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As the year comes to an end, so does the Iraq War

Published time: December 30, 2011 22:17
Edited time: January 02, 2012 09:10

Iraq, Iraq-Kuwait Border: Iraqis wave behind a US flag fluttering on the dashboard of a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division as the last US convoy heads to the Kuwaiti border to leave Iraq on December 18, 2011. (AFP Photo / Lucas Jackson)

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A look back at some of the most significant events that shaped the Iraq War and continue to have implications today.

The War in Iraq started with an announcement by President George W. Bush on March 19, 2003, and a campaign called Shock and Awe – designed to be rapid and powerful.

At first many Americans were on board with the plan, in part because of this earlier announcement  by then Secretary of State Colin Powell, who warned the country that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

“One of the most worrisome things that emerges from the thick intelligence file we have on Iraq’s biological weapons is the existence of mobile production facilities used to make biological agents,” Secretary Powell told the U.N. Security Council in February, 2003. 

Weapons of mass destruction were a key factor in selling the war, combined with the idea of bring freedom to the Iraqi people. 

And just 20 days after the invasion began, Iraqis were seen on television screens around the world tearing down a statue of Saddam Hussein.  The gesture was largely symbolic , and discovered later to be staged and directed by U.S. troops.  Still it was presented as  a win for the Americans and a sign of a free Iraq.

A few weeks later President Bush landed on an aircraft carrier in in San Diego and declared, Mission Accomplished

“In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed,”  he said.

It was a short-lived victory speech that withered in the shadows of reality, and  the short war that was promised…became one of America’s longest, with  more than 4,000 American deaths and nearly a million Iraqi civilians estimated killed as well.

Along the way America’s reputation increasingly soiled by images of Americans humiliating Iraqi prisoners at Abu Graib prison, and after a video was released on Wikileaks that showed U.S. Apache helicopter pilots shooting unarmed Iraqis video game style

Still – many stick to the storyline they hope will show up in the history books.

“Going into Iraq was the right thing to do,” said Senator Joe Lieberman recently.

Vice President Dick Cheney earlier this year, in an interview on NBC’s The Today Show said, “I don’t think it damaged our reputation around the world..I just don’t believe that.I think it was sound policy that dealt with a very serious problem that eliminated Saddam Hussein.”

Another graphic and memorable image is Saddam Hussein  being hung on December 30, 2006

Even President Obama, who’s Anti Iraq War stance helped propel him into office, is now asking others to not do what the U.S. did do:

“Other nations must not interfere in Iraq,” President Obama said.  “Iraq’s sovereignty must be respected.”

Iraq now home to the largest U.S. Embassy in the world.  And while the combat troops are gone, about 16,000 will stay guard the embassy.

For both Iraqi and American citizens, the war was neither painless nor prompt.  It left the people of Iraq with a country destroyed by a decade of war – teetering on the verge of sectarian chaos, as two changed nations try to look ahead.