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Iraq then and now: Reflections from NBC's Richard Engel | GZERO World

Iraq then and now: Reflections from NBC's Richard Engel

As a young freelance journalist, Richard Engel was one of the only US TV journalists to broadcast from Baghdad throughout the US-led invasion of Iraq. On the 20th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, Engel, NBC's chief foreign correspondent, shares the story of how he ended up reporting on the ground and what he saw after troops arrived.

Despite limited access for journalists, Engel was able to get into Iraq by applying "human shield" visa and entered the country under the guise of a peace activist. What he found upon arrival was a population beaten down by years of dictatorship, and a choatic, disorganized government. As the invasion began, more and more people came out of the shadows, and expressed their joy that “ Americans were coming in and getting rid of Saddam,” according to Engel.

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Thomas P. Susdorf from the film “Gunner Palace."

Michael Tucker

“In war, everything matters.” An interview with filmmaker Mike Tucker

Twenty years ago today, the US invaded Iraq. Just weeks later, the American filmmaker — and frequent GZERO contributor — Mike Tucker embedded with a group of fresh-faced US troops in Iraq, to make the film “Gunner Palace.”

It was the first great documentary about the war – a gripping, chaotic, and occasionally darkly humorous portrait of what was, basically, a group of kids sent to kill in a country that they knew little about. One of those soldiers, Specialist Thomas P. Susdorf, is pictured above.

“To be a combat veteran is awesome, it’ll be great to look back on,” says one of Susdorf's fellow gunners partway through the film, “I’m just trying to get to the point where I can look back on it.”

That point is now. During the pandemic, Mike and co-director Petra Epperlein crisscrossed the United States, tracking down the Gunner Palace kids to learn how the war has shaped their lives ever since.

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Richard Engel on Iraq, Ukraine, and the danger of 'wars of choice' | GZERO World

Richard Engel on Iraq, Ukraine, and the danger of 'wars of choice'

Richard Engel, NBC's Chief Foreign Correspondent, was one of the few US TV journalists on the ground in Baghdad when the US-led invasion of Iraq began in 2003. Engel joins GZERO World to reflect on his experience covering the Iraq War as a freelance journalist, and what lessons he took away as he covers other global conflicts, like the war in Ukraine.

Engel recounts the lead-up to the war in 2003, when it was very difficult to enter Iraq, and how he ended up getting into the country on a "human shield" visa. Once inside, he found a population that was beaten down by years of dictatorship, and a chaotic, disorganized government. While many Iraqis expressed their joy that "Americans were coming in and getting rid of Saddam," it got ugly very quickly. The Bush Administration made a lot of mistakes, and there was lingering resentment from the Sunni Muslim community, which led to anger and animosity.

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From combat pilot to Senator: Tammy Duckworth's reflections on the Iraq War | GZERO World

From combat pilot to Senator: Tammy Duckworth's reflections on the Iraq War

Reflecting on the 20-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, Senator Tammy Duckworth on GZERO World shares her personal experience as a combat pilot and how losing both her legs during the war pushed her to keep serving her country through government. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, she stresses the importance of keeping the promises made to veterans, saying that "breaking those promises impacts military readiness."

Senator Duckworth acknowledges the progress made in Iraq, noting that "people are significantly better off than they were under Saddam Hussein." However, she believes that Iraq "is somewhat unfinished business" due to the high unemployment rates faced by young people, and hopes it can become a "friend and ally" to the United States.

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Ian Explains: Mistakes & mixed legacy of US “shock & awe” in Iraq | GZERO World

Ian Explains: 20 years since the Iraq War: Lessons learned, questions raised

The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, dubbed "Operation Iraqi Freedom," began 20 years ago. The Bush Administration told the world that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction and the war would last weeks, but none of that was true.

In fact, almost nothing in the Iraq War went as planned. The US wasn't prepared for a violent insurgency that lasted years, killing thousands of US troops and hundreds of thousands of civilians. And two decades from its start, the war still casts a long shadow––the rise of ISIS, a civil war, ongoing violence and political turmoil.

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Senator Tammy Duckworth discusses unfinished business in Iraq & the true cost of war | GZERO World

Senator Tammy Duckworth discusses unfinished business in Iraq & the true cost of war

US Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a combat pilot who lost both her legs in Iraq, joins GZERO World to reflect on the 20th anniversary of the US-led invasion. In her conversation with Ian Bremmer, Duckworth says that the first thing people need to understand is that the "cost of war" goes on far longer than the period of actual conflict. She emphasizes the importance of “fulfilling promises made to veterans,” and says it's "non-negotiable."

While acknowledging the progress made in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was removed from power, Duckworth believes that the country "is somewhat unfinished business," and worries about high unemployment rates for young people, concerns about Iranian influence, and negative oversight of the Kurdistan region. She hopes Iraq can become “a friend and ally to the United States.”

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Iraq/Ukraine: The problem with "wars of choice" | NBC News' Richard Engel | GZERO World

From Iraq to Ukraine: Reflections on "wars of choice"

In their discussion on GZERO World, Ian Bremmer and NBC's chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, delve into the lessons that can be gleaned from the Iraq war in light of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Engel's key takeaway is to avoid “a war of choice,” as resistance from the invaded people can make the situation worse.

Drawing parallels with Iraq, he notes that “Ukraine is also a war of choice for Russia,” despite the perception of an existential crisis. Unlike Iraq, the situation in Ukraine has a clear narrative of one country trying to occupy another.

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Podcast: The costs of invading Iraq: Sen. Tammy Duckworth & Richard Engel assess war's lasting effects, 20 years later

Listen: It's been 20 years since the US-led invasion of Iraq began. Can we say the world is any better off? Despite its official end over a decade ago, the war still casts a long shadow––the loss of countless Iraqi lives, the emergence of ISIS, and continued political turmoil and sectarian violence in the region. Moreover, the war significantly damaged the United States' credibility, making it difficult to gather global support against current threats such as Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

On the GZERO World podcast, Ian Bremmer interviews US Senator Tammy Duckworth and NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel. Their firsthand experiences and perspectives offer a more profound comprehension of the intricate legacy of the Iraq War and its implications for international politics.


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