U.S. Army soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division board a C-17 aircraft at Baghdad International Airport as they begin their journey to the United States. President Barack Obama on Friday declared an end to the Iraq war, one of the longest and most divisive conflicts in U.S. history, announcing that all American troops would be withdrawn from the country by year's end.Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
It was nearly nine years ago that the United States and its allies invaded Iraq and deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, who was believed by Democrats and Republicans alike to have weapons of mass destruction.
But although Saddam had used such weapons on his own people, WMD were not found during the invasion.
History will have to decide the wisdom of the Iraq War. Although WMD weren't found, Saddam was removed from power. And through enormous struggle -- and the loss of thousands of brave U.S. soldiers -- Iraqis today have developed democratic processes, albeit imperfectly.
Still, there is joy mixed with anxiety about President Barack Obama's declaration that virtually all U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of this year -- three years into his administration.
It is joyful to think of the remaining U.S. troops -- about 40,000 -- being home in time for Christmas.
But the administration failed in its attempt to leave a few thousand troops in Iraq to train security forces. Iraq rejected that extension. So we are departing, but with no certainty that Iraq can make it on its own.
It should be everyone's earnest hope that liberties now enjoyed by the Iraqi people will grow, and that terrorist attacks will decrease. But we know that neighboring Iran, a terrorism-sponsoring nation, is already exerting a lot of influence over segments of the Iraqi population.
We hope that U.S. forces do not rapidly have to return to Iraq if Iraq's neighbors or its internal divisions make things worse in that already unstable region.
For now it is perfectly appropriate to give thanks that American troops will be coming home. But is the Iraq War truly over? That remains to be seen.