President Barack Obama kept his election promise of bringing home U.S. troops. Reuters announced this morning that the U.S. war in Iraq is finally over. The moment was marked by a special ceremony held by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday in the presence of thousands of American soldiers. The remaining 4,000 troops will return to America by the end of the year.
During the Thursday ceremony Panetta addressed the military officials and soldiers in the public in order to celebrate the end of the Iraq war which lasted nine years. Almost 4,500 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives in the war that began with the bombing of Baghdad and turned into a bloody sectarian struggle between long-oppressed majority Shi’ites and their former Sunni masters.
Leon Panetta was very optimistic when he addressed the public. He told the audience that all the spilled blood was not in vain because Iraq is now capable of governing and securing itself. Even though the war is over, the Defense Secretary is aware that there are many other issues that Iraq has to solve in the future. According to his declarations, the country will now be tested by terrorism, by people who seek to divide and by economic and social issues. However, the United States guarantees to offer support every time Iraq will request it.
At the end of the ceremony the soldiers lowered the flag, packed it and slipped it into a camouflage-colored sleeve. Despite the efforts they have made throughout this nine years of war, soldiers expect a lot of reluctance on behalf of their fellow Americans. As a matter of fact, this was the most unpopular war since the Vietnam War of the 1960s and the 1970s.
The local people organized protests to show American soldiers that they are no longer welcome on their territory. In Falluja, the area where many violent battles took place, Iraqis celebrated the withdrawal on Wednesday. They organized street protests and burnt US flags while waving pictures of their dead relatives.
In the northern territory of Diyala, protests were held by 2,500 Shi’ite Muslim residents on Thursday in front of the provincial council building. They protested against the move to declare autonomy from the mainly Sunni Salahuddin province. Authorities used batons and water cannon to disperse demonstrators.