Nightly News   |  October 22, 2011

Do Iraqis think war was worth it?

NBC's Richard Engel has covered the war in Iraq from the start, and he talks with NBC's Lester Holt about what the troop withdrawal means for Iraqis.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

LESTER HOLT, anchor: NBC 's Richard Engel has covered the war in Iraq from the start. He's with us here in New York tonight. Richard , you have been in the thick of it so many times with troops who, I know, you're still in contact with. What are you hearing from them about the end of this war?

RICHARD ENGEL reporting: Of course, when you spend time with troops they become your friends and we are still in contact via email and Facebook , and they are saying that it wasn't worth it. That the -- their difficult re-entry home, not coming back to the economic opportunities that they felt they would have, problems with their families, problems with their spouses, it wasn't worth it. And that is the same message I'm hearing time and time again .

HOLT: And if we pose the same question, 'Is it worth it?' to the average Iraqi citizen, what do you suspect we'd hear?

ENGEL: I've also spoken with Iraqis and they say that toppling Saddam Hussein was the best thing that Iraq -- that could've happened to Iraq , but that everything else they could have done without.

HOLT: Let's look at what Iraq , this current government faces right now. They've got a Turkish incursion on their northern border. They've got terrorism that seems to be rampant. And at the same time, this is a very fragile government. What is the US responsibility, if any, towards Iraq going forward?

ENGEL: Well, we have to protect a legacy, I guess. And the US has some interest in maintaining a stable Middle East , although the Middle East right now is anything from stable. But direct responsibility? It's up to the Iraqis , or will soon be up to the Iraqis on their own.

HOLT: Richard Engel . Richard , thanks very much.