Dateline: August 19, 2010
By REBECCA SANTANA, Associated Press Writer
KHABARI CROSSING, Kuwait – A line of heavily armored American military vehicles, their headlights twinkling in the pre-dawn desert, lumbered past the barbed wire and metal gates marking the border between Iraq and Kuwait early Thursday and rolled into history.
For the troops of the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, it was a moment of relief fraught with symbolism but lightened by the whoops and cheers of soldiers one step closer to going home. Seven years and five months after the U.S.-led invasion, the last American combat brigade was leaving Iraq, well ahead of President Barack Obama’s Aug. 31 deadline for ending U.S. combat operations there.
It took longer than anybody could have imagined. But this morning while you and I slept, the last combat troops officially left Iraq, bringing an end to more than seven years of needless killing and destruction, an endless waste of U.S. defence dollars and most tragically, the overwhelming murder and maiming of tens of thousands of young American men and women. Not to mention the untold hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded Iraqis. That toll will never really be known and their lives will be destroyed forever.
After all the yellow ribbons calling for the U.S. government to “bring ’em home” and desperate pleas of the parents of soldiers killed in Iraq and the millions of plain old U.S. citizens who saw the writing on the wall many years ago, Americans finally elected a new president with the sense and sensibility to know when to “bring ’em home.” President Barrack Obama has now delivered on his promise to end the combat mission in Iraq; a mission fraught by graft, greed and corruption, a crusade to locate weapons of mass destruction that were never found and most likely never existed, an exercise in American shock and awe that has left an estimated 4,415 U.S. soldiers dead and many more thousands wounded . Never to see another sunrise. Never to feel the promise of a new morning. But at least this marks the beginning of the end of U.S. presence in Iraq. At last they are coming home.
There will still be a strong American presence in Iraq, some 50,000 troops left behind for one final year in what is termed a “non-combat role.” (Although they are called non-combat troops they will still carry weapons and accompany Iraqi troops on certain missions when requested to do so, so take that with a giant grain of salt.)
There will still be additional U.S. and Iraqi deaths and danger still lies ahead for these remaining troops. But officials tell the Associated Press that for the most part those soldiers left behind will be cleaning up the final remnants of the American presence and doing their best to prepare the Iraqi government, military and police force, such that it is, for life without U.S. troop involvement.
But make no mistake. This morning’s final combat troop departure is historic and justified. It’s been a long time coming, but now it’s here.
So please allow me, as one of the millions who has been part of the effort to “Bring “Em Home” from Iraq to enjoy today’s news with pride and relief. And thank you to President Obama, to members of the U.S. Congress who have been in the trenches trying to end this senseless occupation, to other leaders around the world who have called on the United States to do the right thing, and to artists and entertainers – all of them citizens entitled just like you and me to speak out, who have used their power and celebrity to call for an end to the war in Iraq.
As singer/songwriter Little Steven once wrote, “Undefeated…everybody comes home.” Well, maybe not everybody is coming home today, but this is a damn good start. To my friends and fellow Americans who have played such an important role, simply by speaking out, I say congratulations and urge you to keep up the fight. We all made an impact. Seven years is too long, but it’s better than seventeen. Those yellow flags were heeded and made a difference.
Now, finally, fathers and mothers deployed in Iraq for too long will be reunited with their families. For these men and woman who have so courageously served, this day must be incredibly sweet.
Again, to those who believe in peace, let’s not stop putting pressure on Washington. Let us not stop the clarion call to “bring ’em home” just yet. Because now we must concentrate on ending the conflict, and U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
In the never ending battle for peace, the work is never truly over.