Retiring the colors, US Forces Iraq.
Most accounts of the pullout are brief. Five years after Americans voted for withdrawal in the 2006 elections, the U.S. departed Camp Adder on December 16, the last base to be turned over to Iraq. It is now called Imam Ali Base and will be used by the Iraqi Air Force. (Shi’a Muslims regard Ali as the first Imam).
The Iraq fiasco started as a war of aggression labeled “Operation Iraqi Liberation” (OIL), which quickly changed to “Operation Iraqi Freedom” because the acronym gave away the real objective. At the end, it was “Operation New Dawn” (specially formulated for grease-cutting, but gentle enough for your hands).
More than 1.5 million U.S. soldiers have served in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, with around 4,500 of them losing their lives, out of more than 30,000 American casualties. At least 104,000-113,000 Iraqis were killed, though exact totals are nearly impossible to calculate. More than 1.6 million Iraqis fled the country, with another 2.5 million internally displaced. We lost $3 trillion of our taxpayers money.
For America, the occupation of Iraq was unwinnable. Intended to demonstrate the extent of our military power, it instead exposed how limited it really is. At one point almost all our ground forces were either in Iraq, just returned from Iraq, or preparing to deploy back to Iraq. The winners, such as they are: the Kurds, the Shiites, the Iranians and the Chinese.
Iraqis continue to live with a level of violence that would be considered apocalyptic anywhere else. Parts of Baghdad still get only 5 hours of electricity a day. A bomb attack on the oil fields halved production again this week.
Now, the “Mission Accomplished” banner is in storage awaiting the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in 2013.
We can hope to assign to the history books (but never forget) Saddam Hussein, WMD, “shock and awe,” “enhanced interrogation,” Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, Haditha, “Concerned Local Citizens,” and The Sandbox.
Still with us: security contractors (aka mercenaries), “kinetic operations,” PTSD, and the unfinished unwinnable war in Afghanistan/Pakistan.
UPDATE: Andrew Bacevich: “Seldom in the course of human history have so many sacrificed so dearly to achieve so little.”