After almost 9 years at war with 4,487 troops killed, 30,000 troops wounded, over 150,000 Iraqi citizens dead, and a dictator’s regime toppled, the United States officially ended its military operations in Iraq. At a midday ceremony in Iraq, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke of the sacrifices of the troops as he watched the ceremonial lowering of the flag of the US and Iraqi Joint Military force.
No words, no ceremony, can provide full tribute to the sacrifices that have brought this day to pass. That as we confront the strategic challenges of the future, we will never forget the lessons of war.
President Obama, Wednesday, marked the end of the war by delivering what many described as a moving and unifying speech at Fort Bragg in Virginia. He began his remarks by repeating two words he predicted would soon be repeated by families thousands of times, “Welcome Home.”
It’s harder to end a war than begin one. Indeed, everything that American troops have done in Iraq … all of it has led to this moment of success. Now, Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead. But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people…
Because of you — because you sacrificed so much for a people that you had never met, Iraqis have a chance to forge their own destiny. That’s part of what makes us special as Americans. Unlike the old empires, we don’t make these sacrifices for territory or for resources. We do it because it’s right. There can be no fuller expression of America’s support for self-determination than our leaving Iraq to its people. That says something about who we are.
The end of the War in Iraq, and the subsequent removal of all troops in the country was a centerpiece of the President’s campaign. “We must be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in,” was the phrase he repeated time and time again. It was what separated then-Senator Obama from then-Senator Clinton, and was what energized much of his young and liberal base. The end of Iraq war represents not only a new day for the United States, a new era for Iraq, but it also politically represents a promised fulfilled by the President.
Many Republicans, however, see the end of the war as a failure in leadership. They say the withdrawal of U.S. forces will allow its neighbor, Iran, to have increased influence in the region. Senator John McCain, Tuesday, insisted that although the Iraqi government refused to request remaining troops, a continuous U.S. presence is necessary in order to sustain the progress of the last few years.
…domestic political considerations in each country have been allowed to trump our common security interests. All of the progress that both Iraqis and Americans have made, at such painful and substantial cost, has now been put at greater risk. I hope I am wrong, but I fear I am not.
However, while the last 4,000 troops march out of Iraq before Christmas, over 16,000 “diplomats” will remain for years to come. In an NBC special entitled “No Exit,” Ted Koppel reported that over 16,000 civilian workers will remain in Iraq. Housed in the largest U.S. Embassy in the World (along with two “large” consulates), these civilians will continue working as contractors rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure, diplomats working to maintain a “regular” relationship between the two countries, and even teachers teaching English to Iraqi’s.
So what do YOU think? How do you view the past 9 years? Was the war worth the sacrifice? Did the President draw-down too quickly? Comment Below!!