Rock Center | December 12, 2011
>> a lot of americans will forever believe that the war in iraq was an elective war. the united states chose to attack, there was never any connection proven to the terrorist attack we have suffered. but there's no sense in refighting it either. it was nasty enough for those who did it the further time around. for those of us who were there to see parts of it, to see heroism for the u.s. fighting forces, it was indelible. for those in the fight, those who lost a family member back home, it was world-changing. it's been nearly nine years now. today at the white house the president hosted the iraqi prime minister to mark the end, the departure of the last u.s. troops later this month. but as you're about to see it's not the end. it's not the end of u.s. spending or engagement or entangleme entanglement. top night we debut the reporting of our new colleague, ted koppel , who went back to iraq and found that for the u.s., there may indeed be no exit.
>> reporter: it's been a little less than nine years since i joined the 3rd infantry division as they crossed from kuwait into iraq .
>> i was trying to think of something that would be appropriate to say on an occasion like this, and as is often the case, the best you can come up with is something that shakespeare wrote. wreak havoc and unleash the dogs of war .
>> reporter: and now as u.s. forces reverse direction and come back out again, it may be time to tabulate the overall cost. 4,500 dead. 32,000 wounded. and a financial cost approaching $1 trillion. $1 trillion, $1 million a day for 3,000 years, and we did it in less than nine. you have to believe it's finally over, it's done, right? well, not exactly. the united states , which less than nine years ago obliterated iraq 's military power , is now in the process of rebuilding it. on the outskirts of baghdad these specialists from general dynamics and a handful of u.s. army trainers are teaching the iraqi army to maintain, drive, fire, and maneuver m-1, a-1 tanks. the iraqi army has bought 140 of them. e that what's good for general dynamics is good for the usa. it's easy to get confused. but washington's goal these days is maintaining influence in iraq while keeping iran in check. those military trainers, the civilian contractors, they're the iceberg. take a look at that vast, sprawling compound of buildings, guard towers, and blast walls on the other side of the tigris river . what looks uncomfortably like a maximum security federal penitentiary is the largest u.s. embassy anywhere in the world. that and two gigantic consulates in erbil and basra are staffed and operated by more than 16,000 people, most of them americans , all of them under the direct authority of the u.s. ambassador to iraq , jim jeffrey.
>> i believe that the white house and the executive office building together cover about 14 acres. how many acres are you covering here?
>> considerably larger than that.
>> 104 what is i've heard.
>> i've heard that number too.
>> would you disagree with it?
>> not at all.
>> have you ever seen a u.s. diplomatic enterprise of any kind? anything to compare with this?
>> saigon when i left in 1973 .
>> that's not a very happy comparison.
>> you asked me for a size, not an express of happiness.
>> reporter: the windows are bullet-proof. attacks on the embassy reached their peak during heavy sectarian fighting during 2006 and '07. it's still a regular target. the question is what happens when u.s. forces are gone? the debonaire iraqi officer, major general atta , is an official spokesman for prime minister maliki's office. it is the iraqi government , 92 theory, that is now responsible for the security of those thousands of americans . and that's a government racked by corruption and religious division .
>> i'm concerned, as i know you must be, about the possibility of fighting between shia and sunni again.
>> translator: we have surpassed this issue. at this point we refer to iraqi forces as national iraqi forces.
>> reporter: do you mind if i just walk along here and ask each man?
>> translator: no.
>> reporter: okay. come on, guys.
>> reporter: you're sunni ? sunni ? we can get these guys just to slow down for a second. ask this man, please. hold on, hold on.
>> sunni or shia?
>> he says we are all muslims .
>> reporter: some muslims are sunni , some muslims are shia.
>> he said it's not a nice question to ask, we hate that question.
>> reporter: i apologize, okay.
>> reporter: their clear discomfort may in fact be because of my bad manners in raising a sensitive issue in such an incensensitive way. but if saddam hussein senior officials were almost all sunni , prime minister maliki has made sure that the ministry of interior -- that's the police -- and the ministry of defense -- that's the military -- that those are both controlled by his fellow shia. and then there's the corruption. i've never seen that piece of equipment before. where does it come from?
>> he sects that you know about the device.
>> reporter: actually, general atta is dead right. i had heard about it. this little gizmo is supposed to detect explosives. the iraqi government brought roughly $100 million worth. the ade-651, which certainly sound as though it ought to work, was produced at $250 apiece and sold to the government at a reported cost of $60,000. apiece.
>> he said, we have tested the device, it had detected explosives and also weapons.
>> reporter: that, sadly, lacks the additional virtue of being true. government investigations in england and the united states have concluded that ade-651 is a total scam. the iraqi government arrested the head of its own bomb squad . other government officials were investigated. people have died because of the illusion that this piece of junk works. it doesn't. the big picture general atta wanted us to record was how normal this major shopping district in downtown baghdad really was. on a balmy late saturday afternoon. as normal, surely, as any place can be with clusters of police snapping off smart salutes at any corner. as our convoy of armored trucks roared down the avenue. but what is normal in the company of a major general in iraq 's national police is potentially-threatening to american diplomats leaving the embassy compound.
>> the execution is five vehicle motorcade, basically lead, k-9, limo, erv, and the follow.
>> reporter: when they head into the actual city of baghdad , only annualsly nicknamed the red zone --
>> all right, gentlemen --
>> reporter: they travel with a staggering amount of protection.
>> rules of engagement , the use of deadly force is authorized in self-defense or defense of others.
>> reporter: these five vehicles are merely the advance security detail for this morning's movement. the reconnaissance helicopter overhead. the massive security detail . that's all state department now. they will go ahead to a downtown sheraton hotel to prepare the way for a second five-car motorcade carrying, in this case, beverly hall and jessica buchanan . they are both contract employees of the state department . english language officers on their way to a conference with iraqis who teach english as a second language . you've got to realize that there is something totally bizarre about this setting. back in the states, this sort of a security detail would be reserved for the secretary of state or the president.
>> and every time you do anything outside the international zone , this is how we travel.
>> and it's normal.
>> reporter: is it necessary?
>> yes. in order to stay safe in this environment, it's critical.
>> reporter: whenever there's a stretch of open road , the vehicles weave back and forth to make the effective detonation of roadside bombs more difficult. and to allow each driver a clear line of sight. there have already been threats from radicals within the iraqi perform at, that once the u.s. military has totally pulled out of iraq , american diplomats will be considered an occupying force and must be driven out. we're talking now about 16,000 to 17,000 americans , third country nationals, working for the state department . and private contractors, thousands of them, who provide security.
>> do you want to call an audible on checkpoint four?
>> reporter: on this morning, in this place, the concern is that snipers may be lurking in one of those high rise apartments. the americans staying behind after the military leaves, they all know that they are targets. even those who merely teach english as a second language .
>> we are diplomats. and we will continue to do that job. until the president says otherwise. we will continue to perform the same functions that embassies around the world perform. as long as the government of , we will continue to stay here.
>> reporter: you guys are terrific, you really are.
>> we're just doing our jobs.
>> did you hear that? just doing our job. that phrase has been used in conjunction with both bravery and drudgery in iraq for the last nine years.