tv First Look MSNBC December 15, 2011 5:00am-5:30am EST
we'll return this from eww to new. ooh to new. "first look" is up next. welcome home. president obama marks the end of the iraq war with those two words. and casing of the colors. halfway around the world, u.s. troops prepare for their own farewell ceremony. good morning, everyone. i'm lynn berry. those stories and more are straight ahead. this is "first look" on msnbc. and we begin this morning with the end of a long and painful era. a hisser to edge page is turning in iraq today, after nearly nine years and some 4500 lost lives.
msnbc contributor colonel jack jacobs will be with us as we bring you live coverage from the end of baghdad for the end of mission ceremony. president obama and the first lady were at fort bragg, north carolina, paying tribute to our troops. all but around 150 u.s. service members will be out of iraq by the new year. kristen welker reports. >> hello, ft. bragg. >> reporter: appearing before a sea of members at ft. bragg, the president and the first lady marked a pivotal moment in the nash's history. after nine years in iraq, all the troops are returning. >> welcome home. welcome home. welcome home. >> reporter: the speech, a tribute to the 1.5 million americans who served and the nearly 4500 who gave their lives. >> hard work and sacrifice. those words only begin to
describe the costs of this war. >> reporter: the president facing a tough re-election battle did not declare victory in iraq but has called the withdrawal a campaign promise kept. >> we are ending the war not with a final battle but a final march toward home. >> reporter: back in washington, his former opponent john mccain, said the withdrawal is purely political. >> i believe history will judge this president's leadership with scorn and disdain that it deserves. >> reporter: but for soldiers like jesse lucas who served three tours in iraq, today is a moment of celebration. >> makes me proud what we did our job over there and the president is getting us home. we pretty much had it taken care of. iraqis can handle themselves over there now. >> reporter: kristin welker, nbc news. we want to go live to baghdad where an ceremony is about to begin and will include u.s. secretary of defense leon
panetta, conducted at baghdad's international airport. of course the highlight of this ceremony is the casing of the colors. that is where the last u.s. and unit flags will be taken down officially bringing a conclusion to the u.s. military mission in iraq. joining me in the studio is retired army colonel and msnbc military analyst jack jacobs. thank you for being with us here so early. as we watch this nearly nine years and see it's almost hard to believe the end of this war in many ways that was controversial and unpopular, what will the tone be today? >> it's going to be a demonstration of some success. probably in the speech, there's going to be a litany of all the things that have been done well and not much focus on the things that are done poorly and maybe just a hint that there is work to be done. we are leaving, but we're not leaving completely. there will be several hundred, if not, my guess, several
thousand left behind in country to do administrative and logistical tasks, continue some of the training that's required, some command and control, and there are also going to be some american troops in and around other countries that are nearby. i'll give you an example. we have what's left of a 99-year lease on the airfield in kuwait. we have basing rights in uzbekistan and lots of other places in and around the area and from there, we will probably continue to conduct some kind of military and/or military support operations inside iraq. you know, it's not exactly going to quiet down when we leave and we've already seen signs of continued and maybe increasing sunni unrest in the country. i think that's going to increase over time, just as we leave, and the iraqis are going to require some american support. >> you know, as we watch these live pictures, this is sort of
the procedural part of it. we'll hear speeches, most notably by secretary of defense leon panetta. a lot of people, the world, in fact, will be watching what he has to say about where we are leaving iraq, the vulnerabilities that may be exposed that you touched on. what do you think would be the state of iraq is and whether or not now is the right time? >> well, it's not going to be anything at all like that which secretary panetta is going to discuss. i mean, he's going to guild it as well as he possibly can. the administration's decision is to remove the united states from the -- from iraq and we're going to do it very, very quickly. there are still plenty of gaps and, of course, the secretary is not going to focus on them. chief among the gaps is the development of the police force, the national police force. it's not in very good shape and has not been in very good shape. it is improving, but it's still not capable of doing what it needs to do.
the army, some cases is okay, and other cases is not okay, depends on where it is. of course, the ability of the central government to control violence, particularly among disaffected sunni, disappointed office seekers, as they used to say back when i was young in studying history that's not very, very good. they have a very heavy hand and i think you can expect force to be met with force, the central government is not going to be sophisticated but you're not going to hear that in the speeches today. look at the headlines a couple weeks to a couple months from now and that will tell you more than any of the speeches today what's the arc of politics. >> what do you think the headlines will be? >> i think it's going to be increased violence, lots of pictures of marketplaces getting blown up by people who are annoyed they're not in control. don't forget also that part of the world, and particularly in
iraq, is fraught with corruption and in the end there will be people inside iraq who are not only not happy with the distribution of the oil wealth, because the sunnis don't have very much of it, the kurds and shia do, but the distribution of political wealth as well. influence, they're not going to have very much of it and they're going to get annoyed and blow stuff up to demonstrate what they're missing. >> for the troops that are sitting there in the crowd as we see from the live pictures in baghdad and the troops at home, the military families who have sacrificed as well, one, two, three, four deployments in some cases, how do you think they feel about this end of mission ceremony today? >> well, you know, it's a very interesting question. i got the same question asked of me when i was in vietnam as one of the last combat troops in vietnam. the president of the united states decided in january 1973 -- i was with the
vietnamese airborne division fighting up in the northern part of what was south vietnam -- how do i feel about all this sacrifice, i had been there twice before, been wounded, how do i feel about leaving now? the mission was not complete or only partially complete. my comrades had been killed and badly wounded. how did i feel about it? you feel terrible about it. at the end of the day your focus on the battlefield is on your comrades and it's very difficult to shake that. >> jack jacobs, we are going to rejoin with you in just a few minutes after this break as well as live coverage of this end of mission ceremony, right here on msnbc. stay with us. nyquil: you know i relieve coughs, sneezing, fevers?
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still with me is retired army colonel and military analyst for msnbc jack jacobs. jack, as we watch this, a lot of pomp and circumstance going on, the tone somber right now. take us through what we can expect sort of here in the next half hour, what we'll be seeing ceremonially. >> they're playing the american national anthem at the moment. you've seen everybody in a position of presenting arms in the hand salute now for quite some time. which means they probably already played the iraqi anthem and may, in fact, play it again later on. there will be be a variety of speeches after the casing of the colors. that is, they'll roll the colors and encase them in their packages for shipping, and that will be the end of it in theory, and then they'll be a number of speeches, including one by secretary of defense leon panetta, who undoubtedly will extol the virtues of the american forces having fought there for almost a decade, the
losses we've sustained, the money we've spent and the great job we've done in bringing iraq to the 21st century and giving them an opportunity to vote for themselves and bring their own leaders to the fore and so on. the commander there will probably give a speech too. general austin. after a suitable number of speeches, after everybody is tired of standing up that will be the end of it and they will all go home, except for the people who will still be there. >> the 150 service members that will remain. what is the feel there in baghdad and all of iraq as iraqis realize the new world that they will be living in? is it celebration? is it concern over some of the vulnerabilities? >> well, it's a little bit of both, you know. there's a great deal of excitement because they are now in control of their own country, at least for now in any case. there's also a great deal of
trepidation. trepidation because the democratic system as we know it, which doesn't even work all that well over here from time to time, doesn't work well over there at all. now there's a great deal of violence, which is unchecked and will continue to be unchecked. there is not complete agreement on what should happen to distribution of political influence in that country among sunnis, shia, and kurds and others as a matter of fact. theres is not an an agreement on what -- very important, on what the distribution of wealth should be too, and we're talking about oil here. >> jack, we want to bring people in as they're watching the live pictures from baghdad international airport. we are beginning to see the ceremony of the casing of colors as you were describing. if you can, go through what we're watching? >> well, when you go into an area in the beginning, colors, which have been transported to the area, national flag, the flag of the unit, the flag of the united states army and other services, are in silk cases and
they're withdrawn from those cases which have been transported in boxes and in a grand ceremony are unfurled and then posted on a podium and speeches are made, speeches of welcome and so on. but when you're going home exactly the reverse takes place. there is -- you play the anthems and for the last time on this soil, the american flag and the flag of the units there, the american units there, will be saluted and then they will be rolled and put into cases and taken away. it's a solemn ceremony. there's great deal of sadness in leaving an area where you have been for a long time, especially for soldiers, sailors and airmen and marines, because they've left their kinsmen behind, they've left their comrades behind. >> sure. it's interesting you point on that.
it was on twitter, a journalist who had spent much of the past eight years covering this war, said, it's almost surreal to watch an army pack up after a war and you've followed this war yourself being an analyst and, of course, very close to this, being a retired army colonel, what's your feel, reaction to this -- not just this ceremony, but the past eight years? >> well, it's an interesting question. right now all the troops who are there who know they are leaving, are ecstatic beyond all possible recognition. they're just trying not to show it. they're not ecstatic about the united states furling its colors over foreign soil, but they are ecstatic going home. then some time from now, maybe a few months or few years and sometimes many, many years, they'll look back on this with a great deal of sadness, at least partially because their pals were left behind. they lost friends killed and very badly wounded, and they'll ask themselves a question, what
was it all for? and oddly, i'm really sad not to be there now, to see what's become of the place where we exerted ourselves so strongly, and it's going to be a real desire to go back. i felt the same thing when i went back to vietnam finally after 42 years, to see what had become of the place. these young kids who are not so young anymore after fighting there for a year, they're going to want to go back there too and see what's become of the place after four or five years. and see if they had made -- to hope they get a glimmer of having made a difference. >> the sacrifice they made. retired army colonel and msnbc analyst jack jacobs, thank you for waking up early and spending this time with us. we will be back with more on the casing of the color ceremony in baghdad and including a live report from nbc chief correspondent richard engle. stay with us. okay-y... okay??? i've been eating progresso and now my favorite old jeans...fit.
welcome back, everyone. we are watching a live in baghdad, we're going to take you to this live picture where the end of mission ceremony has begun. you can see there secretary of defense leon panetta giving his speech. it's being conducted at baghdad's international airport. we're joined live now by nbc news chief foreign correspondent richard engle there in baghdad. good to see you. thanks for being with us bright and early. you've covered this war in its entirety. you have many interactions with the troops there, as well as the iraqi people. what is the sense as this end of
mission ceremony gets under way? >> well, this end of mission ser knowneny is under way right now and what this signifies is the closing of the u.s. military command here. this is the official -- this is officially called the casing of the the colors ceremony. that means, after right now and just a few minutes ago, the american military command flag was taken down. that means the u.s. military command in iraq is closed. now, what happens next is going to depend a lot on the iraqi people and many iraqis are concerned that sectarian violence could once again become a problem for this country, that the country could descend back into civil war. we've also heard many iraqis expressing great concern about the thousands of american military contractors that will stay behind, working for the u.s. embassy. >> richard, is there a confidence level there for the iraqis that they have been sufficiently trained over these past eight, nearly nine years, that the control being handed over to them, that it's, frankly, at the right time?
>> the concerns aren't really with the iraqi military, and the u.s. military has spent a great amount of money and effort to train the iraqi army in particular. the concerns are more with the iraqi government. there are many political parties here. they don't have a clear leadership. there are some concerns about mall lackey himself, that he's bringing in an iranian-influenced government. the iraqi security forces, the iraqi army as i've seen it does seem to be in very good shape. the problem is the infrastructure in this country and the political system. >> what about just the iraqi people? we've seen reports of celebrations on the street, jubilation and also some fear that they are being left behind. >> we haven't seen very much celebrations. we've seen a lot of anger, in fact. you're not seeing iraqis saying thank you to american troops as they are leaving. instead, many iraqis we've been
speaking to are saying this country is still very much broken, yes a dictator has been removed, a tyrant has been removed, but there are still problems with water, power. many neighborhoods in baghdad only receive two, three, four hours of electricity a day and the sectarian tensions that exploded here in the war between sunnis and shiites in 2006/2007 is still really just below the surface. >> nbc chief foreign correspondent richard engle live for us in baghdad as this end of mission ceremony continues to be under way. kefl continue to cover it on msnbc. we're going to take a quick break. afterwards your first look at weather and entertainment is coming up. stay with us. ♪ [ female announcer ] find yourself sometimes cleaning up after your dishcloth? bounty extra soft can help. it's super durable, and in this lab test bounty extra soft leaves this surface three times cleaner than a dishcloth. even with just one sheet.
look." a look at your national weather. we turn to msnbc meteorologist bill karins. he has your weather forecast. >> good morning to you. many areas need the umbrellas once again. we are watching light rain and wintry precip moving through northern new england. it's a warm day but if you're anywhere in the new england area you need your umbrella with you. also through areas along the ohio valley and that's going to continue into pittsburgh this morning. last stop will be in texas where we have light rain to deal with. dallas umbrella weather. same for you in houston and san antonio and shreveport. temperatures are very warm this morning. as we go throughout this afternoon, temperatures very mild on the east coast. but you will get a little bit of rain later today. >> thanks so much. before we wrap up your first look at entertainment news. lindsay lohan was all smiles in court wednesday as for once she heard praise from the bench. the judge overseeing lohan's probation gave her credit for completing all community service and therapy sessions and
discussed ending her probation as early as february. but this judge is no fool. when lohan's lawyer asked if she could skip jan's next court appearance, the judge replied, quote, if i say yes, she will not complete everything. kim kardashian spent $65,000 on three bracelets at elizabeth taylor's jewelry auction and made sure we knew about it. barbara walters named steve jobs number one on her ten most fascinating people of 2011 list. any other guesses on the other nine? >> i hadn't thought about this. my girl lindsay probably didn't make it. >> fascinating in some way, shape, or form. >> ryan goslings, his abs may have made it. >> ryan. just the abs? >> just his abs. >> pretty much wraps it up. >> will do it for folks at home, that picture. i don't know whether or not that's a good thing or bad thing as they're eating their cereal. i guess it depends. i'm lynn berry. this is "first look" on msnbc.
stay tuned, "way too early with willie geist" starts right now. the ceremonial end of the long war in iraq, live pictures here. defense secretary leon panetta speaking at the end of mission ceremony being held right now at baghdad international airport for the war that began in march of 2003 and ends officially today, december 15th, 2011. u.s. military command flag has been taken down, the colors have been rolled. they will be cased and shipped home. i'm willie geist in los angeles this morning. this is a special edition of "way too early." as you see there, defense secretary leon panetta, joint chiefs chairman martin dempsey and general commander in iraq lloyd austin giving remarks in