YORK - March 26 - The Pentagon can be expected to claim that its
bombing campaign against Iraq is accurate. But without independent
verification, reporters should be skeptical about these claims
about "precision" bombing.
on NBC News illustrate the opposite tendency. Correspondent
Bob Faw (3/20/03) described a Florida town as "a community
which very much endorses that surgical strike against Saddam
Hussein." Anchor Katie Couric (3/21/03) also referred to
"a series of surgical strikes focusing on Iraq's key leadership"
during the first two nights of bombing. Anchor Matt Lauer (3/21/03)
agreed: "The people in that city have endured two nights
of surgical air strikes and they've no idea what could come
correspondent Jim Miklaszewski (3/21/03) took it a step further,
reporting that "every weapon is precision guided-- deadly
accuracy designed to kill only the targets, not innocent civilians."
On the Today show the next morning (3/22/03), Miklaszewski reiterated
his point: "More than a thousand bombs and missiles were
dropped on Baghdad, three times the number from the entire Gulf
War. And this time, they're all precision-guided, deadly accurate,
designed to kill only the targets, not innocent civilians."
day, reporter Chris Jansing sized up "the first daylight
pictures of severe damage from yesterday's massive and incredibly
precise air assault on the Iraqi capital."
reports from the scene of the bombings would be necessary before
making any definitive claims about "surgical" strikes.
are made about civilian deaths and destruction from the bombing,
the stories are treated with skepticism, often framed as claims
made by the Iraqis: "The BBC and the Arab network Al-Jazeera
have devoted significant time to what Iraq suggested were innocent
victims targeted in the bombings" (NBC Nightly News, 3/22/03).
Yet it is
plain that some bombs are going off course. Syrian civilians
in a bus in northern Iraq were killed in one attack, two cruise
missiles have landed in Turkey (Dateline NBC, 3/23/03) and several
missiles have reportedly hit southwestern Iran (Washington Post,
in Baghdad have been able to document some of the civilian effects
of the bombing; John Daniszewski reported in the Los Angeles
Times (3/25/03) that "the deaths and injuries from misdirected
or errant bombs, or from shrapnel and fragments that spray into
nearby homes even when the munitions find their intended target,
are making more and more people believe that the United States
is heedless of the Iraqi public." Such information gives
some needed perspective about claims of "precision"
or "surgical" bombardment.
Ask NBC to avoid using terms like "precision" or "surgical"
to describe the bombing of Iraq. Encourage them to exercise
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