Eight and a half years after a U.S. president caricatured the office by appearing on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit get-up to announce "Mission Accomplished," the Iraq War has finally ended for American troops. A war begun under a number of flawed pretexts -- from non-existent weapons of mass destruction to "he tried to kill mah Daddy" -- has now ended, with 4,487 American soldiers dead and 32,226 wounded, not to speak of Allied casualties and the more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians who died.
President Obama, during a press conference at the White House with Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki on December 12 to mark the end of America's military involvement, stated that, "History will judge the original decision to go into Iraq." This is a tough message to send to the thousands of American troops returning from Iraq. Left with this implicit message of a flawed conflict, the American military can only draw on their own heroism and devotion to country to find a meaning to what took place during these nearly nine years in Iraq.
Hopefully, the Iraq experience will put an end to the succession of misbegotten wars of the U.S., the most recent one before that being the manifestly more tragic Vietnam War (1963-1975), with 58,000 American soldiers killed, a war that was claimed to be an anti-Communist struggle rather than what it was: the extension of an anti-colonial war.
There remains Afghanistan, which was not another unprovoked war but became a prolonged one after the enemy, al-Qaeda, retreated into Pakistan at the end of 2001. Seven years later, the two surges authorized by President Obama -- 30,000 troops at the beginning of 2009 and 30,000 more at the end of that year -raises again the painful question before history: was it worth it?