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Published: Friday, 12/16/2011

The end in Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was in the United States this week as the last U.S. troops prepared to pull out of his country after a nearly nine-year war and occupation.

Americans, Iraqis, and the rest of the world should be glad that President Obama has made good on his promise to end what was in the end a pointless and costly war. Its completion means different things to different parties.

For Iraqis, the withdrawal of the last U.S. forces means they get their country back after nearly a decade of America sitting on them. The people of any occupied country will testify that it is a demeaning experience to have foreign armed forces present and in charge.

Options, all unpleasant, include fighting them, trying to get as much money as possible out of them through collaboration, or maintaining a sullen kind of tolerance of their presence. The Iraqis have done all three.

For Americans, it should be the end of taxpayer expenditures -- an estimated $1 trillion -- on a war that was begun during the administration of President George W. Bush under murky circumstances. More important, it means the end of U.S. casualties there. More than 4,400 American have been killed and more than 31,000 wounded since the war began. It does not mean, however, the end of U.S. responsibility for the damage that returning servicemen carry home with them.

For the rest of the world, Iraq should be a reminder of the sad fate that can befall a country when the U.S. government decides that it is a target for military intervention.

What is most important now is that America, given its current economic situation, benefit from the peace dividend that the end of the Iraq war affords.

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