On Meet the Press, Host Sets Up GOP Senator to Debate on Iraq with Anti-War NBC Reporter

On Sunday's Meet the Press, NBC host David Gregory wrapped up his interview with Sen. Lindsey Graham by setting up a debate with anti-war NBC reporter Richard Engel, who wasn't shy this week in asserting on NBC's Today that the Iraq war was unnecessary, that Saddam Hussein was growing more moderate and respectable by the day, and was gaining acceptance in Europe.

After Gregory played a clip of that -- complete with Engel calling Iraq a "giant distraction of resources" from Afghanistan, just like a congressional Democrat -- Senator Graham insisted that the NBC reporter was "completely rewriting history" and that Saddam "was not becoming a good citizen, he was becoming a more dangerous dictator. The world is better with him dead."

Even as this stage of the Iraq war, as the surge seems to quite clearly brought peace and calm, never-say-it's-a-win die-hards in the liberal media are the first line of attack on the Republican position:

DAVID GREGORY:  Senator, I want to conclude by asking you a question about Iraq and Afghanistan.  The president, of course, ended Operation Iraqi Freedom with an Oval Office address, addressing the nation on that point on the end of the war.  Our own chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, who covered the war throughout and has covered the war in Afghanistan as well, offered some analysis during an appearance with Ann Curry on the "Today" show about the legacy of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  I'd like you to listen and react to it.

RICHARD ENGEL:  If there had been no invasion, Saddam would still be in power.  He was probably getting more moderate.  He was being welcomed into the--into--by, by a lot of European countries.  He was being welcomed into Eastern Europe in particular.  He as heading in a, in a direction of, of accommodation.  The, the sanctioned regime that was holding him in place was starting to fail.  So I think he would--it would be somewhat of a, a basket case, but it would still--it would be--Iran would be a lot more contained. So it would be a dictatorship that was trying to break out of its box, but Iran would not be as dangerous as it, as it is today.

ANN CURRY:  And had the United States not invaded Iraq, would we be done in Afghanistan?

RICHARD ENGEL:  Probably.  That was a giant distraction of resources, of intelligence assets.  That war would probably be over.

GREGORY:  Senator, what do you say?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:  Completely rewriting history.  Our planes were being shot at in the no-fly zones, Saddam Hussein was violating every U.N. resolution to account for his weapons program, he was openly defying the international community when it came to controlling Iraq.  He was not becoming a good citizen, he was becoming a more dangerous dictator.  The world is better with him dead.  If we can get a government together soon in Iraq and it becomes stable and secure, we'll have a democracy between Iran and Syria.  Iran's biggest nightmare is to have a neighbor on their border who practices democracy.  So the 4,400 young men and women who've died have done this country a great service by securing Iraq and making...

GREGORY:  Well, nobody's disputing whether they've done the country a great service.  But even our current...

GRAHAM:  We're safer.

GREGORY:  ...defense secretary, who's a Republican says, "Iraq will always be clouded by how it began." Three-quarters of the American people think it was not worth the cost.

GRAHAM:  Well, I can tell you, we will be safer by how it ends.  History will judge us, not by what we did wrong at the beginning, but what we got right at the end.  If we can get the government stable in--and, and President Obama, it is now his job to finish out Iraq. 

If it finishes out well and it becomes secure and stable, allied with us on the war on terror--this is the place al-Qaeda was beat by fellow Muslims.  I can't underestimate how important that was.  Al-Qaeda went into Iraq to topple our efforts to bring about stability and representative government, and they were, they were beaten by Muslims with our help.  That is a huge win in the war on terror. 

So Afghanistan is a -- we're getting things better, we got a long ways to go, but I am glad we did what we did in Iraq.  America will be safer and history will record this as a big event in the Mideast where a dictatorship was replaced by a democracy in the heart of the Arab world.

PS: I am not related to Senator Graham.

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