil war.

For example, The Boston Globe noted in a November 28, 2006, article that media outlets including NBC News, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, McClatchy Newspapers, and The Christian Science Monitor have "buck[ed] the White House" and begun referring to the conflict in Iraq as a "civil war."

As Colorado Media Matters noted, on November 27, 2006, CBS4 News at 10 p.m. aired a special report about this change in terminology and asked the question, "The violence in Iraq: Is it civil war?" During the broadcast, reporter Jodi Brooks noted, "[T]onight on the network evening newscasts, one network branded the Iraq conflict a civil war. Another network said that country slips ever closer to a civil war. And a third network says you can call it anarchy; you can call it chaos; you can call it a civil war."

Moreover, noting that "[t]he Intelligence Community judges that the term 'civil war' does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq," the National Intelligence Estimate in January reported that the conflict "includes extensive Shia-on-Shia violence, al-Qa'ida and Sunni insurgent attacks on Coalition forces, and widespread criminally motivated violence." The report further stated:

Nonetheless, the term "civil war" accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements.

Further, Chohan asserted Salazar's proposal would likely generate an "all-out civil war" that "would almost certainly mean ... a flood of refugees to the borders." But he failed to mention the civil war in Iraq reportedly already has caused "a flood of refugees." As a February 3 Associated Press article by Hamza Hendawi reported, the Middle East is "struggling with a gigantic refugee problem ... from Iraq." The AP article reported 700,000 Iraqis have fled to Jordan and 130,000 to Egypt:

The exodus -- one million to neighboring Syria alone, according to the U.N. -- is another unforeseen byproduct of the 2003 Iraq invasion. When it might peak, nobody knows, but if it continues at its present rate, the consequences for the region would be profound.

From the February 5 broadcast of KCNC's CBS4 News at 10 p.m.:

MOLLY HUGHES (co-anchor): One of the senators who has been vocal on the war in Iraq is Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado. CBS4's Raj Chohan is live in Washington, D.C., tonight giving Colorado lawmakers a "Reality Check," and Raj, you talked with Senator Salazar about the war in Iraq.

CHOHAN: Molly, Ken Salazar co-sponsored that nonbinding resolution that's being held up in the Senate. He's done a lot of work behind the scenes on that bill and has some strong feelings on Iraq. Tonight we give his agenda a "Reality Check."

[...]

CHOHAN: And the senator's own thoughts on Iraq actually occupy a middle ground. He doesn't support the president's plan to send more troops, but he doesn't support an immediate pullout, either -- unlike some of his Democratic colleagues. Instead, he's looking for a third way.

[begin audio clip]

SALAZAR: We should put our troops, I believe, into safe places in Iraq, in between the border of Iraq and Iran and Iraq and Syria, helping them secure the territorial integrity of Iraq, and keeping Iran and Syria from infiltrating into the country. And we should have, then, the regional countries -- Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, where they have a lot of money -- coming in and taking the lead and helping in the reconstruction of Iraq.

[end audio clip]

CHOHAN: It's not the whole story. Even if the U.S. could convince other Arab nations to pour billions into an Iraqi reconstruction effort, pulling U.S. troops out of sectarian hot spots would likely have the effect of allowing Iraq to slip into full-blown civil war. It's exactly the scenario the president is trying to avoid. Some of those who think civil war is inevitable no matter what the U.S. does propose using U.S. troops not to intervene in the conflict, but rather to contain it within Iraq's borders to keep it from spreading to neighboring countries. But all-out civil war would almost certainly mean tremendous civilian casualties, a flood of refugees to the borders, a humanitarian crisis.

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