At the top of Thursday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams sadly declared: "At a ceremony in Baghdad today, the Americans lowered the flag and it was a quiet ending to a war that went bad not long after its spectacular start." While Williams stressed the "high cost" of the war, citing figures of dead and wounded, the report that followed ignored accomplishments in the conflict.
Chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel followed Williams sorrowful tone: "For a big war, it was a remarkably small closing ceremony. A few hundred troops, a five-piece band on a base by the airport on the edge of Baghdad." He later rhetorically wondered: "Did America prevail? Iraq's future remains uncertain....What was conspicuously absent today, Brian, there were no parades among Iraqis, no victory celebrations, no thank yous."
Opening NBC's Nightly News on Wednesday, anchor Brian Williams touted the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq as an Obama administration accomplishment while slamming the war effort itself: "The President promised they'd be out by New Year's Eve and here they come....The war started with the event somebody called 'shock and awe' and it became a tragic and prolonged slog."
In the report that followed, White House correspondent Kristen Welker announced: "Mr. Obama has opposed the war since his days as a state senator. And today he said it's harder to end a war than to begin one....The President, facing a tough re-election battle, did not declare victory in Iraq, but has called the withdrawal a campaign promise kept."
NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel is my favorite frequent guest on "The Rachel Maddow Show" -- who knows what he might say. Certainly not Maddow.
Engel didn't disappoint in his last appearance on her program Oct. 20, subtly calling Maddow out for a conspicuous omission in her recounting of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi renouncing his weapons of mass destruction. (video after page break)
George W. Bush spoke out repeatedly during his term for the spread of democracy throughout the Middle East. He said it was insulting to assume that Arabs or Muslims were incapable of democratic reforms. Bush overthrew dictators in Iraq and Afghanistan and allowed elections to proceed. But NBC's chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, was adamant on National Public Radio on Friday: You cannot credit Bush policies for the "Arab Spring."
NPR Fresh Air host Terry Gross seemed to be hoping Engel would help her out and denounce Bush:
Just as they did right after the killing of Osama bin Laden back in May, NBC's Brian Williams and Richard Engel interrupted Sunday morning's ceremonies marking the tenth annivesary of the 9/11 attacks to pontificate against the war in Iraq.
At about 9:30am on Sunday, during live coverage of the events at Ground Zero, Williams instructed the audience: "Iraq had nothing do with this." Correspondent Richard Engel quickly echoed: "Iraq had nothing to do with this," before complaining: "And that message is still lost today." (Video and transcript after the jump; h/t Gerardo)
On Friday’s NBC Nightly News, as correspondent Richard Engel informed viewers that many thousands of Egyptians are again protesting against the government in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, he noted that organizers of the original protests fear that the Muslim Brotherhood will have too much influence in the new government, and recounted the Islamist group’s increased power in Egypt since January.
He went on to highlight the "staunchly anti-Israel" views of the Brotherhood and showed a clip of one of the group’s leaders making an anti-Semitic statement accusing Jews of wanting to "live in war," claiming that it is their "history":
Appearing on Sunday's Meet the Press, NBC's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel worried about the cost of combating terrorism and took the opportunity to bash the effort: "You talk about money the U.S. spent fighting this global war on terrorism. I think, which is a terrible misnomer, it's like a war on fear or something like that. And I think in many ways it has been a war of fear." [Audio available here]
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."
On Wednesday’s NBC Nightly News, chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel informed viewers that he is "worried" that a major war between some of the Arab countries and Israel could be in the not too distant future because of the "ferociously anti-Israel" sentiment of the "Arab street" that is likely to gain power in countries like Egypt. He ended up concluding: "But I think, over time, this thing ends in Jerusalem."
After host Brian Williams and Engel had discussed the likely prosecution of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and the disappointment of Libyan rebels at the level of assistance to their cause supplied by NATO, Williams posed the question: "You’re back here in New York for a few days. The question I’ve seen most people ask you: Where does this all end?"
Engel sounded more pessimistic than he did during the protests in Egypt from January and February. Engel:
This whole movement in the Middle East, and I'm worried about it because while people in the region deserve more rights and they want more rights and they're embracing more of the will of the Arab street, well, the will of the Arab street is also ferociously anti-Israel, against Israel.
As the mainstream media have reported on the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s beliefs, failing to pick up on contradictory claims by its leaders that the Islamist group opposes terrorism, also ignored was the role that the Muslim Brotherhood has long played in fomenting anti-Jew hatred in the Middle East. After Nazi Germany financed and helped build up the previously struggling Brotherhood in the 1930s and 1940s, the group disseminated anti-Jew propaganda and inspired the kind of persecution that sent almost a million Jewish refugees fleeing violence, confiscation of property, and expulsion in Muslim countries between the 1940s and the 1970s. Some even estimate that the land confiscated from Jewish residents in Muslim countries amounts to four times or even five times the total area of the state of Israel. A number of Muslim countries saw their Jewish populations almost completely erased, including Egypt where the number dwindled from about 100,000 Jews to only a couple of hundred.
Even somewhat recently, Brotherhood leaders have made such incendiary statements as praising Adolf Hitler to declaring that Muslims should stop fighting each other and fight against Israel instead. As previously documented by NewsBusters, an interview on CNN's Parker-Spitzer helped reveal the tendency of Muslim Brotherhood leaders to twist the meaning of words, as one leader claimed that the group opposes terrorism and violence but then suggested that Palestinian militants are not engaged in terrorism against Israel but instead "resistance," which he rationalized. He also refused to give a straight answer on whether the group would support adherence to Egypt’s treaty with Israel.
But on the January 31 NBC Nightly News, not picking up on Muslim Brotherhood wordplay, correspondent Richard Engel claimed, "The Muslim Brotherhood denounces terrorism, but supports Islamic law, is anti-Israel, and opposes U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East."
On Friday’s NBC Nightly News, during a report which focused on a group of Libyans helping to organize protests against dictator Muammar Qadhafi, correspondent Richard Engel gave viewers a glimpse into oppressed people looking to America for support as he concluded his report by relating that these protesters "have been waiting for a strong message from Washington." He also recounted that he had seen graffiti at the rebel headquarters calling on President Obama to "choose between the Libyan people or Qadhafi."
Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Friday, February 25, NBC NightlyNews:
Over the past couple of weeks, as prominent Muslim Brotherhood members tried to sell themselves as harmless in interviews shown on the evening newscasts on ABC, NBC, and CNN, Eliot Spitzer of CNN’s Parker-Spitzer managed to coax spokesman Mohammed Morsy into defending violence against Israel by Palestinians, contradicting the Brotherhood spokesman’s claims in the same interview of being opposed to violence.
Earlier in the interview, which was first seen on the Thursday, February 3 Parker-Spitzer, Morsy had also sidestepped the question of whether the Muslim Brotherhood would support adherence to Egypt’s 30-year treaty with Israel, as he suggested that such matters would be in the hands of the parliament.
CNN correspondent Mary Snow replayed some of the interview on the next day’s Situation Room on CNN. After a clip of Morsy claiming that his organization would support freedom for all religions in Egypt, the piece continued:
On Tuesday’s NBC Nightly News, after anchor Brian Williams asked correspondent Richard Engel to respond to concerns about the radical nature of the Muslim Brotherhood that have been expressed by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Engel asserted that the movement is "not al-Qaeda, it’s not the Taliban," but, as he went on to compare the group instead to Hamas, partly because they "wear business suits," he neglected to point out that Hamas is itself a terrorist organization.
He related that the organization is "anti-American, it’s anti-Israel, but it wouldn’t kick all the Christians out of this country."
When Williams brought up the Muslim Brotherhood, he posed the question: "And the Speaker (Gingrich) said that they were enemies of civilization. He said it’s in their own creed. I know for many years you lived and worked alongside members of the Muslim Brotherhood there in Cairo. Tell us your knowledge of this group."
"These reporters are going to eat their words in a big way," NewsBusters publisher and Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell predicted on last night's "Hannity" regarding the mainstream media personalities who have credited President Obama with the popular uprising against dictator Hosni Mubarak in Egypt:
What happens when the government crumbles? What happens when this country is reduced to utter anarchy? What happens when the killings begin and the death begins? Are they still going to credit Barack Obama's soaring oratory for that, or are they going to separate them? What happens if an Islamic caliphate takes over? Are they going to credit his soaring oratory at that point? No they won't.
Indeed, Fox News host Sean Hannity noted during the February 3 "Media Mash" segment, the media have glossed over the radicalism of the Islamic Brotherhood, portraying the Islamist movement as a benign force for democratic reform, not as an extremist group that would impose sharia law in Egypt.
On Sunday's Meet the Press, NBC host David Gregory wrapped up his interview with Sen. Lindsey Graham by setting up a debate with anti-war NBC reporter Richard Engel, who wasn't shy this week in asserting on NBC's Today that the Iraq war was unnecessary, that Saddam Hussein was growing more moderate and respectable by the day, and was gaining acceptance in Europe.
After Gregory played a clip of that -- complete with Engel calling Iraq a "giant distraction of resources" from Afghanistan, just like a congressional Democrat -- Senator Graham insisted that the NBC reporter was "completely rewriting history" and that Saddam "was not becoming a good citizen, he was becoming a more dangerous dictator. The world is better with him dead."
Even as this stage of the Iraq war, as the surge seems to quite clearly brought peace and calm, never-say-it's-a-win die-hards in the liberal media are the first line of attack on the Republican position:
Laura Ingraham and Greg Gutfeld had some fun Thursday evening bashing NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel for absurd comments he made on the "Today" show this week.
As NewsBusters reported Tuesday, Engel that morning told NBC's Ann Curry:
If there had been no invasion Saddam would still be in power. He was probably getting more moderate. He was being welcomed into the, into, by, by a lot of European countries, he was being welcomed in Eastern Europe in particular. He was heading in a, in a direction of accommodation.
On Thursday's "O'Reilly Factor," substitute host Ingraham and guest Gutfeld had a field day with what the former labeled "The Dumbest Things of the Week" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
NBC's Richard Engel has done some good reporting from Iraq. But scratch the reporter's surface, and you find a political partisan eager to echo the anti-Bush party line. Witness his exchange with Ari Fleischer on Morning Joe today. Engel twisted the former Bush press secretary's words, accusing him of alleging an Osama Bin Laden connection with Iraq. Fleischer had palpably said no such thing.
The springboard was Fleischer's citation of a 1998 OBL interview in which the terrorist boss said America was weak because it is unable to see through long wars. Fleischer went on to argue that America's resolve will be tested should things go badly wrong in Iraq or Afghanistan, thus putting under pressure the arbitrary dates that have been set for US withdrawal from those countries.
Engel jumped in to accuse Fleischer of claiming an OBL tie with Iraq. Even after Fleischer made explicitly clear he was alleging no such connection, Engel obdurately pressed his point.
On the day that the U.S. is ending combat operations in Iraq, the Today show, on Tuesday, brought on their chief foreign correspondent to essentially say the Iraq war wasn't worth it. The noted anti-war reporter, when asked by Today co-anchor Ann Curry did, "Anything positive come from this war?" proceeded to dump on the entire mission as he relayed that Iraqis are upset that the United States "has failed to deliver on its promises," claimed that Saddam Hussein, before the war, was "getting more moderate" and concluded that the mission was "a giant distraction of resources" and if not for the invasion of Iraq, the war in Afghanistan "would probably be over." [audio available here]
As the MRC's Tim Graham pointed out in 2006, Engel isn't exactly the most objective analyst the Today show could've brought on to analyze the war, as he admitted to the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz that he thinks "war should be illegal" and he told him "I'm basically a pacifist."
The following is the full exchange between Curry and Engel as it was aired on the August 31 Today show:
Here is how the Wall Street Journal began its lead editorial, "Victory in Iraq," on Aug. 20 --
When the men and women of Fourth Brigade, Second Infantry Division deployed to Iraq in April 2007 as part of President Bush's surge, American soldiers were being killed or wounded at a rate of about 750 a month, the country was falling into sectarian mayhem, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had declared that the war was 'lost.'
On Wednesday, the 'Raiders' became the last combat brigade to leave Iraq, having helped to defeat an insurgency, secure a democracy and uphold the honor of American arms.
For viewers of NBC and MSNBC earlier that week, the title of Fourth Brigade, Second Infantry Division would likely have struck a chord -- on Aug. 18, both networks interrupted their scheduled broadcasts with exclusive live coverage of the brigade crossing the border into Kuwait, the last US combat brigade to leave Iraq.
Alas, it wasn't supposed to end this way, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow lamented to NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel in Baghdad last week after the departure of the last American combat brigade from Iraq.
Engel recounted his experiences covering the war, getting into Iraq on false pretenses just before the US-led invasion in 2003 and spending considerable time in the country thereafter (first part of embedded video) --
MADDOW: So you were here throughout for the first five, six years of the war?
ENGEL: Yes. I took little breaks but, straight, I was here 10, 11 months a year.
MADDOW: So when you, thinking now in August 2010, this is ending. I mean, Operation Iraqi Freedom ends now and did you have any idea this is the way that it would end?
ENGEL: It's ending with a little bit of a whisper.
On Monday’s Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann used a clip of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Tim Osborn, stationed in Iraq, commenting on how he had previously felt that the war in Iraq "wasn’t ever going to stop," to fit into the Countdown host’s suggestion that American troops had remained in Iraq too long. But what Olbermann did not show his viewers is that Staff Sergeant Osborn had also expressed strong support for the war effort in a clip which was shown earlier that evening on the NBC Nightly News during a piece which correspondent Richard Engel filed from Iraq:
RICHARD ENGEL: He tells me his greatest accomplishment: giving Iraqis a chance.
STAFF SERGEANT TIM OSBORN, U.S. ARMY: If what was going on here was going on in America, I wouldn't want my kids to grow up in that world. I would want somebody else to come in and help. And if it took them doing what we did here, then I would welcome that.
But Olbermann was apparently only interested in using a clip of Staff Sergeant Osborn that would fit into the MSNBC host’s characteristic anti-war shtick:
All three broadcast evening newscasts on Monday ran full reports on President Obama’s declaration that all combat troops would leave Iraq by the end of this month, leaving behind 50,000 troops designated for training and support. But only ABC’s World News bothered to point out how the end of American combat involvement in Iraq can be credited “in large part, because of the final actions of the last administration.”
Correspondent Yunji de Nies uniquely pointed out: “Just before leaving office, President Bush sent an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq and extended the tours of many more — a move then-Senator Obama opposed.”
ABC even showed a clip of Obama on the Senate floor in 2007 predicting the surge would fail: “I cannot in good conscience support this escalation. It is a policy that has already been tried and a policy that has failed.”
Neither CBS nor NBC pointed out how Obama was capitalizing on a policy he opposed, but all of the networks were skeptical of Obama’s claim that Iraq was a healed nation:
On Wednesday's Dylan Ratigan Show on MSNBC, host Dylan Ratigan didn't see any point to continuing the war in Afghanistan and slammed military air strikes against terrorist targets as: "kids with joysticks in New Jersey and Las Vegas dropping predator bombs on civilians willy-nilly." [Audio available here]
Ratigan began a panel discussion on Afghanistan with Democratic strategist David Goodfriend and Republican strategist Brent Littlefield by wondering: "Is there anybody in this administration on either side that can actually justify the American presence in Afghanistan at this point?" Littlefield attempted to explain: "we had the previous president, took the country in there because of the attacks on 9/11." Ratigan was dismissive: "That was almost ten years ago, right? I mean that was a long time ago."
Ratigan moved on to Goodfriend and referenced NBC correspondent Richard Engel's appearance on the show on Tuesday: "He is making the point that the Bush doctrine of fight them there and they won't get us here appears to be continuing to break down as we now default to just predator drone-them-to-death wherever they may be on remote control and an apparent, sort of, nonevent in Afghanistan. It's like a charade." Of course the reliance on predator drone attacks was significantly increased under the Obama administration.
Keith Olbermann's recent cheerleading for the Obama adminstration's attacks on Fox News is in stark contrast to how the "Countdown" host felt about the Bush White House criticizing NBC last year for questionable editing done in a "Today" show report.
As NewsBusters' Geoffrey Dickens reported on May 19, 2008, NBC aired a piece that morning which "seemed to blame all of the Middle East's problems on the President's policies."
Later that day, White House counsel Ed Gillespie sent a letter to NBC President Steve Capus accusing the network of deceptively editing answers Bush had given during his interview with Richard Engel "to give viewers the impression that he agreed with Engel's characterization of his remarks when he explicitly challenged it."
Two days later, Olbermann made Gillespie one of his "Worst Persons in the World" (video embedded below the fold with partial transcript):
After months of investigation, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) released a report addressing accusations from some humanitarian groups that its use of white phosphorus (WP) munitions in the Gaza War was a violation of international law, as the report distinguishes between the use of WP as a weapon and the more common non-weapon purposes such as providing smoke screens to conceal troop movements. The pro-Israel group CAMERA recently quoted from the report in the article, "Did Israel’s Use of White Phosphorus Constitute a War Crime?" by Steven Stotsky, on its Web site. The report not only argued that the military's decision to explode the munition in the air was safer for civilians than it would have been to explode it on the ground, but it also suggested that the use of WP to facilitate troops movements also meant civilian casualties were lower than they otherwise would have been by making attacks on Hamas more accurate.
Last January, evening newscasts and some morning newscasts on the broadcast networks and on CNN and FNC reported on accusations from humanitarian groups – with varying degrees of accuracy – with CBS even referring to WP as a "banned weapon," and a "horrific new weapon, " and contending that the IDF may have committed "war crimes." At one point, CNN similarly incorrectly identified WP as a "banned substance." ABC showed a clip of a wounded Palestinian boy charging that Israelis have "no mercy" even for children. (MSNBC does not have a morning or evening newscast equivalent to NBC’s Today show or the NBC Nightly News, so MSNBC coverage was not examined.) But, according to a Nexis search, none of these news programs showed any interest in updating viewers once the Israeli military had made public its say on the matter.
As previously documented by NewsBusters, the January 22 CBS Evening News ran a report (video here), introduced by anchor Katie Couric, which left the impression that the Israeli military had used a "banned weapon," without informing viewers that there are non-weapon uses for WP, and passed on accusations of "war crimes." Couric: "Hamas just ended a bloody war with Israel in Gaza, and tonight there is growing evidence the Israelis may have used a banned weapon. Some even accuse them of war crimes."
On the January 25 World News Sunday on ABC, as he introduced a report by correspondent Simon McGregor-Wood, anchor Dan Harris played up complaints against "both sides" in the war, and even suggested that the Israeli side may have been worse in its conduct of the war as he highlighted that there was "especially tough criticism" leveled at Israel. Harris: "Both sides are being dogged now by complaints that they violated the rules of war. Israel has come under especially tough criticism for its use of a chemical agent."
In 2006, Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz found that NBC correspondent Richard Engel had strong political feelings: "I think war should be illegal...I'm basically a pacifist." That pacifist opinion is still surfacing, Kurtz reported Monday, although he didn’t recall the sentence from 2006:
Richard Engel, NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent, has kicked up a fuss with some decidedly pessimistic comments on the war in Afghanistan.
"I honestly think it's probably time to start leaving the country. I really don't see how this is going to end in anything but tears," Engel said last week on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." He added: "The idea of going in to nation-build and win hearts and minds, I think, over the long term is kind of a loser."
NewsBusters previously documented a claim made by NBC News correspondent Richard Engel on the June 22 Countdown show on MSNBC that the apparent murder of 27-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan during a crackdown by Iranian government forces, and the possibility that she will become the visual symbol for her country’s pro-democracy movement, was reminiscent of the Mohammed al-Dura video of September 2000 which, at the time, was claimed to show a Palestinian boy being shot and killed by Israeli troops. But, while evidence has mounted over the years that the al-Dura video was likely a hoax, Engel and host Keith Olbermann both spoke of the al-Dura "shooting" as if the event were not in dispute, and Engel recounted to viewers that Palestinians see the event as a "symbol of injustice" perpetrated by Israelis against Palestinians. Engel: "I was thinking more, remember Mohammed al-Dura, the boy who was shot in Gaza in his father’s arms and who became a symbol of injustice? I think this is a similar moment."
The pro-Israel group CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) recounts on its Web site that after the group's executive director, Andrea Levin, on June 25 sent a letter of complaint to Engel -- which was also copied to NBC News President Steve Capus -- requesting that NBC revisit and "clarify" Engel's assertions, Capus sent a letter of response accusing CAMERA of "taking a cheap shot" at Engel, even suggesting that the pro-Israel group was not "truly dedicated to advancing journalism," as the NBC News head did not revise Engel's claims about the al-Dura case. Capus, as quoted by CAMERA on its Web site: "If you were truly dedicated to advancing journalism, you would be going out of your way to praise Richard for his work – rather than taking a cheap shot." The NBC News head went on to praise Engel as "a non-biased, dedicated journalist. NBC News considers itself lucky to have him."
On Monday’s Countdown show on MSNBC, as host Keith Olbermann and NBC News correspondent Richard Engel discussed the apparent murder of 27-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan by Iranian government forces as part of the crackdown against pro-democracy protesters, and the possibility that she will become the visual symbol for her country’s pro-democracy movement because her death was recorded, Engel brought up the infamous Mohammed al-Dura video clip from September 2000 and claimed that the Palestinian boy was shot and killed by Israeli troops – as if this story were not in dispute – even though many who have examined the case closely over the years believe not only that the boy was not hit by Israeli bullets, but that the video purporting to document his shooting and death was likely a hoax.
The exchange from Monday's Countdown show, in which both Engel and Olbermann assumed the al-Dura story to be undisputed:
KEITH OLBERMANN: To the point of Neda Soltan, I don’t know that there’s ever been a revolution, or even a near revolution, that did not have an identifiable face, a martyr, you think of everything from Tiananmen Square to Lexington and Concord-
RICHARD ENGEL: I was thinking more, remember Mohammed al-Dura, the boy who was shot in Gaza-
OLBERMANN: Yes, yes.
ENGEL: -in his father’s arms-
ENGEL: -and who became a symbol of injustice? I think this is a similar moment.
On Thursday evening, the CBS Evening News and the NBC Nightly News presented opposite takes on whether Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi is really a moderate, or whether he is actually about as extreme and dangerous as current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. CBS’s Mark Phillips argued that Mousavi is merely more moderate in "tone" than Ahmadinejad while taking similar policy positions, while NBC’s Richard Engel played up Mousavi as a real alternative to Ahmadinejad. CBS News substitute anchor Maggie Rodriguez introduced Phillips’s report: "Mir Hossein Mousavi insists he won the presidential election there, only to have it stolen from him. He's been cast as an outsider, anxious for reform. But as Mark Phillips reports, that's not exactly the case."
After beginning his report contending that "Mir Hossein Mousavi is neither a champion of democracy as we know it, nor an advocate of great change within Iran's mullah-dominated government," Phillips further argued that Mousavi would bring little substantive policy difference to the presidency: