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As U.S. Leaves Iraq, NBC Proclaims: 'No Victory Celebrations, No Thank Yous' from Iraqis

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."

On Wednesday, Williams lamented how Iraq became a "tragic and prolonged slog," introducing similar pessimistic coverage of the war.

During his report, Engel observed: "With the casing of the colors, the U.S. military command in Iraq ended a mission that began what feels like so long ago." A sound bite played of George W. Bush: "We cannot know the duration of this war. Yet we know its outcome. We will prevail." Engel chimed in: "At least now we know the duration. America's costliest war in decades officially ended today."

Engel had only one note of optimism in his piece: "This war has been controversial and costly, but the troops by and large are leaving with their heads high." A clip was played of an unidentified soldier expressing satisfaction with a mission complete: "Iraq is doing their own thing. They're their own country now, up and running. And you know, it's wonderful."

After Engel concluded his report, Williams asked: "How's it feel today?" Engel replied:

I'm worried about what happens in this country, Brian. I'm worried that the violence could return. I'm worried that the United States embassy footprint, with thousands of security contractors, could antagonize Iraqis. The infrastructure in this country is still very poor in many parts of Baghdad. There are only a few hours of electricity a day. The Iraq war is ending for the United States but it might not be ending for Iraqis.

Here is a full transcript of the December 15 report:

7:00PM ET TEASE:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Over and out. The war in Iraq officially over. Richard Engel's live in Baghdad as American troops have lowered the flag. They now begin the last leg of their journey home.

7:01PM ET SEGMENT:

WILLIAMS: 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. This ends close to nine years of warfare and the U.S. exit from Iraq comes after a high cost. Nearly 4,500 American troops dead, more than 32,000 wounded. On the Iraqi side, estimates begin at 150,000 dead. The cost in dollars to the U.S., around 800 billion, some estimates put that at a trillion.

And please remember, every American who served there volunteered for duty while their families sacrificed greatly here at home. And tonight, here's what it looks like to wait for a ride home. And not just any ride, a few members of Bravo 224 of the 25th of Virginia National Guard unit en route to Fort Hood, Texas. They'll all need their ride out of Camp Virginia in Kuwait tonight. They'll be airborne while most Americans are asleep. Our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is in Baghdad, where he lived of course for many years covering this war and where he covered today's ceremony. Richard, good evening.

RICHARD ENGEL: Good evening, Brian. For the more than one million U.S. troops who served in Iraq, this is the end of an era. The Iraq war defined their lives, in some cases ended their lives, and now it's over.

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. But with the casing of the colors, the U.S. military command in Iraq ended a mission that began what feels like so long ago.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We cannot know the duration of this war. Yet we know its outcome. We will prevail.

ENGEL: At least now we know the duration. America's costliest war in decades officially ended today.

LEON PANETTA: Your nation is deeply indebted to you. You have done everything your nation asked you to do and more.

ENGEL: This ceremony has been nine tough years in the making. After an invasion, elections, a civil war, a surge, and finally a training mission, for the first time, the U.S. military command no longer has a presence here in Iraq. This is now a sovereign nation. There is still one mission left, to withdraw the 4,000 remaining troops in Iraq in the coming days. Most have already made it south to Kuwait, where they go through inspections and wait for flights home. Major Allison Daye was Skyping with her children in Texas.

ALLISON DAYE: I love you!

ENGEL: She used to read them stories by phone from Iraq. She'll see them soon.

DAYE: What do I want for Christmas? I want Santa to bring me home. Does that work?

BOY: I asked for that, too.

ENGEL: The Major now only wants one thing.

DAYE: Waking up in the morning and having their cute little faces there.

ENGEL: This war has been controversial and costly, but the troops by and large are leaving with their heads high.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Iraq is doing their own thing. They're their own country now, up and running. And you know, it's wonderful.

ENGEL: Did America prevail? Iraq's future remains uncertain. But today, December 15, 2011, will be written the day America's war in Iraq ended, in time for the holidays. What was conspicuously absent today, Brian, there were no parades among Iraqis, no victory celebrations, no thank yous.

WILLIAMS: Richard, you spent a good chunk of your adult life there. How's it feel today?

ENGEL: I'm worried about what happens in this country, Brian. I'm worried that the violence could return. I'm worried that the United States embassy footprint, with thousands of security contractors, could antagonize Iraqis. The infrastructure in this country is still very poor in many parts of Baghdad. There are only a few hours of electricity a day. The Iraq war is ending for the United States but it might not be ending for Iraqis.

WILLIAMS: Richard Engel in Baghdad tonight. Richard, thank you very much.


- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.