For the Army and Marines who lost 4,500 dead and more than 30,000 wounded, many of them amputees, the second-longest war in U.S. history is over. America is coming home from Iraq.
On May 1, 2003, on the carrier Abraham Lincoln, the huge banner behind President George W. Bush proclaimed, "Mission Accomplished!"
That was eight years ago. And so, was the mission accomplished?
Two-thirds of all Americans have concluded the war was not worth it.
And reading the description of Iraq from the editorial page of the pro-war Washington Post, who can answer yes?
"Al-Qaida continues to carry out terrorist attacks. Iranian-sponsored militias still operate, and a power struggle between Kurdish-ruled northern Iraq and Mr. Maliki's government goes on. More Iraqis worry that, after the U.S. troops depart this month, the sectarian bloodletting that ravaged the country between 2002 and 2007 will resume."
And not all the Americans are really coming home.
Some 16,000 will remain in the huge fortress that houses the U.S. embassy and in fortified consulates in Basra, Irbil and Kirkuk. All four sites will be self-sufficient, so U.S. personnel can stay clear of what The Wall Street Journal calls "the perilous security situation on Iraq's city streets."
In each diplomatic post, the State Department employees will be outnumbered by private security contractors, 5,000 of whom will provide for their protection and secure travel.
U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey warns of the dangers that await U.S. diplomats who venture outside the compounds: "If we move out into the Iraqi economy, out into the Iraqi society in any significant way, it will be much harder to protect our people."
NBC reported this week that two five-vehicle convoys loaded with Blackwater security types were necessary to escort two U.S. teachers to a meeting in a Bagdad hotel.
What kind of victory did we win if, eight years after we ousted Saddam Hussein and helped install a democratic government, Americans in Iraq should fear for their lives?
Did we win the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqi people when they are burning American flags in Fallujah to celebrate our departure? Why was no parade held, so Iraqis could cheer departing Americans for having liberated them from the tyranny of Saddam?
What did we accomplish if hatred of America is so widespread our diplomats live in constant peril?
Neooconservative Fred Kagan writes that people who think all will be well after America leaves believe in a mirage.