'Today' Finds Low Troop Morale, Airs Insurgent Propaganda Video
From time to time we here at the MRC get emails from troops grateful for the work we do here in exposing the bias in the media's coverage of the Iraq war and their failure to report all the good things the servicemen and women there have seen for themselves. Well to those who've sent those emails we thank you but if you're looking for a morale boost you may want to avert your eyes from what was on this morning's "Today" show as NBC's war correspondents Richard Engel and Tom Aspell painted a bleak picture of the troops' resolve and even, without comment, relayed insurgent propaganda.
During the first half hour of this morning's "Today," Matt Lauer asked Engel for his take on troop morale, to which Engel responded the number of those who believe in the mission is "dwindling," and "that there are others who don't really believe in the war any more."
And earlier in the show, in his report from Iraq, NBC reporter Tom Aspell, offered no contradictory statements in what sounded and looked like an insurgent propaganda video. Aspell narrated a clip of an insurgent blowing up a Bradley armored vehicle this way:
Aspell: "Over the weekend insurgents posted a video on the Internet purporting to show a man placing explosives beneath a Bradley armored fighting vehicle in the town of Ramadi. The video says that the Americans were stupid not to notice the man placing the explosives and then cowardly for opening fire right after the explosion without seeing any targets."
Then, immediately following the Aspell report, NBC's Natalie Morales punctuated it with a news brief on war protests over the weekend complete with the obligatory shots of protest signs reading: "No Blood For Oil," and "U.S. Out of Iraq Now!"
The following is the entire segment with Richard Engel, followed by the Aspell and Morales pieces as they occurred on the March 19th Today show:
Matt Lauer: "Now back to the war in Iraq four years after it began. No reporter can tell the story of the conflict better than NBC's own Richard Engel. He's been covering it from the frontlines, actually before it even started. His video journal of his experience there has been turned into a documentary called Warzone Diary, which airs this Wednesday night on MSNBC. Good to have you here in the studio."
Richard Engel: "Thanks very much."
Lauer: "Richard, nice to see you. Take me back to the time when this all-"
Engel: "What a compliment! 'No reporter can cover it better?' There are a lot of journalists, but thank you very much. I appreciate, I don't know about-"
Lauer: "Well there are a lot of people there but you've been there for a long time."
Meredith Vieira: "You do a great job."
Lauer: "And you go back to the time where this began and you look at the, and really the optimism on the part of U.S. forces and the administration, even in the names you mention of the camps, the bases that were set up there."
Engel: "Yeah Camp Liberty, Camp Victory, Camp Prosperity and then there's this great contrast just a few hundred yards away from these mega-bases that operate in Iraq today. You have places like the Dora Killing Fields where there's bodies found on the streets and there's Sniper Alley so there's this big contrast between what the reality is on the bases and what the military would like the reality to be and what it often can be just a few hundred yards off the base."
Lauer: "When you talk about the military, you talk to troops all the time, what level of optimism or pessimism do you find there?"
Engel: "There are three kinds of soldiers really. There are some who believe this is the right mission, that if they don't fight terrorists in Iraq then they're gonna come back and blow up shopping centers here in the states. I think that number is dwindling. Then there are others who don't really believe in the war any more. They've been on multiple deployments and they think its basically a futile effort and a waste of time. And then there's the vast majority who think, 'I'm here and I'm here to protect the guys in my platoon, the ones on my left and my right and that's what it's about and I want to get everyone out safe.' And that's, I would say, the vast majority."
Vieira: "You also told us you have access to many, many Iraqi people, what are they saying? I mean are they opt-"
Engel: "I mean it is Iraq. I have many Iraqi friends."
Engel: "And 11 years in the region so they're, they're very disappointed. I think the, there was this degree of optimism when it first began. They were promised that this would be the start of something new and most Iraqis expected they would be very wealthy. The country's oil reserves would be developed and that by now the American troops would be gone and that the country would be part of the international community and flourishing. That isn't happening and most of the wealthy people or people of means are leaving the country, have already left, 2 million outside the borders. That's a very conservative estimate. So there is this, there are people living on hope but there's only so far you can go, just, when you're just living on hope."
Lauer: "Richard Engel, Richard good to have you in the studio as I mentioned. Safe trip back."
Engel: "Oh thanks, thank you very much."
Vieira: "When you head back?"
Engel: "I'm gonna put this documentary out on Wednesday and then take a little break and then head back."
Lauer: "Alright good luck to you. Thanks for your work over these past four years."
Engel: "Well there's gonna be a lot, a lot longer. Everyone I speak to says it's gonna take some time."
Lauer: "By the way you can catch Richard's documentary called War Zone Diary, Wednesday night at 10 Eastern and Pacific time on MSNBC."
Natalie Morales: "And more now on Iraq because new violent attacks against Iraqi civilians came after a deadly weekend for U.S. forces. NBC's Tom Aspell is in Baghdad. Tom, good morning. More attacks there today as well, right?"
[On screen headline: "Iraq War Anniversary, Deadly Weekend For U.S. Forces."]
Tom Aspell: "Good morning, Natalie. Yes, a suicide bomber detonated explosives at the entrance to a Shiite mosque during mid-day prayers this morning, killing six worshippers. And we are getting reports from the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk that there have been multiple blasts there killing at least 18 Iraqis. Over the weekend the U.S. military says seven American soldiers were killed, four of them in Baghdad when their vehicle patrolling northwestern Baghdad was hit by an improvised explosive device. The others killed in the provinces. While the level of violence seems to have dropped in Baghdad lately, insurgent attacks are on the upswing in Anbar province and Diala province north of the capital."
[Video of insurgent placing bomb followed by explosion.]
Aspell: "Over the weekend insurgents posted a video on the Internet purporting to show a man placing explosives beneath a Bradley armored fighting vehicle in the town of Ramadi. The video says that the Americans were stupid not to notice the man placing the explosives and then cowardly for opening fire right after the explosion without seeing any targets, Natalie."
Morales: "Tom Aspell in Baghdad. Thanks so much, Tom."
Natalie Morales: "And more anti-war protests set to be held from coast-to-coast today on this fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq. On Sunday hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in major cities from San Francisco to Washington D.C. and New York shutting down major roads and highways. Anti-war protests were also held around the world in at least 10 countries."
["No Blood For Oil" and "U.S. Out of Iraq Now" signs shown]