‘Tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.’
-- Barack Obama
Barack Obama's presidential address on Tuesday evening brought an official end to a war that has lasted over seven years.
Speaking from the same desk that former President George W. Bush used to declare war on Iraq in 2003, Obama announced that "Now, it is time to turn the page".
Obama pledged an end to the war as a presidential candidate in 2008, and in February 2009 outlined a strategy for the responsible removal of combat brigades from Iraq by August 31, 2010.
The US mission in Iraq has now switched from combat to assistance with over 100, 000 troops being removed and hundreds of military bases closed or transferred to Iraqi authorities. US military numbers have been cut back to 50, 000 with the main objective of assisting Iraq's security forces and supporting its government and people. These troops are scheduled to return home at the end of 2011.
Almost a trillion dollars have been spent, and over 4,400 US troops, and at least 100, 000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the 2003 invasion. A drastic sacrifice for a war fought on false pretenses, and with no plan.
The US invaded Iraq with the objective of toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein. This was achieved in 21 days of major combat operations after which George Bush said - "America sent you on a mission to remove a grave threat and to liberate an oppressed people, and that mission has been accomplished." However, the US had not made plans to re-establish political stability and as fighting escalated, a previously oppressed people enjoyed the ruined infrastructure and existential insecurity of their 'liberation.' Seven years, thousands of deaths, and billions of dollars later, not even Barrack Obama could embellish his end to the conflict with the words - 'mission accomplished.'
Perhaps this is why the sentiment towards the end of the war in Iraq is so underwhelming, and why the media have seemed to avoid paying lip-service to an event of international and historical significance. There is no symbolic 'handshake', cheer, or round of applause from the international community. It is an eerie silence. The kind of introspective stillness you get when you can't believe that 'something just happened.'
Iraq is still in an extremely fragile state. They are struggling to form a government and deadly violence remains common. The US invasion sparked civil war and the repercussions of this political and social division provide an unstable foundation on which to attempt to build democracy. Obama encourages political leaders in Iraq to - "Form an inclusive government that is just, representative, and accountable to the Iraqi people. And when that government is in place, there should be no doubt, the Iraqi people will have a strong partner in the United States." - A feat much easier said than done.
While the US combat mission in Iraq is over, the real Operation Iraqi Freedom finally has the breathing space to begin.
Credit to stuff.co.nz and spiked-online.com for this story.