Early on Sunday morning, the last of the U.S. troops left Iraq, marking the end of a nine-year occupation and the bloodiest military venture for the U.S. since Vietnam. Thursday's withdrawal ceremony led by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta came not a moment too soon. After all of the lives lost and money spent, it's time to bring our soldiers back to the U.S. The Iraq War was a poorly planned operation that was far too expensive and should have ended years ago after removing Saddam Hussein from power.
After occupying a country based on spotty information about weapons of mass destruction that were never found, it's mind-boggling to me that it took the U.S. nearly a decade to fully withdrawal from Iraq. The hopes that stability would be achieved were never reached and the country is still prone to roadside bombings and extreme religious sects as it was when the U.S. first occupied the country. I am grateful for the troops that agreed to serve in such a difficult mission, but I'm saddened that so many lives were lost during the course of what can best be described as a mission without any real plan.
Removing Saddam Hussein from power was, of course, a good thing that came out of the occupation, even if the supposed weapons of mass destruction never materialized. In the eyes of the Iraqi citizens, a few positive things came out of the occupation, such as the new presence of NGOs, but many Iraqis feel disillusioned and that the U.S. failed to keep their promise to rebuild Iraq.
The Iraq War cost the U.S. taxpayers over $1 trillion, which escalated the national debt and contributed to the budget crisis. The toll of the occupation in Iraq cost much more than money, however. Nearly 4,500 American soldiers were killed and many more were wounded. There are also the deaths of the Iraqi civilians that need to be taken into account. Needless to say, this was a very expensive venture for the U.S. and Iraq.
The departure of the American troops leaves Iraq in a state of confusion. After nine years of occupation, there have been some improvements, but many things have been left unchanged. Much like with Vietnam, there comes a time when the costs of war become too much when compared with what is being accomplished. Now is the time to welcome the last of the troops back home and focus on how to help Iraq succeed without spilling any more blood.
Photo Credit: MATEUS