tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC August 18, 2010 11:00pm-12:00am EDT
matthews, jack jacobs, the 4,415 americans 440 u.s. personnel, the fourth striker brigade heading out of iraq to where they literally should be minutes within crossing that border and ending the official combat presence of the united states in iraq. 50,000 train years and advisers will remain under operation new dawn. we will go back to richard angle, who is in that convoy reporting from what we call the blue mobile dedicated in memory of our late correspondent at the start of this in iraq. we go back to richard in the
immediate future. one thing that pg crawly probably our egos at the state department is that never to go on a news broadcast will have 11 people that will be hosting it. reach a matter of joins us from the green zone again in baghdad. >> rachel thank you and think you for joining us for this night and broadcast. one of the things that i have done since i have been here is spend some time with iraqi police. i have decided that what i would least like to be right now in iraq is an iraqi police officer. they are at the very sharp and of the spirit and terms of the insurgency. police officers being killed. bodies being burned after they have been shot to death. the flag of insurgent groups being hoisted over the sight of police shootings. not to mention that if they were not being targeted right now, it is a massive force with a hard
job. is the state department capable of taking over the iraqi police training job from the department of defense? state's but it pales compared to the department of defense budget, and i don't know that the state department has the personnel on staff to do the huge job that is iraqi police training. i wonder if this is going to mean a massive reliance on private for-profit contractors in order to get that done. >> first of all, we do law enforcement training in many countries around the world, particularly in post conflict situations like iraq. we are trying to build up the essential institutions of governments to have stability and preserve the peace that is evil thing there. we do rely on contractors to help us with that. we provide oversight as part of our normal diplomacy and development of work we do every
day here at the state department and around the world. it is something we have experience with. the emphasis on the military side, you know, the evolution of the program will change. we will do more emphasis on community policing in the kinds of things he will meet on any side walk in the united states. we will create that circumstance in iraq and will work on the judicial system to make sure that people have trust and confidence in that when crime happens people will be captured and prosecuted and jailed appropriately. most importantly, we will work with the iraqi government on the process and part of the dynamic that we still have elements that feel disenfranchised. we are able to help iraq develop a greater political space for participation in fully expect that the violence will continue to recede. >> 1 more question for you and we will let you go on this
auspicious night. >> it was your job to be in meetings about how to present this news to the american public. i was wondering, given that you are doing that in the historic shadow of a president already having declared this war to be over under mission accomplished banner years ago, rather than going all the way back to the end of the war in iraq and how much did that mission accomplished overstatement in the past affect the way you decided to present this tonight? >> let me into that a couple of
different ways. i am and retired air force officer and a veteran of the first gulf war in 1991. the last thing we want to see is an occasion where we have to send troops back into iraq yet again. we are ending the war in our ending the combat phase of our involvement in iraq for a second time. we are not involving -- we have important work to do. this is a transition, not the end of something but a transition to something different. we have a long-term commitment to iraq. a trillion dollars and 4400 lives lost. we have invested heavily and need to do everything we can to preserve that investment and integrate iraq along with the neighborhood into a much more peaceful situation that serves their interests as well as ours. this is a historic moment in something but is a transition. is long standing. >> p. j. crowley of the state department, thank you for being with us tonight.
>> all right, chief. >> for what is a heart pumping moment that is approaching, somewhere along the iraq-kuwaiti border, the moment in which that convoy begins to pass, we go out to return angle live with the live strike brigade. where are you and how soon? >> we are about this vehicle about 5 miles away from the border. i could see we were on a crest of a hill and it will of the lights from the border area. we are not a last vehicle in this convoy and have deliberately not to listen to be the last vehicle. we will cross over this border within about 15 minutes. we are going a little bit slower right now. we intend to turn the cameras around and see the it will take hour or so for the final vehicles that are behind us to actually cross into kuwait, so the estimate time right now, if we keep moving at this pace,
maybe 15 minutes or us to cross and an extra hour for the rest of the troops. the final american combat troops to leave this country. >> richard, you and i have talked about this since before either one of us worked here. you have been reporting from iraq since 2002, before that war began. what are your emotions as you approach that boreder? what are your emonths agos? >> reporter: well, this has been 7 1/2 years in the making that that this record right now, i was in baghdad when this war began, not with the military, just in iraq watching the city come under attack by u.s. forces. so, in many ways, this brings closure for me. it brings closure for a lot of the soldiers. they feel that they've accomplished something in this country and i've been still -- spend a lot of time trying to assess what has been accomplished, what have we done in this country.
from the military -- they did stop a civil war and now they're leaving in quiet an honorable exit. the major failings of this war have been political. the military was not able to create a stable iraqi government. so, for me personally, it is a time of reflection and a time to figure out really what has been done over the last 7 1/2 years, combat mission that will be ending just is now being measured really in just miles and hours, not years anymore. >> richard, this is a most appropriate time to join, have join our conversation the retired colonel jack jacobs, who is now an msnbc military analyst, a congressional medal of honor winner, who has been gracious enough to be with us tonight. >> good to be with you. >> i'm sure you have questions the rest of us can only begin to have and the position richard is
in on the stryker combat vehicle right now. >> richard you have been there a long time. have you seen a change in attitude in the troops from the very beginning when you were there until today? >> reporter: yes. i think they have a more mature attitude, particularly the soelt jers, the ncos, the noncommissioned officers, who have come here for several tours. when i first met the soldiers, they were ready for action. they were hard charging. they wanted to get into gunfights. and now, imwe have a much more mature force. they understand the costs of war, they understand what it means to be in long dough employments. they understand what it means to kill people and i think that's only the maturity of a veteran has taken many, many years and it's something that i've watched as i've been following the military here. >> you know, this is the end, theoretically, of the combat mission. the combat troops being with drawn, but there are 50,000 plus americans remaining behind,
including those who are trainers, who are with iraqis units and will be there for quite some time. what's the attitude of those folks who have been left behind? >> those of you who ever attempted a cell phone call understand how all this feels tonight, but if you add to the dimension of this, jack, we're talking about cell phone calls with pictures from a moving troop relocation. the moment they have all been waiting for and we get to participate in it. it's an extraordinary -- >> very exciting indeed. but along the lines of the question i asked richard, let me posit some fact for you. when i went back to vietnam for my second tour in 1972, all of the american combat units had already been withdrawn. and i and a very small number of people were visors to vietnam ease units. i was an adviser to the vietnam
ease airborne battalion. we were in combat every single day. the situation here is very much different for the moment, but it's always possible that things are not going to stay under control. and it's hard to believe because it's not true. it's hard to believe that the command does not have plans for a situation in which american troops will have to be reintroduced to take care of the people who are remaining behind. >> richard engel has reestablished contact with us, so i can imagine you can expand on what jack was just saying, that there are no doubt plans for those 50,000 who remain to, in essence, if not in name, become combat troops again, are there not? >> reporter: they, the plan, as far as i've been briefed by american commanders, is for them not to become combat troops. they will not be organizing missions. they will not be going out to take objectives. they will primarily be working with headquarter companies. they will be trainers, a lot of
office jobs. they will go out on a mission if asked by the iraqis forces, but the plan, as far as it has been explained to me, is for them not to go into harm's way beyond reasonable expectations. there are obviously troops do move around in this country. bases could get mortared. there still could be situations where american troops in iraq will be killed and -- situations but the plan is for them not to be having, sitting down in their technical operations center planning missions and executing them and being on a combat cycle. no, they will have a very different role. >> let's hope they stick to that. richard, another lo jfkal question as we sit here in our comfortable studio with pens and papers and clocks and such, and hoping that the signal is bouncing back wlarnlg than just bouncing away, according to your estimates before, it should be about eight or nine minutes before you cross that kuwaiti border. how will you know when you've
crossed? will a player go up? >> reporter: no, no, we will see it. there is a border crossing point there and what we've been told is we have a personnel and other journalists that are stationed there and they've told us the front part of this convoy has already entered into kuwait and there are u.s. military officials there standing to greet the last men troops, standing there to salute them as they enter the -- as they leave iraq as they enter kuwait, to thank them for their service. so, we will know because there will be american troops there to greet them. also, there will be kuwaiti officials there. there's something of a border checkpoint. than just charging into kuwait. they will stop, all soldiers have been told they have to have their i.d. cards and their dog tags. the noncommissioned officers went around earlier today and made sure that all of the soldiers had their i.d.s so they
didn't have an embarrassing moment and the kuwaiti authorities wouldn't let them in. >> i'm sure this is the first time for many of them that they've actually enjoyed the prospect of a convoy being stopped. chris matthews has a question out of boston. >> richard engel, we all grew up with the pictures of the americans leaving from the top of the embassy in saigon. and the sense that we were betraying people we left behind. you as an american correspondent, what is your sense about that, what lays in the future, what lies in the future of iraq in terms of those who depended on us? >> reporter: the people who depended directly on the military, the contractors, the translators, there has been an entire generation of iraqis who have grown up working with americans and a lot of them are very nervous. some of them have left the country. a lot of them have gone to europe, gone to the united states, but there are other people who couldn't get visas,
so, there will be thousands of people who have, over the last 7 1/2 years, developed close working relationships with american troops who's futures are uncertain and that is a concern. in addition to the iraqis, there are plenty of filipinos and people from pakistan and bangladesh, they're called third country nationals and there are thousands of them here who have been working on the u.s. military bases. their future is also uncertain. but it is not like the situation in vietnam. there will not be hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands of people who will be slaughtered in the wake of an american withdrawal. there are people who worked with the men's, but not the same kind of scale. >> who were the people that are in the country were leaving right now, at least formerly with our combat brigades, who are waiting to get even with us now that we are weaker over there? who do you fear will strike in the next couple of months? >> reporter: well, there's a
fear that some officials or that some militants and the reason is i think we're coming up to the kuwaiti border now. >> there it is. >> the soldiers, you can pan behind me, they are unloading their weapons as we speak. so, and we are coming to a halt. craig, if you'll, craig white, the cameraman, if you pan the camera around, you can see the lights of a border crossing point. so, we are now, this part of the convoy, at least, coming to a halt, approaching the border of kuwait. now, remember, there are vehicles behind us, so when we cross over, it does not mean that the last american combat troops have crossed over, but they are taken down their weapons here. they are unloaded and now, the process of actually moving into kuwait will begin. this is something of a bureaucratic process. they have top their documents checked but they are not going in on combat footing. weapons unarmed. the big weapon on this stryker
vehicle, the heavy machine gun, pointed away from the border, so they're clearly making it so that this is not a hostile intent as they approach this legal border crossing, like anyone would cross a border crossing. in fact, you drive up to it, you present your papers and you cross. >> so, the stop down there suggests, richard, that those at the front of that convoy are within, presumably, minutes of crossing out and this last detachment of 440 troops, this last stryker brigade, is the beginning, it's not the end of the beginning but the beginning of the end? >> this is the beginning of the end. and we are approaching the lights, the towers, at the border right now. there are american soldiers on foot here and i'm not -- this is the first time personally i've ever been to kuwait, so i'm not exactly sure what we're going to see. we just passed our own crew who's here and i'm going to get
up and i'm changing positions slightly, and it looks like we are crossing i'm changing positions slightly. and it looks like we are crossing into kuwait. i've seen the flashes of some cameras. there are other journalists there. if you look to the left, there are some soldiers waving this convoy in. maybe can you see over the machine gun? >> there are video cameras here, not a throng of journalists i must admit. nothing like it was when this war began and there were hundreds of reporters embedded. we are entering through a gate. we are -- there's another camera. there's another soldier saluting. but a very small reception relatively speaking. and relatively smooth, i assume that is not the end of the paperwork. i thought there would be more. i don't know what to tell you, i think we are still within the border crossing.
>> no-man's land. and in the beginning of the end is upon us. it is an interesting time as these troops, they're not even in the -- do you want to get reaction. let's turn around here. craig, you'll excuse. we're going to try and move around. there's not a lot of vehicle here. lieutenant. >> yes. >> what is going on right now? you're in better communications than we are. >> the border between iraq and kuwait. we just crossed. we've cleared all our weapons. we've dismantled what we can and we're heading in basically to just check everything and get ready to go to camp virginia. >> we are now in kuwait. >> we are in kuwait. >> the border area. don't you have to present your papers? >> roger, we're going to present all necessary paperwork.
they're going to check our vehicles, make sure we're not bringing anything across that is contraband. and then from there, we will be good to go. we are done with operations. >> how do you feel right now? >> it's a good feeling. it's really good. you know, granted it's the middle of the night. not like there's people here cheering for us. but you know --? >> live from kuwait. it's 7:19 that richard engel reported seeing that border crossing. and as you heard, the armed personnel on his own vehicle. he's back. let's go back to richard engel. >> okay. i'm not sure exactly when you dropped out. we are here interviewing lieutenant dewitt from san jose.
you said this is a proud moment for you. you feel very happy. were you surprised there weren't more people at the border waiting to cheer you in? >> no, we knew this would be -- i mean, this was a professional army's war. this wasn't -- none of us here expected to have any publicity. we did this -- you know, a fitting end. we our brigade did a great job -- >> hopes of re-establishing contact with richard engel and craig white and his cameraman and lieutenant dewitt of california. the moment almost speaks for itself. it's extraordinary. >> a couple of interesting things to keep in mind here is that there have been convoys through here for a long time. we started out some months ago with about 160,000 american troops in iraq and now we're
down to the 50,000 remaining behind who are trainers and administrative people. that's a withdrawal of a force that's larger than the invasion force on d-day and richard's on the last convoy. >> and richard's audio and the pictures are back. richard? >> yes, i'm sorry. we're having technical problems. it is something of a complicated broadcast. we're here with lieutenant dewitt from san jose, california. i've asked you this before and i'm not sure if they got it. tell me one more time. how do you feel right now? has it sunk in that this is a historical event that american combat troops, you among them have just crossed into kuwait and the rest of american combat troops are coming across and will be here very soon? >> it's just sinking in. and it's hard to explain how you feel right now. you're watching the end of an era of the american military.
as we cross into iraq, a war that has defined this generation of military men and women. and today, it's over. >> how does that feel in the fact. >> it feels great to know that we were -- that this battalion, 1st and 38th infantry is the last unit to be in iraq, the last combat unit in iraq. and it's something to be proud of, something we can all, this battalion. >> of course, as a battalion there's pride in that in that this unit was involved. what about you as a soldier, for you as an american? >> great pride. as i told you, you know, when we were talking yesterday, i was 17 when i watched you know, third i.d. cross from kuwait into iraq. >> 17 years old. >> 17 years old. a junior in high school. and. >> this war is really not just defined your military experience.
it's brackets your life. >> yes. it was part of my in some way, it was part of my young adult life. you know, i knowingly joined the military knowing i would most like little deploy to iraq. and to actually be part of that last unit coming out is a huge amount of pride for me. you know. to be able to say yes, we were the last combat unit in iraq. we were the ones that finish that had combat mission. and we will did it will -- we did a really good job. you know? >> keith, it is soldiers are now, they've opened the hatch. they're out of harm's way. we are now just waiting for the rest of the convoy to come this way. >> and richard, i noted that lieutenant dewitt thought it might have been difficult to express. i thought he expression it had beautifully. as you're sitting here. >> il pass that along. >> please do. as you're sitting there, and the reality of this the presence of mind to have the checkpoint
beyond the kuwaiti border, in other words the backdoor and everybody's waiting out there, the reality now of being there and being with this last group of u.s. combat troops, the last 440 of them it, how has that sunk in with you? >> it is, it, is still sinking in, frankly. the fact that this last pren thesis, when you look at the "operation iraqi freedom" began in march 2003. dash now it's ending in 2010 right now or within the next few minutes. to look back at what has been accomplished in this time period -- hello. so our crew that is in kuwait is just saying hello to us. so we are pleating up like the troops are meeting you. to know that the end of this combat mission is coming right now, it is a time to look back
at what has been accomplished as a nation, as a military. was it worth all of the expense? should the military have been asked to create a government? in the middle east? what will happen next with iran? i still think there is a 0 lot of open questions. i think iraqis are most concerned about their own future. that there will be a power vacuum as american troops pull out as these troops pull out and that their government won't be strong enough that iran's influence will continue to rise. but these are all issues that don't have much to do with lieutenant dewitt. he and his men were asked here for a combat mission to, build the iraqi security forces. they did that. they were asked before that to stop a civil war, they did that. they were asked to topple a dictator. they also did that. so militarily, i think these soldiers do have a lot to be proud of. >> throughout this conflict, richard, in 80s most controversial days, in its most dark days and even at beginning
in its most triumph fal days at the time of the capture of baghdad and the toppling of the statue and all the other over the top things we saw back in 2003, throughout this the criticisms have never reflected on those men and women in uniform. of all the inconsistent things in this war, inconsistency of the truth, versus the lie, inconsistency of the purpose, the -- what those men and women have done has been a uniform, no pun intended a plus from last to first that that's what's striking me here safe and sound at home. i imagine something like that must be occurring to you, as well. >> it certainly is that they have been asked to do an incredible job. they have been asked to spend years and years dedicated to this task. and by the way, it is not over. the 42 stryker brigade isn't set
to go to afghanistan. they're going to go back home and retrain, but some of the soldiers that are in this convoy will be in afghanistan soon. espoke to one yesterday. he expects to be in afghanistan in six months. just because this phase of the war is being ended, another war looms very brightly on the horizon. so, you asked how i felt about it, when i look at my even personal experience, i lived in iraq for five years straight. now over the last two years, i'm spending most of my time in afghanistan. and i think a lot of these soldiers il probably be meeting up with some of them in central asia. >> rachel maddow is back in the international zone in baghdad, and we're going to connect once again between our two remote locations with things a little bit better technically at one than on the other. rachel, go ahead. >> richard, i'm struck by what will lieutenant will the dewitt said about this marking an end of an era for the united states'
military about how much the u.s. military has changed over the course of this long conflict. obviously we will know that that stryker vehicle you're in right now is something that had never been used in a combat setting before it was use the here in iraq. but yet, the surge, the war, all of the combat frankly did, not forge democracy, peace an iraq, government here or even an end to the insurgency. things here are bad. it was the political settlement that is allowing u.s. troops to leave in this professional and honorable way in which they are leaving right now. do you get the sense that the u.s. military has taken away from "operation iraqi freedom" any sense of humility, any sense of humility about whether or not a u.s. military force can create a government? >> yes, i certainly have. and if you hear what a lot of generals are saying right now, including the most senior generals, both here and in afghanistan, i guess i shouldn't
say here anymore because i'm not in iraq, i'm in kuwait. both the commander deshs in iraq and afghanistan are saying from here the iraqis have to take it. we can only go so far. the u.s. military can do so much. and i think there is -- that is not something you heard from the -- from american military command commanders even a few years ago. there was a sense with security, if provided enough military, no how and ingenuity, thinking was possible. after this they recognize there are certain things the military can do. they can provide security, they can topple governments. they can move equipment but can they build a society and a government that is acceptable to people in the middle east. and i think the realization here is we've create opportunities. and the military will say that we've created space for the iraqis to create their own kind of democracy. and if you call that humility, then perhaps that's what it is.
>> also, richard, on the issue of just what this war has been like for the average american soldier, whether it be an infantryman or somebody working at other levels of direct combat in iraq, how have you seen in the time that you've been covering this war, how have you seen essentially the capability of u.s. forces change? obviously, we've now got hundreds of thousands of u.s. troops who have experience of direct fire, of enduring this heat. i mean it's 2:30 in the morning here in baghdad right now and it's already very hot. how much has the experience of the average american soldier changed in this war for so long? >> i've seen -- it's hard to joke with such a delay. i have seen a tremendous change in the capabilities of just the average soldier. let's say the average soldier, i don't mean that in a despair rajjing way. when i first arrived a lot of soldiers have never been in combat. they would bunch up, make silly mistakes. they are a much more lethal
force than they were 7 1/2 years ago. they have been in combat, they've been in fire fight. if you meet someone here who's been in three or four deployments, that sergeant, first sergeant will be able to look at a patrol and instantly know what is wrong with it, how they are behaving. they've matured as a force, gotten better and as wirp just discussing earlier, i think as a command, they've also become not more realistic but perhaps less far-reaching in what the military can and cannot do. >> to reset for those of you who are joining us, you're seeing richard engel in the back of the 4th stryker brigade convoy that is now laboriously crossing, most of it has already crossed into kuwait. this process will continue for probably another 45 minutes or an hour perhaps at the outside. these are the last u.s. combat troops leaving iraq. there will be 50,000 who stay in the position of advisers and
trainers for the iraqi military and the iraqi authorities. what sort of combat they may face it will not be defined as such in the american term. it will be probably defined as such in the practical sense. we're going to be covering this throughout the evening. i'm keith olbermann at msnbc in new york. my colleague rachel mad do you is in the green zone, now the international zone in baghdad. you saw richard engel board the bloom mobile. we'll continue to get his thoughts with my colleague lawrence o'donnell. >> richard, i'm won derg how much the government's inability to form a cloelgs affected the u.s. military's timing on this. the iraqi parliament has met for exactly 18 minutes since their election several months ago, and it seems since the military did have more time, that they could have used before leaving, is it fair to take from this the military making the assumption they just might not form a
government anytime soon at all so we may as well just go ahead with this plan? >> reporter: the military had and until the end of this month to pull out all xwas combat forces. that was a deadline set by president obama. so militaries don't like generally to go right to the last day and they also like to maintain an element of surprise. so i think it was more of a safety decision, a tactical decision. rather than one based on the actual negotiations within the iraqi political parties. they will -- those negotiation could go on for weeks or months or could be settle the tonight. so it would be too difficult and too much of an unknown to try and base a military operation like this along the scale on this scale on the whims of iraqi politicians. >> you said they could be settled tonight. what do you think will happen in iraqi politics tomorrow morning? it is now 2:30 in the morning there.
tomorrow when iraq wakes up and the military, united states combat mission is over, how will that affect iraqi politics tomorrow? >> reporter: i don't think it will have any impact on iraqi politics. they are so into their own space and disconnected from even the reality on the ground in baghdad right now. there is a fight for power and you have the prime minister nuri al maliki who doesn't want to leave. he's afraid that other politicians will then come after him on corruption charges, which by the way is exactly what prime minister malaki did when he came to power, he went after the old government and tried to have them all thrown in jail for corruption. he wants to hang on to power as long as possible. i don't think what's going on here is going to impact that calculation. and then there is the entire historic and religious calculation that malaki is part of a shiite political power and after 13 centuries of sunni domination in iraq, shiites are
in power. and they don't want to give that up. so the fact that there is not a combat mission anymore, i think is not something that will have an immediate impact on the workings of the iraqi politicians right now. they are off in a religious debate and worried about their own fortunes, i hate to say it. >> richard engel, with cameraman craig white and lieutenant dewitt in the back. we'll let you take a break and your coverage from the kuwait board ser to continue with us in just a little bit. richard, great, great reporting as always. stand by for us later on. jack jacobs, the timing of this to pull them out now, the plan was or at least the announced plan was at the end of the month. it's always when the army can do it, when the military can do it, go early, rather than go late. is it connected to events on the ground in iraq? is it connected any way to
ramadan? what was the premise of now as opposed to later or earlier? >> mentioned a lot of the contributing elements in the decision to go now. we went now because we could. we went now because we said we were going later and we have the element of surprise. one thing i was going to ask richard about that tactically, and we may get to it later on is who secured and how was that road secured from the beginning of the convoy all the way to the end to kuwait? we had to do it steltd ily. most of the people killed and wounded, americans in iraq have been through roadside bombs, improvised explosive devices. how did we manage to clear that enormous supply route on both sides in order to get this convoy out? it's been done on and off for the last 100,000 guys. the element of surprise is very, very important and ramadan did figure in this decision, as
well. it's not for nothing that you had the explosion that you had yesterday that killed and wounded more than 150 iraqis. that had to do with ramadan, too. >> since we will have rachel maddow in the international zone in baghdad, she's been there for several days with the troops and with many of the great thinkers involved in this process. what do you know about the logistics that jack just mentioned, rachel? anything? >> we are hearing frequently that as jack said, that the military is leaving now because the military can leave now. obviously, it's an operational security consideration in terms of getting out when people don't expect you to be getting out. when nbc news learned that this convoy was going to be going out likely at this time, likely on this date, and that we would be the only people who would be able to broadcast from this, i was brought into a very, very close circle of people who knew that that was going to happen in order to get me here in time so that i could report here on what
it's going to be like. but i think it's also important to reiterate what richard said earlier about the fact that the military very well may have slowed this down almost as much as they can. they have been moving out for a very long time. the numbers in iraq have been declining quietly while u.s. coverage has been soto vo chai for essentially at least a year at this point. while there there may be some consideration as to whether or not the presence of u.s. combat troops here makes it more likely an iraqi government could be formed, the time of leaving may have been delayed in order to help the iraqis form a government by the time we left. >> caller: tind from what i've seen to side with richard to believe the iraqis aren't watching the u.s. so closely to decide what they're going to do. they're caught up in their own arguments what they're going to do about their own country, the symbolism of us leaving without an iraqi government formed here is is much more american
symbolism than it is iraqi symbolism. >> that does raise that question again. what is the american departure from iraq seemed to have been and we've just watching the end of it here seems to have been largely devoid of any connection to the iraqis. the other symbolism, we're talking about the wonderful symbolism of the departure and these last 440 troops representing all those who got out safely and the conclusion of the combat operations with these combat troops, but the other symbolism is we're sort of leaving on our own, are we not? there's no formal connection to the iraqi government in this symbolic process. >> that's exactly right. the terms on which we are leaving are politically negotiated terms. the status of forces agreement signed by george w. bush and by the malaki government was about when all u.s. troops leave next year and when u.s. troops pulled out of the city.
this date this month, this was picked by barack obama. it is political. all of the lip service that's paid by american politicians pounding their chest and talking about conditions on the ground being dictatorial, it's just pounding. it's political rhetoric. u.s. troops leave on a u.s. political timeline and that's negotiated because we have civilian control of our military in this country. it's one of the things that makes america america. there has been an uptick in violence here recently. tuesday, yesterday, before richard embedded with these combat troops leaving, he and i had planned to go sight see and shoot footage around central baghdad together. a few hours before we went, that suicide bomber killed 41 police recruits in in the northeastern part of the city. today here in the international zone, one of the options we asked permission to use is a live set tore this broadcast tonight. the famous crossed swords parade grounds here just here. was hit with two rockets just a few hours ago when our cell would have been setting up for
the shot. no one was hurt thankfully. we're not broadcasting are that spot right now. we were given a stern talking to if an alarm sounds during there broadcast tonight, no excuses, no explaining what's going on. we have to hit the deck or get into a nearby blast shelter. if that happens, that's what's going on. both ramadan and u.s. troop withdrawal are an excuse for the insurgency to spike attacks here with all the force protections we're inside. i feel safe. that said, i would not want to be an iraqi, police officer in baghdad or a shiite making a pill graham grimmage to a holy site in iraq. if i were a iraqi mom, i would be keeping kids very close in this environment right now. u.s. troops who have worked with iraqi security forces recently expressed both in their capability and how much they have come. this is a dangerous place right now. regardless whether u.s. troops are here in great numbers or not, it feels like it's getting
worse. we're leaving because we negotiated with the government of iraq to leave. >> it's been about an hour and 15 minutes since the news broke that those last troops had left and others would be leaving. we have been showing you live both their approach towards the kuwait border and now in these moments the entire convoy of 68 armored stryker vehicles which struck richard engel as if they were simply well forified taxis. it went off without incident. the last few are crossing that border now. ow coverage will continue throughout the evening. we'll take a brief break and get back to richard engel on board the bloom mobile with the 4th stryker brigade. this is msnbc's live coverage of the last night of u.s. xwat combat troops in iraq. - woman #2: hey. i was just in town for a few days and i was wondering if i could say hi to the doctor. - is he in? - he's in copenhagen. - oh, well, that's nice. - but you can still see him. - you just said he was in-- - copenhagen. - come on. - that's pretty far.
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brigade are now crossing the remainder are now crossing the border from iraq to kuwait and officially, though 50,000 american troops will remain as advisers and trainers as these is tapes shot moments ago indicate, the official combat troops are leaving and perhaps the last of them will be processed by 20 or 30 minutes past the next hour this evening. the last night of u.s. combatted troop action in iraq. it is thus far gone on without incident to the point where our correspondent embedded with that convoy, richard engel described this as being in, effect, a parade of taxis. they had seen earlier during the day, they left daylight hours in baghdad, there was traffic on the roads they took. this going on so far without incident. we'll be going back to richard live from the bloom mobile in that brigade unit in a moment. we're going to start by taking you to boston with chris matthews. chris? >> thanks, keith. let's bringing in link chaffee,
the only republican senator in actual who voted against the war in iraq. thank you for joining us. you're an independent candidate for governor in rhode island. this thing we're watching tonight, this extraordinary evening of the departure of brigades could have happened four years ago. the reason it didn't happen is the president said we're keeping our troops in surging under general petraeus's mission. the statement was the reason we've been there for four years was to get a political settlement. we haven't gotten one, yet we're leaving. which opens the question was that just a delaying question and were you right to oppose the war? >> well, i don't want to look back, of course, with all the justifications for going to war, the weapons of mass destruction, all those argues. i'd rather look ahead. you talked about a political settlement and i can remember paul wolfowitz testifying assistant secretary of defense paul wolfowitz testifying to our senate committee and saying that
regime change in iraq will help us with peace between the israelis and palestinians. regime change in iraq. >> right. >> will help us with peace between the israelis and palestinians. he said that, paul wolfowitz, one of the main architects of this war in iraq. and we're still waiting. we're still waiting. the obama administration has to step up that effort. that is so important. those two things happening and progress on the peace effort could have tremendous ramifications in the region. >> the old phrase was the road to jerusalem runs through baghdad. it was the one way to pressure the frontline countries that have not been achieved, is there a lesson in the war in iraq?
>> from my perspective, we have made things worse. we start up all the hornets in the region. i think that one of the big issues i can remember in the region is this effort for peace between israelis and palestinians. they have to start being serious about the issues, the route to the separation barrier, the prisoners being held without charges. these are the big issues for the palestinians. it is not 100 issues just a three. >> thanks for reminding us. >> we can start making progress. >> it thinking for joining us. an independent candidate for rhode island. back to keith in new york. we will continue to analyze what
we are seeing. for the next stage of that, we call an associate editor who is the author of impure life in this city. thank you for your time to act we have had the perspective of what they are saying what they sang tonight in iraq about this? >> without a political deal, this is a milestone that in some ways is pretty meaningless to them. they are focused on much bigger issues. >> who is running iraq as of this our camera and on the strength and/or weakened by the american departure? >> this departure has been in
the works for so long. american influence has been progressively tenure leading. while prime minister maliki is still running the country, there is a political vacuum. what this search was intended to bring about, this great political compromise, really has not materialized. it has helped to bring down violence from the worst days of the civil war, but as we saw in grim form yesterday, iraq remains in incredibly dangerous place. we depart with a political vacuum. in many ways with the same sort of political vacuum that we entered in. i remember the moment in march of 2003, as i was in kuwait, and then there'll up that border and cover all of this way back then. the great hoax of trying to come
up with some sort of iraqi government. many years have gone by, and still there is no representative government that seems to sort of, you know, how that sort of tent that can help the factions. >> it is an american tradition to put a number on anything that has sit still long enough to have a number put on it. is there a way to assess how much better or how much worse if iraq is tonight as these troops pull out then they were on that march night in 2003? a brutal and horrific dictatorship was removed in its place, what is left for the average iraqi and is that significantly better, slightly better, slightly worse? >> the bottom line answer to that is that it is still too early to tell. after this many american lives lost, after this many iraqi lives lost, thomas tens of
thousands wounded, we do not know the answer to that. it depends on where you sit. certainly, there are an awful lot of iraqis that know that saddam hussein and their tortured tankers are no longer in use. countless have been victims of the mayhem that in sindh since his fall and the arrival of the coalition partners in iraq. people on both sides of the secretarial/literally tens have been murdered in bombings and other sorts of sectarian violence. millions have fled to neighboring countries, europe, the united states. for them, it is very hard to look at the past seven years and say, boy, my life is an awful lot better today.
there are a lot of them -- in rockies are resilient people. many of them are looking to the future and hoping that people will get better. i do not think they look at this moment and say things are unquestionably better today than they were when u.s. forces arrived in march of 2003. >> a sober and a realistic picture painted for us. always a pleasure talking to you. >> thinking. >> when we review what we have seen, the removal of these last combat troops, it is so difficult to assess overall meaning. i am putting a tough task to you. please try. >> this is history and a moment that we all need to focus on. first, i want to say that the troops are magnificent you had on, lieutenant dewitt, to
richard angle, who has covered this war up close for so long. we are lucky to be associated with him. chris said he did not want to focus on petty politics, so let me do it for a second and talk about barack obama. he is in a tough spot. here is something where he promised to do something and is delivering. there is good video politically for barack obama. the problem he has in the future, no government, nobody waving good-bye. that is all going to produce video of probably chaos and continued division in may and in iraq and will take away from whatever political achievement barack obama gets tonight. >> your colleague from "the washington post," gene roberts and, with a quick shot. >> my thought is that i think we will look back on this day with
relief, with thanks for the surface of the troops. also, as an illustration of the limits of american power and influence, the mightiest armed forces in the world that invaded iraq and occupied the country for years. as we leave, as my colleague just pointed out, in fact, we have not solved the political conundrum in iraq and have not created a unified body politic. as howard said, there will be some disturbing pictures coming out later, and i think we can use this as a moment to reflect on what we can and cannot accomplish in the war. >> jean robinson of "the washington post." our coverage will continue. we will be going back shortly within the next few minutes to richard angle, whose time line on the last members of the fourth striker brigade getting
across the border on the outside edge of his window is about 20 minutes hands when we will be able to officially say or relatively say that this entire u.s. combat troop operation will be at an end, not to say that the violence or danger were friends and neighbors have been in will be discontinued. 50,000 of them will remain under operation new dawn. the pullout of these fighting troops, combat troops, has been accomplished slightly ahead of schedule. they are due to meet no later than the last day of this month. they are all out war about to be out. we will continue our live and exclusive coverage of these events throughout the day.