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Iraq "Death Squads" Remind Couric of Innocents Killed in Salvador --1/10/2005


1. Iraq "Death Squads" Remind Couric of Innocents Killed in Salvador
NBC's Today on Monday morning devoted a 7am half hour segment to a Newsweek Web story about how the U.S. is supposedly considering a "Salvador Option" for Iraq, what Newsweek and NBC's Katie Couric dubbed "death squads" to hunt down terrorists. Couric proposed to retired Army General Wayne Downing: "Is this a clear sign though that U.S. forces are losing the war with these insurgents?" Couric tried to impugn the policy idea by tarring it with what supposedly occurred in El Salvador in the 1980s: "In El Salvador many innocent civilians were killed when these kind of tactics were employed. Are you concerned about that or the possibility this will increase anti-American sentiment in the general Iraqi population?" Downing rejected her premise: "This has nothing to do with El Salvador."

2. Clift: Bush Team "Took Their Damn Time" in "Laggard Response"
Two weeks after the tsunami, but in the first McLaughlin Group taped since it occurred, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift declared that "you cannot defend the administration's laggard response" and argued "the administration was basically out to lunch. They were on holiday and they didn't see U.S. strategic interests really threatened and they just took their damn time."

3. Best Jobs Numbers Since 1999, But CBS and NBC Stress Negative
Emphasizing the negative. The unemployment numbers released on Friday exhibited a gain of 157,000 jobs in December for a total of 2.2 million jobs during the year, the best showing since 1999. ABC's World News Tonight didn't mention the good news while CBS and NBC stressed the negative. CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts noted that the 2.2 million new jobs were "about 400,000 short of what the White House predicted a year ago" and, on the NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams pointed out how "Wall Street wasn't impressed. The Dow was down almost 19 points. NASDAQ was down as well." Neither network reported how the much-predicted job losses during the Bush years have now been nearly eliminated. Washington Post reporters Nell Henderson and Amy Joyce noted in their January 8 story how "that gap could be fully erased by the end of this month, according to many forecasts, thwarting Democrats' prediction during the presidential campaign that Bush would be the first U.S. President since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net national job loss in one term."


Iraq "Death Squads" Remind Couric of
Innocents Killed in Salvador

NBC's Katie Couric & Retired Army Gen. Wayne Downing NBC's Today on Monday morning devoted a 7am half hour segment to a Newsweek Web story about how the U.S. is supposedly considering a "Salvador Option" for Iraq, what Newsweek and NBC's Katie Couric dubbed "death squads" to hunt down terrorists. Couric proposed to retired Army General Wayne Downing: "Is this a clear sign though that U.S. forces are losing the war with these insurgents?" Couric tried to impugn the policy idea by tarring it with what supposedly occurred in El Salvador in the 1980s: "In El Salvador many innocent civilians were killed when these kind of tactics were employed. Are you concerned about that or the possibility this will increase anti-American sentiment in the general Iraqi population?" Downing rejected her premise: "This has nothing to do with El Salvador."

Couric set up the January 10 Today segment, as taken down by the MRC's Geoff Dickens: "On Close Up this morning, a possible new approach in Iraq. Newsweek magazine is reporting this week that the Pentagon is considering using a controversial secret strategy to battle insurgents there, the same one the Reagan administration used to fight leftist guerillas in El Salvador in the early eighties. Retired General Wayne Downing is an NBC News military analyst. General Downing good morning."

With "Iraqi Death Squads?" as the on-screen heading throughout the session, Couric posed these questions:

-- "So officials at the Pentagon are now discussing a possible option calling it, 'The Salvador Option,' according to Newsweek magazine. What does this mean and General Downing how significant is this in your view?"
Downing: "Well Katie I think this term is very unfortunate because this El Salvador thing brings up the connotation of death squads of illegal activity that took place in, by some of the El Salvadorian military 20 years ago. But I think what they're considering is to use a special or more special Iraqi units trained and equipped and perhaps even led by U.S. Special Forces to conduct strike operations against this, this insurgency, against the leaders of it which of course is a very valid strategy, a very valid tactic and it's actually something we've been doing since we started the war back in March of 2003."

-- Couric: "But is this going to be used more or in greater numbers? According to Newsweek they're going to, the, the U.S. Special Forces will train specially chosen Kurdish forces and Shiite militia men. So does this signal a, I guess, an escalation of this technique at least?"

-- "But is this a, I'm sorry General Downing is this a clear sign though that U.S. forces are losing the war with these insurgents? That they are even more difficult to, to deal with than once imagined?"

-- "One last question, we don't have much time General Downing, but in El Salvador many innocent civilians were killed when these kind of tactics were employed. Are you concerned about that or the possibility this will increase anti-American sentiment in the general Iraqi population?"
Downing: "Katie, this has nothing to do with El Salvador. Those operations that were conducted down there were conducted by, by renegade military leaders. This is under the control of the U.S. forces, of the current interim Iraqi government. There's, there's no need to think that we're going to have any kind of a, a killing campaign that's gonna maim innocent civilians-"
Couric: "Alright."
Downing: "Katie it's a nasty situation in Iraq right now and this may help it get better."

For the Saturday-posted Newsweek Web site article, "'The Salvador Option': The Pentagon may put Special-Forces-led assassination or kidnapping teams in Iraq" by Michael Hirsh and John Barry, go to: www.msnbc.msn.com

Newsweek illustrated its story with one of the most incendiary incidents used by the left to discredit the Reagan administration's subsequent support for the government of El Salvador. The caption for the photo featured by Newsweek: "Nuns pray over the bodies of four American sisters killed by the military in El Salvador in 1980."

Clift: Bush Team "Took Their Damn Time"
in "Laggard Response"

Two weeks after the tsunami, but in the first McLaughlin Group taped since it occurred, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift declared that "you cannot defend the administration's laggard response" and argued "the administration was basically out to lunch. They were on holiday and they didn't see U.S. strategic interests really threatened and they just took their damn time."

Clift opined on the McLaughlin Group shown over the weekend:
"You cannot defend the administration's laggard response. The aircraft carrier was in the Indian Ocean. It could have been diverted a lot earlier. What you need in the early hours after a disaster like that is helicopters that can go in when the roads are out you have to bring in fresh water. The administration could have responded more quickly....The administration was basically out to lunch. They were on holiday and they didn't see U.S. strategic interests really threatened and they just took their damn time."

Best Jobs Numbers Since 1999, But CBS
and NBC Stress Negative

CBS on-screen graphic: 2.2 Million jobs created in 2004 Emphasizing the negative. The unemployment numbers released on Friday exhibited a gain of 157,000 jobs in December for a total of 2.2 million jobs during the year, the best showing since 1999. ABC's World News Tonight didn't mention the good news while CBS and NBC stressed the negative. CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts noted that the 2.2 million new jobs were "about 400,000 short of what the White House predicted a year ago" and, on the NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams pointed out how "Wall Street wasn't impressed. The Dow was down almost 19 points. NASDAQ was down as well."

Neither network reported how the much-predicted job losses during the Bush years have now been nearly eliminated. Washington Post reporters Nell Henderson and Amy Joyce noted in their January 8 story:
"At the recent low-point for the job count, in August 2003, the nation had 2.7 million fewer jobs than on the eve of the recession. By last month, that deficit had been shaved to 122,000. That gap could be fully erased by the end of this month, according to many forecasts, thwarting Democrats' prediction during the presidential campaign that Bush would be the first U.S. President since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net national job loss in one term." For the article in full: www.washingtonpost.com

Indeed, that was the Democratic line during the campaign, a line some in the media eagerly picked up. On the October 8 CBS Evening News, for instance, Dan Rather intoned:
"While the economy has created nearly two million jobs in the past year, President Bush still goes into the election with 821,000 fewer jobs in the nation than when he took office. It's the first net job loss on a President's watch since Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression of the 1930s. CBS's Jim Axelrod reports Senator Kerry is ready to play that up in tonight's town meeting face-off."

After 47 months of unemployment data, Bush is just 122,000 jobs short now of breaking even with the report for January due in early February. And as Saturday's New York Times story noted, that "job creation grew at a stronger pace than originally estimated in October and November; the Labor Department, with further information from companies, increased its estimate for those two months by 34,000 jobs."

CBS's John Roberts The short item read by John Roberts on the January 7 CBS Evening News: "About the U.S. economy now, President Bush applauded today's jobs report. It shows unemployment holding steady last month at 5.4 percent as the economy created 157,000 jobs. For all of 2004, it's 2.2 million new jobs, the best showing in five years. It's about 400,000 short of what the White House predicted a year ago, though."

On the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams announced: "And there is news on the American economy tonight, specifically the jobs report for the month of December. Employers added 157,000 workers to their payrolls last month. The unemployment rate, by the way, held steady at 5.4 percent. December's payroll additions bring the total number of jobs added for the year now to 2.2 million. That's the best showing in five years. President Bush called all this a very positive set of numbers, but Wall Street wasn't impressed. The Dow was down almost 19 points. NASDAQ was down as well. And for this first week of the new year, stocks lost ground overall. The Dow was off 179 points. NASDAQ was down almost 87. That's about four percent."


-- Brent Baker