Gary: No confetti or celebration marked the end of the war. Instead, the national anthem quietly played while a U.S. military flag was folded for the last time; the symbol of U.S. presence in Iraq.
“No words, no ceremony can provide full tribute to the sacrifices that have brought this day to pass.”
Gary: The ending comes two weeks earlier than had been agreed upon so troops could be home for the holidays.
It is a quiet ending to a war that started with shock and awe nearly nine years ago.
On March 19, 2003, Operation: Iraqi Freedom began. The U.S. dropped bombs on Iraq’s capital, Baghdad. The reason? The administration, under President George W. Bush, believed that Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction or WMDs. Weapons that could be used against the U.S. to kill large amounts of people. It was a controversial decision and put the U.S. at odds with many of its international allies.
It was supposed to be an easy win. The U.S. with its superior firepower would kick out Saddam Hussein and free the people from a ruthless dictator. And at first, that seemed the case. Only a fews weeks after the initial invasion, the capital, Baghdad, fell and the people celebrated. President Bush declared major combat operations were over under a banner “Mission Accomplished.” And in December of 2003, the U.S. caught Saddam Hussein. And he was later executed by the Iraqi people.
But the war was far from over. Feuds that had been brewing for hundreds of years erupted between different groups – the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. Rebel groups began attacking U.S. forces. And what little security they had crumbled.
Al-Qaeda, the terrorist group behind the 9/11 attacks, was able to catch hold in Iraq. And because of the heavy bombing from the U.S., the country was left in shambles. Buildings were totaled and many Iraqis had no water or electricity.
The war became very unpopular very quickly, especially when the U.S. was not able to find any WMDs to prove the reason for the invasion. And the U.S. reputation in the international world only got worse when in 2004, photos surfaced of U.S. troops allegedly degrading or mistreating prisoners in the Iraqi prison of Abu Grhaib.
In spite of the violence, in 2005 about 8 million Iraqis voted in what was considered the first free elections in the country since Saddam took power. But that didn’t stop the violence. And by 2007, almost four years after the start of the war, things looked bleak. So, the Bush administration made a controversial decision to send in more troops, a surge of 30,000 to stop the violence and secure the country. And it seemed to work. Attacks against U.S. troops dropped and shortly after President Obama took office, he announced the withdrawal of most U.S. troops by end of August 2010.
Just over a year ago, the last U.S. combat forces left the country. Some quote “non-combat” troops stayed behind to help the Iraqi people take over. And now, even they will be coming home.
It is hard to tell if we won the war or not. Some argue it was important to take Saddam out of power, but the cost has been high. Forty-five hundred American lives have been lost, thirty-two thousand more wounded. The overall tab stands at more than a trillion dollars. And some estimates put the Iraqi death toll at 100,000.
And as U.S. troops leave, they are leaving behind a fragile country unsure about its future.
Gary Hamilton, Channel One News.