NBC's Richard Engel Rants: Iraq War a 'Distraction' From Getting Bin Laden

On NBC's Nightly News on Monday, chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel used a report on the history of the war on terror to attack the Bush administration for going to war in Iraq: "...when civil war in Iraq broke out, American troops were stuck....it was a distraction from the United States' original mission to find Bin Laden, stop Al Qaeda, and prevent another 9/11." [Audio available here]

Engel began his report by describing the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan following the September 11th attacks, but soon shifted into commentary as he mockingly proclaimed: "...regime change in Afghanistan, done with few troops and high technology, seemed so easy. The Bush White House tried it again in Iraq." He further ranted: "Afghanistan and Iraq were lumped together in what was called a 'global war on terrorism.' The truth was, there was never a connection between Iraq and Osama Bin Laden. There were no weapons of mass destruction, either."

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After remarking that American troops became "stuck" in Iraq's "civil war," Engel asserted: "Deployment after deployment, trying to stop the daily carnage. The cost was enormous. More than 4,400 American troops dead. Along with 150,000 Iraqis....With American troops tied down in Baghdad, Al Qaeda and the Taliban slipped back into Afghanistan..."

Engel couldn't help but take one more parting shot at President Bush while mention the killing of Bin Laden: "But now, a major victory the United States has had to wait ten years to see. Osama Bin Laden is dead. Killed not by a massive troop deployment but by a commando raid carried out by a few dozen highly trained men and helicopters."

Anchor Brian Williams did not label the piece as commentary, in fact, he went out of his way to bolster Engel's credentials as an expert: "And Richard....no one can match your time embedded with the U.S. military or speak with the authority you have on this ten-year effort to find this one man [Bin Laden]."

Here is a full transcript of Engel's May 2 report:

7:34PM ET    

BRIAN WILLIAMS: All of this brings us back to Richard Engel, who is in Libya. And Richard, you and I have on occasion been given a good glimpse inside U.S. military special operations, but no one can match your time embedded with the U.S. military or speak with the authority you have on this ten-year effort to find this one man.

RICHARD ENGEL: It is incredible when you look back at it. Ten years, America's war on terrorism and how costly it has been. A trillion dollars, thousands of American families, American soldiers who have lost their loved ones in this fight. And it has just been a war that has set the tone for American society for the last decade.

After 9/11, the United States mobilized for war. Seeking justice and revenge. Troops invaded Afghanistan almost immediately. Within two months, Al Qaeda's hosts, the Taliban, were thrown out of power. Osama Bin Laden got away. But regime change in Afghanistan, done with few troops and high technology, seemed so easy. The Bush White House tried it again in Iraq. U.S. officials said Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction and linked Iraq to 9/11 and Bin Laden.

GEORGE W. BUSH: The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and Al Qaeda, because there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

ENGEL: Afghanistan and Iraq were lumped together in what was called a 'global war on terrorism.' The truth was, there was never a connection between Iraq and Osama Bin Laden. There were no weapons of mass destruction, either.

But when civil war in Iraq broke out, American troops were stuck. Deployment after deployment, trying to stop the daily carnage. The cost was enormous. More than 4,400 American troops dead. Along with 150,000 Iraqis. And it was a distraction from the United States' original mission to find Bin Laden, stop Al Qaeda, and prevent another 9/11. With American troops tied down in Baghdad, Al Qaeda and the Taliban slipped back into Afghanistan, a fight the United States is still waging.

But now, a major victory the United States has had to wait ten years to see. Osama Bin Laden is dead. Killed not by a massive troop deployment but by a commando raid carried out by a few dozen highly trained men and helicopters. With Osama Bin Laden's death, this chapter of America's war on terrorism, a war that has defined the military, defined American culture, even, may be ending. Brian.

WILLIAMS: Richard Engel always on the road covering conflict for us, tonight in Libya, Richard, thanks.
 

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC