The Valdosta Daily Times
There was never a treaty ceremony like the one ending World War II aboard the U.S.S. Missouri. Nor was there the desperate scramble for helicopters that accompanied the fall of Saigon in Vietnam.
Instead, the Iraq War ended with the quiet departure of American troops.
This past week marked the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War’s start, and though the war has ended, its effects continue being felt as close as South Georgia and around the world.
From the early days of “shock and awe” to the hunt for Saddam Hussein, American troops searched for the reported weapons of mass destruction that prompted the war. Hussein was eventually found and later executed, but no one ever discovered any WMD. These weapons appeared to be more rumor than reality.
After sweeping into Iraq and toppling Saddam’s regime in a matter of days, U.S. officials dismantled the Iraqi infrastructure, sending armed soldiers and police officers home with weapons but no direction.
American troops who were supposed to be greeted as liberators became soldiers caught in a crossfire of dominance in a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites grappling for control. What was supposed to be a step toward crushing terrorism became a breeding ground and rallying cry for terrorists in the war’s early years.
America’s mission in Iraq transformed into the ideal of establishing the groundwork for a democracy in the Middle East. Eventually, Iraq elected leaders, though the stability of this new government remains fragile and tumultuous as an al-Qaida attack killing more than 60 people in Baghdad proved this past week.
In the States, many people who once supported the war changed their minds, calling Iraq a mistake; however, the broad majority of Americans supported U.S. troops throughout the conflict.
While nearly 4,500 U.S. servicemen and women lost their lives, 32,000 U.S. military personnel were injured, hundreds of billions were spent on the war, and tens of thousands of Iraqis were killed and injured, it was a war which asked few if any sacrifices of most Americans.
Other than the courageous commitment of America’s military and their families, few other Americans can name how the war affected their lives.
But the lives of those who served and their loved ones will be affected for years to come as they now battle to find a place in a society that may appreciate their service but does not fully understand their sacrifice.
Only time will tell how the Iraq War will be viewed by history. Only time will tell if Iraq can stand on its own in the volatile Middle East.
The war may be one for the history books, but the chapters on the war’s consequences for Iraq, America and the world are still being written.