Today's the day. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared the Iraq War over in a quiet ceremony in Baghdad, saying the conflict was worth the cost because it set Iraq on a path to democracy. After speeches, the flag of United States Force-Iraq was "cased"—furled around a flagpole and covered in camouflage—and the US military’s mission was declared at an end ... eight years, eight months, and 25 days after it started. American troops will be home for the holidays, and won't have to wait for the Dec. 31 deadline set by a US-Iraq agreement, reports the Washington Post.
Among Panetta's remarks to the troops, as per Politico: "You have done everything your nation asked you to do, and more ... you will leave with lasting pride, secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people begin a new chapter in history, free from tyranny and full of hope for prosperity and peace." Iraqi response is mixed. Thousands in the town of Fallujah were celebrating by burning American and Israeli flags. But one resident was worried about the likelihood of new sectarian violence. “What’s the point of lighting a candle at the beginning of a tunnel when you know you will be walking in darkness?” he asked. “I am happy they are going, but I know my happiness won’t last for long.” More than 100,000 Iraqi and 4,487 American lives were lost in the war. (Read more Fallujah stories.)