Oliver North
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WASHINGTON -- Nine years ago this week, President George W. Bush ordered more than 250,000 troops in a U.S.-led coalition to cross the "berm" on the border of Kuwait and head into Iraq. Weeks later, Saddam Hussein's brutal regime was finished, and the despot was in hiding. It was a stunning victory for the force of American arms and leadership. Though it took until Dec. 13 to find the former dictator hiding in a "spider hole" near his hometown of Tikrit, Saddam eventually was tried by his own people, convicted, inter alia, of crimes against humanity and executed by hanging Dec. 30, 2006. But Saddam's demise and the installation of a democratically elected government didn't quell the vicious insurgency that began shortly after the liberation of Baghdad.

In November 2008, American voters hired a previously obscure U.S. senator as commander in chief. During his campaign, Barack Obama pledged to "get us out of Iraq," and he made good on his promise. On Oct. 21, 2011, he precipitously ordered all remaining U.S. troops to leave Mesopotamia. The ill-advised decision had three profoundly important unintended consequences:

--Unlike the victors of the Gulf War in 1991, none of the 2.2 million American soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines who fought and won every battle in Operation Iraqi Freedom -- including nearly 4,500 U.S. personnel killed in combat and more than 32,000 wounded in action -- received a "welcome home" parade. Though administration and Pentagon officials won't admit it, the deleterious effect of the hasty pullout and lack of public acclaim has adversely affected military morale and contributed to a spate of damaging incidents involving American personnel in Afghanistan.

--The hurried U.S. withdrawal from Iraq emboldened radical Islamists throughout the Middle East, who now claim their jihad succeeded in "driving the American invaders (or crusaders) out of Iraq." This oft-repeated theme is now part of radical Islamist rhetoric in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and Lebanon and is disseminated in propaganda organs supporting Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaida, the Taliban and even al-Shabab.

--The rush to get out of Iraq and now Afghanistan, coupled with major cuts in the U.S. defense budget, has discouraged America's allies and emboldened our adversaries. The most pernicious consequence of our retrenchment is evident in Syria, where Bashar Assad's brutal regime is perpetrating a bloodbath.

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Oliver North

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.