NBC: Iraqis Want U.S. to Stay and Insurgents Counting on Help from War Opponents

Visiting Iraq, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams learned from Army officers that Iraqis want U.S. forces to remain in their country, from NBC News Baghdad reporter Richard Engel that Al-Sadr's insurgents have stepped down and are counting on pressure from anti-war opponents to provide them with victory, and from retired General and NBC News military analyst Wayne Downey that U.S. troops are proud of their mission. Traveling with Lieutenant General Ray Odierno for stories on his Monday newscast, Williams ran a clip of Army Colonel John Charlton proclaiming that Iraqis “do not want us to leave” and a soundbite from Army Lt. Colonel Charles Ferry who asserted: "The people here are very glad to see us.” Williams marveled: "You just said, 'They don't want us to leave.' That's the tenth time today I've heard that. I've got to go back to the States and do a newscast that every night has another politician or 12 of them saying, 'We have got to get out of that godforsaken place.'"

To explain the decrease violence in Baghdad, Engel noted how “the militia decided they fought the U.S. two-and-a-half years ago, didn't have a lot of success. They decided this time they're going to wait it out, see if political pressure in the U.S. can help them win this time." Downey related how “every soldier that I ran across today I asked him: 'How do you feel about what's going on,” and “without exception -- this was spontaneous, especially when you start talking to PFCs and Spec 4s, they're going to tell you the truth, no party line. Very proud of what they're doing. Very, very dedicated.”

During his first story on his trip, as aired on the March 5 NBC Nightly News, Williams related:
“This is what the General heard today about how warmly the locals now view the Americans.”

U.S. Army Colonel John Charlton: "They do not want us to leave. They want to see the police come through.”

U. S. Army Lt. Colonel Charles Ferry: “The people here are very glad to see us. They are very hesitant still because they're not sure if we're going to stay. They want us to stay.”

Voice of Odierno?: “That's the issue.”

Ferry: “That's the whole deal. If we stay down here and to keep beating down the insurgents."

Brian Williams, to one or more of the officers: “You just said, 'They don't want us to leave.' That's the tenth time today I've heard that. I've got to go back to the States and do a newscast that every night has another politician or 12 of them saying, 'We have got to get out of that godforsaken place.'”

Odierno: "They can talk about policy, okay, and that's what they have to do back there. My mission right now is to provide protection for the Iraqi people so this government can grow."

The MSNBC.com online version of the Williams story.

At the end of his newscast, Williams stood at an outside location with Engel and Downey, as he noted how they felt safe enough to remove their bullet-proof vests. Engel explained the decrease in violence from Al-Sadr's insurgents in Sadr City:
“Some say they are just waiting to see how long the U.S. will stay and how long this surge will continue. It was obvious, the U.S. announced the surge, they said where the U.S. troops were going and the militia decided they fought the U.S. two-and-a-half years ago, didn't have a lot of success. They decided this time they're going to wait it out, see if political pressure in the U.S. can help them win this time.”

Brian Williams: “And General, you and I heard sentiments we don't often hear today, the U.S. commanders quoting the Iraqis: 'please don't leave us.' And a lot of the U.S. fighters there today said they didn't want to leave this fight, they are dedicated to it.”

Retired General Wayne Downing: “Brian, every single one of them, I ran into a lot of officers and NCOs that I served with -- every soldier that I ran across today I asked him: 'How do you feel about what's going on, what do you know about what is going on back in the states?' And without exception -- this was spontaneous, especially when you start talking to PFCs and Spec 4s, they're going to tell you the truth, no party line. Very proud of what they're doing. Very, very dedicated. Many of these guys, Brian, are back here on their second and third tours. These are one-year tours. Extremely well trained and very professional.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center