Surrounded by the protection of barbed wire fences and cement barricades, the United States Forces - Iraq flag was furled for the last time during an unpretentious ceremony in Baghdad, Iraq on December 15, 2011. It has been a long nine years. At the war's onset in 2003, troops were promised the only way to return home was through Baghdad. Nine years, two administrations, and multiple tours later, with mission finally accomplished, troops are headed home to celebrate Christmas.
The holiday celebrations this year should extend to include honoring the many soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who have sacrificed so much for the liberation of Iraq. Given the current political climate, it is unrealistic to expect the ticker tape parades of days-gone-by that took place to commemorate war's end.
Frankly speaking, the word "victory" is all but missing from the vocabularies of those in leadership who originally voted against the surge leading to success in Iraq. Thankfully, sound wisdom prevailed. At this point in time, it seems it is safer for those who could not militarily strategize their way out of a paper bag to err to the side of caution. After all, the mission in Iraq is as accomplished as it can be - considering the commander in chief had promises to keep with an anti-war constituency, thereby closing down operations prematurely and against the wishes of commanders with boots on the ground.
At the moment, conditions look favorable for the people of Iraq, but enduring freedom in this country bordering the sable-rattling Islamic regime of Iran is a crap shoot at best. Albeit the existence of a free Middle East devoid an American presence there may be atop our president's Christmas wish list, a wish it shall remain -- until history does its part to tell us the rest of the story.
Unlike what seems to be happening in some "Arab Spring" countries, which may soon succumb to the weight of their own ineptitude, America's presence in Iraq has unequivocally contributed to the birth of a fledgling democracy in a region known for and surrounded by deep and widespread oppression.
There is much in Iraq for America to be proud of despite the comments coming from isolationist naysayers like Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul, who has all but pissed on the graves of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for a war he recently described as "useless" during the GOP Presidential Debate in Iowa.
As nonsensical as it may be, Paul is entitled to his own opinion, but it might be much wiser to heed the voice of common sense coming from those whose boots are soiled with Iraqi desert sands -- like U.S. General Lloyd Austin - who recently said America's sacrifice gave the Iraqi people "an unprecedented opportunity to live in a relatively peaceful environment." Similarly, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta acknowledged "the cost was high in blood and treasure" but "those lives have not been lost in vain" because "they gave birth to an independent and sovereign Iraq."
As many of us pause during this busy holiday season to reflect on the birth of freedom for mankind offered to us by way of a lowly Bethlehem manger, we should offer a prayer of thanks for the birth of a sovereign Iraq and the soldiers who gave her a chance.