9News Iraq report distorted September "surge" review deadline, diverged with network on "civil war"

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In reporting on a meeting between President Bush and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Bazi Kanani of NBC affiliate KUSA 9News noted that Bush had asked Talabani to take steps "to head off a civil war." However, NBC News already considers the conflict in Iraq a civil war. Also, in reporting that a U.S. military leader in Iraq said he "might not be ready to assess" Bush's "surge" plan until September, "when Congress-approved funding for the war runs out," Kanani omitted the fact that the deadline was set based on when the military said it would be able to assess the progress of the plan.

On May 31, KUSA 9News at 5 p.m. co-anchor Bazi Kanani reported that during a meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, President Bush urged Talabani "to press forward with political deals needed to head off civil war." In fact, Iraq already is engaged in a civil war, according to a November 2006 report by NBC News. Kanani also reported that "the U.S. second-in-command in Iraq said that he might not be ready to assess the 'surge' plan by September ... when Congress-approved funding for the war runs out." Kanani, however, omitted the fact that the September funding deadline was established after U.S. military leaders identified September as the month to measure the progress of troop increases in Iraq.

From the May 31 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 5 p.m.:

KANANI: President Bush met with Iraq's president at the White House today. Mr. Bush urged Jalal Talabani to press forward with political deals needed to head off civil war. Also today, the U.S. second-in-command in Iraq said that he might not be ready to assess the "surge" plan by September. That's when Congress-approved funding for the war runs out.

KUSA 9News is the Denver affiliate of NBC News, which announced last year that it would begin referring to the conflict in Iraq as a "civil war," due to the sectarian nature of the violence there. As Colorado Media Matters noted, Today show co-host Matt Lauer made the announcement on November 27, 2006. Lauer explained the network's decision by saying, "NBC News has decided that a change in terminology is warranted, that the situation in Iraq with armed militarized factions fighting for their own political agendas can now be characterized as civil war."

Moreover, in focusing on the length of congressional funding, Kanani did not mention that military officials -- including Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq -- and members of Congress set September as the time to assess the success of Bush's so-called "surge" policy regardless of its funding status. As The Washington Post reported on May 8:

Congressional leaders from both political parties are giving President Bush a matter of months to prove that the Iraq war effort has turned a corner, with September looking increasingly like a decisive deadline.

In that month, political pressures in Washington will dovetail with the military timeline in Baghdad. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq, has said that by then he will have a handle on whether the current troop increase is having any impact on political reconciliation between Iraq's warring factions. And fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1, will almost certainly begin with Congress placing tough new strings on war funding.

"Many of my Republican colleagues have been promised they will get a straight story on the surge by September," said Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.). "I won't be the only Republican, or one of two Republicans, demanding a change in our disposition of troops in Iraq at that point. That is very clear to me."

"September is the key," said Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), a member of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds defense. "If we don't see a light at the end of the tunnel, September is going to be a very bleak month for this administration."

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