Last US troops withdraw from Iraq

US President Barack Obama welcomes troops returning from Iraq at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to mark the end of the Iraq War 14 December 2011 President Obama had publicly opposed a war in Iraq before it began

Mark Anthony said: "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him."

US President Barack Obama's speech at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was trickier. He had to praise the troops but bury a war he had once called "dumb".

Americans hold their military in very high regard, even as they are much more doubtful and divided about the 10 years of foreign wars.

Many feel lessons had to be learnt from Vietnam, where some think the veterans were treated with contempt because they had the bad luck to fight in a war judged a mistake and a failure.

So Mr Obama could not simply announce the war over without going out of his way to thank those who fought.

He said they had "shown why the United States military is the finest fighting force in history".

Papering the cracks

The superlatives fell thick and fast.

Of course, logically, you can show courage and resolution in a foolish cause. But no-one wants to be told their sacrifice was for nothing. So Mr Obama listed the merits of a war he has always opposed.

He said "everything that American troops have done in Iraq - all the fighting and dying, bleeding and building, training and partnering, has led us to this moment of success.

"Of course, Iraq is not a perfect place. But we are leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected.

"Iraqis have a chance to forge their own destiny."

Indeed, he seemed more explicit in his praise for the principles behind the war, not just its outcome.

He told them: "Never forget that you are part of an unbroken line of heroes spanning two centuries.

"From the colonists who overthrew an empire to your grandparents and parents who faced down fascism and communism, to you: men and women who fought for the same principles in Fallujah and Kandahar and delivered justice to those who attacked us on 9/11."

This is more than a little awkward, intellectually.

Mr Obama comes close to agreeing with those who backed the invasion in the first place. That for all the fantasy about weapons of mass destruction, all the mistakes and lack of preparation, the world is a better place for the war.

But it is not politically awkward. Few will notice; few are talking about it.

It looks more like fair-minded generosity than hypocrisy.

But he is papering over the cracks between what he has always thought and what he has to say to the country.

Mark Anthony goes on: "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."

Maybe it is different for wars.

It is an irony that Mr Obama, in one sense elected for his opposition to the Iraq war, has drawn a line under the conflict stressing its virtues, not its vices.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    Obama's other speech:Welcome home fellas.You guys did a" heck of a job", too bad that the country was's true over 100,000 innocent Iraqs died but wars are messy .Bum. luck.Too bad 5000 guys didn't make it back but we are sending the 35000 wounded ,brain scrambled from IEDs home so family can help,Jobs,tough now.. .Don't forget to thank Bush for the travel experience .Good luck.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    Only a fool or supporter of teh tories like the BBC could claim this was anything other than an illegal war started on lies funded by the poor for the benefoit of the rich.
    Remember this
    HEROS DONT KILL WOMEN AND BABIES british and american armed forces specialise in exatcly that murder of the innocents not protecting them
    byut they dont care as its about oil not people

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    How many "private security contractors" are there in Iraq? Very difficult to get a figure but some estimates have it at up to 100,000. US withdrawal from Iraq shouldn't be talked about without a mention of the number of mercenaries belonging to blackwater etc still there

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    So, America starts a war based on nothing but unfounded fear, uses the latest technology on tribes people with rusty WW2 weapons, gets stuck in the mire then walks away from the whole thing.

    Vietnam 2: Electric Boogaloo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    It would interesting to know the level of troops the U.S. intends to maintain in Kuwait?


Comments 5 of 207


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