tv NBC Nightly News NBC December 12, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
on our broadcast tonight, out of iraq. the last u.s. troops are preparing to come home, but tonight if you think it's really over, we'll show you what our new colleague ted koppel found when he went back to iraq. illegal immigration. how far can individual states go to crack down? right in the middle of an election season the u.s. supreme court agrees to decide an emotional issue. the confrontations today on the campaign trail. mitt romney's uncomfortable moment with a vietnam vet, and newt gingrich fires back about that $10,000 bet. and making a difference. chelsea clinton will join us tonight here in the studio with the story of an extraordinary woman who has given everything she's got to help children in need. she's got to help children in need. "nightly news" begins now.
captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. it's been a long and awful war in iraq, ever since the u.s. invasion nine years ago. and then for years what amounted to an american and allied occupation of that country. today at the white house, an event that was meant to be rich with symbolism. the american president hosted the prime minister of iraq to mark the end this month of u.s. military involvement in iraq and the start of iraq as a, quote, sovereign, self-reliant and democratic nation. president obama has promised that all american troops will be out of that country by new year's eve, home for the holidays with their families. >> in the coming days, the last american soldiers will cross the border out of iraq with honor and with their heads held high.
after nearly nine years, our war in iraq ends this month. >> so the war ends, but as you're about to see here tonight, u.s. entanglement and engagement in iraq does not. we'll have that part of the story in a moment from our new colleague, nbc news special correspondent ted koppel. we begin tonight on the ground in iraq with more on the military withdrawal, that from our chief foreign correspondent richard engel. richard, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. there are now only about 5,000 u.s. troops in iraq and once they're gone, there should be no more deployments. at first, shock and awe. then years of awful violence. 4,500 americans killed. 150,000 iraqis. a dictator toppled. it's now down to this.
a view today of baghdad's camp liberty, once one of the biggest american bases. now all american soldiers have left. only iraqi soldiers remain. they have been working with american forces so long they even look like them now. this soldier said, i never thought i would be here. i always thought this would remain an american base. an empty lot stands where fast food restaurants were once full of troops. the army's general store, the px, now empty and dark. we saw hundreds of 4 x 4s that now belong to iraq's prime ministry. so does a former american headquarters, once a palace of saddam's. at camp taji 12 miles away, a few hundred troops are packing up. it's eerily quiet. at its peak, this was a military city with 45,000 american troops
and contractors. it was so busy the troops were required to wear reflective belts so they wouldn't be run over by all the humvee traffic. now the vehicles are all gone and there is hardly anyone here. after nearly nine years, american bases closed, a war ending. but not all iraqis are convinced, brian, that the u.s. is really leaving because of the enormous footprint that's staying from the u.s. embassy. >> richard engel starting us off in baghdad tonight. richard, thanks. as you mentioned, this military marker in iraq does not mean the end of our tax dollars being spent there. and now we get to see the reporting of our new colleague around here -- ted koppel who went back to iraq where he covered the start of the war, of course. on this trip he saw something very different. he's with us here in the studio tonight. ted, welcome. >> thank you, brian. particularly at this holiday
season it's nice to believe that all americans are coming back from iraq, but not quite. let's clear up a few misconceptions. the u.s. military is leaving iraq. the u.s. government is not. in fact, in southern iraq, just across the border from iran, site of some of the richest oil fields in the world, in basra, the united states is building a gigantic consulate. and that's no coincidence. it is, as consul general piper campbell confirms, about the oil. >> i think that it's clear that if you had increased iranian influence in southern iraq that that would work against the interests of the united states. >> reporter: the site already comes under regular rocket fire from forces equipped and supported by iran. the consulate is staffed by more than 1,300 people, most of them americans. they are extremely vulnerable. but they are not entirely without friends in the region. lieutenant colonel andy poznik is leaving but he knows what
assets are available. >> our government and our nation, as you know, has a great deal of capability. when we don't want to fail at something, we do a lot of things to ensure that that doesn't fail. >> reporter: take a look at that sprawling compound. that's the recently constructed u.s. embassy in baghdad. and it's the largest in the world. counting those who work at the consulate like the one we saw at basra we are talking 16,000 to 17,000 diplomats, civilian security contractors, dea, fbi, an enormous cia presence and, unseen and unacknowledged, teams from the joint special operations command. not sufficient to repel a major attack, but as lieutenant general robert caslen told me, forces from the u.s. central command are all over the area. >> i feel confident this has the necessary assets to take whatever measure they need to
counter that attack. >> reporter: there are still troops in the region who could respond. >> and i know they would. >> that's really the question, brian. on paper, in diplomatic terms the ambassador will say, we are now the guests of the iraqi government. if americans come under attack we will count on the iraqis to defend them. don't believe it. >> is that disingenuous, just plain wrong or a nice combination of both? >> it's neither really. it's an ambassador being an ambassador and a diplomat. but the fact of the matter is you talk to the senior military people there, they are very worried about the iranians. they are extremely worried about the closeness between iran and iraq. on the front page of "the new york times" today there was a picture of really the end of the iran/iraq war, exchanging the remains of those who were killed. iran these days is, in some
respects, more influential in iraq than we are. >> ted koppel, thank you very much for your reporting. it's a pleasure to have you here. >> it's my pleasure. thank you, brian. >> we'll have more with ted koppel tonight on "rock center." 10:00/9:00 central. now we switch topics to what is shaping up to be quite a docket for the united states supreme court. today it agreed to take up a big issue in this country, certainly a big issue in the current campaign -- illegal immigration and how far a given state -- in this case arizona -- can go to crack down on it. nbc news justice correspondent pete williams has more on a case that could have a ripple effect across this country. >> reporter: having already agreed to rule on the obama health care law and how texas and other states carve up districts for their seats in congress, the justices today jumped into another controversial issue animating
the presidential campaign. how much power states have to control illegal immigration. >> power to the people! >> reporter: the court will consider whether parts of arizona's strict new law blocked by the lower courts go too far. >> it's about every state grappling with the cost of illegal immigration and it's about the fundamental principles of federalism. >> reporter: one provision now on hold required police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspected might be in the country illegally. immigrant groups called it racial profiling and the obama administration sued, saying it violated the constitution by straying into an area that's a federal responsibility. but since arizona acted, five other states have passed tough immigration laws of their own. alabama, georgia, indiana, south carolina and utah. all say the federal government isn't adequately enforcing laws already on the books. >> this is the first time the supreme court is looking at the power that the states have with respect to the apprehension and
removal of noncitizens. >> reporter: alabama's has become the nation's toughest law but state leaders are now talking about scaling parts of it back, worried it is causing a shortage of workers in agriculture and making it harder to recruit businesses. the court will hear the arizona case in april without one of its generally liberal votes. justice elena kagan will sit this one out, presumably because of her time in the obama justice department. pete williams, nbc news, at the supreme court. >> the occupy protest movement started on wall street, became occupy the ports today. protesters blocked or disrupted traffic at some of the nation's largest and busiest ports. up and down the west coast from portland, oregon, to oakland, san diego and houston, the goal was to protest corporate greed, unsafe working conditions for dock workers. there were several dozen arrests reported in all. but no injuries. after some delays, traffic resumed at the protest locations. we'll take a break. up next on a monday evening, mitt romney gets into a tense exchange and an uncomfortable moment with a vietnam veteran on the campaign trail.
the iowa caucuses are now just 22 days away and newt gingrich seemed to pass his first crucial test as gop frontrunner this weekend, surviving his first debate as frontrunner without taking nearly as much damaging incoming fire as expected. meanwhile the former frontrunner, mitt romney, is adjusting to his new role as chief challenger. we get more from nbc's chuck todd. [ applause ] >> reporter: campaigning in new hampshire, mitt romney took direct aim at newt gingrich, attacking the former speaker for
his private sector ties to mortgage giant freddie mac. >> i think a fair question is asked, why did he profit as freddie mac failed. >> reporter: gingrich, whose consulting firm made over $1.5 million in freddie mac fees, quickly hit back. >> if governor romney would like to give back all the money he's earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over the years i would be glad to listen to him. and i'll bet you ten dollars, not 10,000, that he won't take the offer. >> reporter: that challenge a direct reference to saturday's debate when rick perry accused romney of taking his support for a health care mandate out of his books. >> i'll tell you what. 10,000 bucks. $10,000 bet? >> i'm not in the betting business. >> oh, okay. >> reporter: the moment went viral and the perry campaign tried to capitalize with this web video. romney tried to defuse the idea he's out of touch. >> after the debate was over, ann came up and gave me a kiss,
said, that was great. she said, a lot of things you do well, betting isn't one of them. >> reporter: today romney was concentrating his fire on gingrich, even hitting him for his tone. >> i know among some folks saying outrageous or incendiary things will get you a lot of kudos and drive your numbers up, but it's not going to win us the white house. >> reporter: the issue of gingrich's temperament is being debated inside washington. surprisingly, a one-time adversary, senator lindsey graham came to gingrich's defense. >> even his worst critics would say newt is a guy that can hold a room, a very smart fellow. romney is not only having a tough time in the polls but also on the trail. today he found himself on the defensive with a vietnam veteran on the issue of gay marriage. >> you do not believe that everyone is entitled to a constitutional right? >> no, actually, i think at the time the constitution was written it was pretty clear that marriage is between a man and a woman. and i don't believe the supreme court has changed that.
>> we have to get to fox news now. >> oh, i guess the question was too hot. >> reporter: there was a silver lining. while mitt romney was behind double digits the leading second choice candidate of gingrich supporters is mitt romney. brian, it means this time if somehow mitt romney can vanquish this not mitt romney challenger, newt gingrich, the nomination would be his. but he has a long way to go. >> well, chuck, not only did the romney campaign expect to be out front by now, but the democrats' opposition research is predicated upon him being the leader and not gingrich. do you think the romney folks in their heart of hearts expect to pull this out? >> reporter: they do. they have a huge organizational advantage. they have really, brian, kept their money well accounted for. they haven't overspent the way, for instance, hillary clinton did at this point in time four years ago. they have a lot in the bank for a state like florida. >> chuck todd in our d.c. newsroom tonight with a report from the trail. chuck, thanks. >> we'll take another break. up next, a pearl harbor surprise of sorts. the real story behind a famous photograph.
question. what does this remind you of? this picture of a planned twin towers high rise complex in south korea is getting a lot of attention in new york and elsewhere for bearing a striking resemblance to the twin towers of the world trade center in mid explosion back on 9/11. the architects insist the design scheme is meant to depict a cloud bisecting the buildings. they say they did not see a resemblance themselves. they have apologized for it. the final design is due in march. just days after we marked the 70th anniversary of the attack on pearl harbor, a photo mystery has been solved. the picture of a group of brave woman firefighters has appeared in books and magazines over the
years. it turns out it was not taken on that day that lives in infamy, but during a training session days later. one of the women in the photo explained it to msnbc.com. 96-year-old catherine lowe who is second from the right in the photo remembers she went to church the morning of the attack on pearl harbor and didn't start fighting fires until after that day once the war was underway. millions of catholics are mourning the passing of cardinal john patrick foley. a pennsylvania native, he held several positions in the catholic church including an assignment in israel. in later years he became the media voice and face of the vatican. nbc viewers may remember him as longtime nbc news contributor and the voice of the christmas midnight mass from the vatican for a quarter century on the air here. cardinal john foley was 76 years old. when we come back here tonight, chelsea clinton goes home to arkansas and comes home with a terrific story about one person making a difference for lots of others.
regular feature around here making a difference. also to "rock center" in prime time. tonight chelsea has a story about one generous woman who has devoted everything to making a difference for children in the town of pine bluff, arkansas. chelsea, welcome. >> thank you, brian. i'm very happy to be here. we met an extraordinary woman who's been lifting up the lives of hundreds of kids in arkansas. her words and her work are a true inspiration. she's been called a miracle worker, a guardian angel, a second mom. >> hi, chelsea! we're so glad to have you. >> reporter: i'm so glad to be here. but annette dove said she's just pursuing her life calling, standing up for hundreds of kids surrounded by crime and poverty in pine bluff, arkansas. >> how was school today? >> fine. >> you did good? >> uh-huh. >> were you good in school today? >> reporter: dove offers meals,
a safe place, tutoring, and lessons in responsibility. it's called topps. >> we started feeding at 3:30. >> reporter: do you think for some kids that's their last meal of the day? >> for some kids that's all they're going to have until they go back to school the next morning. how many of you like cornbread? >> reporter: she even offers cooking lessons with food bank ingredients. >> we're going to ask miss chelsea if she will do oh the first demonstration for us. >> oh, dear. >> what did ms. dove forgot to do? >> wash your hands. >> i did wash my hands earlier. our kids are punished because parents are unable to do or provide for them. i don't think it's fair. children ought to have someone in their lives who will fight for them or who will help them. >> reporter: you go with them to their juvenile hearings. you clearly go with them to their teacher conferences. >> i want them to know i'm there. my word is my bond. >> reporter: for 18-year-old cordero ms. dove filled the void after his mother died five years ago. >> it's a great honor for ms. dove to be in my life.
my family really don't take time out with me or i can't really sit down and talk to anyone else. >> reporter: all the more remarkable when you know what she sacrificed -- quitting a well paying job in education to start topps and using her own money when funding came up short. >> all my stock accounts, all my savings, all of that is gone. but i still look at the value of making a difference in a child's life. >> reporter: just last year dove's first group of senior boys in her mentoring program graduated from high school and all five are now in college. brian? >> when you think of her program, her life, it's one of hundreds, thousands across the country. without them people would go without. and yet this relies on the kindness of strangers. budgets are tapped out and now her budget is tapped out. so what to do? >> she shared with us that she had to declare bankruptcy because she truly spent her last
dollar and then some to support the program. her federal funding is significantly less this year than it was last year. so she is having to rely on not only her own innovative resources and the help of her four children, all of whom financially and materially support topps, but also making hours stretch in the day so she can continue to serve as many kids as she was serving last year on significantly fewer dollars. >> i'll tell you, it helps to be able to tell their stories which i know is why you're here. and we have months yet to talk about all kinds of things. >> i'm looking forward to it. >> we're so happy to have you here. >> thank you, brian. >> welcome. we should mention you can find more information on how to help ms. dove and the topps program on our website. that's nbcnightlynews.com. we'll have more with chelsea clinton tonight in this very
studio on "rock center" at 10:00/9:00 central time. for us for now that is our broadcast. on a monday night as we start a new week, thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams. we hope to see you here tonight and then tomorrow evening for "nbc nightly news." and then tomorrow evening for "nbc nightly news." good night. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com >> we begin with breaking news. you can see the protesters on top of one of the big rigs there. the idea, the goal for the evening for the second time in as many months is to shut down the port. those protests began early this morning and at this hour, thousands are back again after marching through the streets of oakland. their message, a simple one -- stop and keep t