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Pioneer Editorial: War in Iraq not done til troops home

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opinion Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

President Barack Obama in a speech to the nation Tuesday night announced the end of the combat mission for the United States in Iraq after 7½ years of war. Why doesn't it feel like the war is over?

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There was no hoopla, no "V" signs for victory, no dancing in the streets, like the end of other wars we've been in. One reason it probably doesn't feel over is that just next door, in Afghanistan, 100,000 American troops are still engaged in a war there. And while we've withdrawn 100,000 troops from Iraq, 50,000 remain there as "trainers."

Some may also wonder if it's true. Once before a president, George W. Bush, stood on the deck of the USS Lincoln and proclaimed "Mission Accomplished." We thought then it was over.

"A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency," President Obama said Tuesday night. "Terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart. Thousands of Americans gave their lives; tens of thousands have been wounded. Our relations abroad were strained. Our unity at home was tested."

We thought it was over when Saddam Hussein was captured, but it wasn't; we became embroiled in an insurgency that was only broken by a surge of troops, an action opposed by candidate Obama.

Now, the chain of command has been turned over to the Iraqis with our troops there only to train Iraqi forces to defend their fledgling new nation. And it's a nation with no formal government yet in place, as squabbling continues over an election held last March.

"At every turn, America's men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve,"

the president rightly noted. "As commander-in-chief, I am incredibly proud of their service. And like all Americans, I'm awed by their sacrifice, and by the sacrifices of their families."

The Iraqis must come to grips that we won't always be there, nor should we. Not only must its government come together, but its security forces must also work hard to protect the Iraqi citizens and to put down insurgency.

Being the Middle East, it may never be possible to find the kind of peace we have in a democracy. Religious factions have fought for centuries, and our intervention may only mean a short respite.

Still, Iraq must realize that once we go, we're not coming back. They're on their own.

And we won't celebrate the end of the war until all our troops are home from Iraq -- about this time next year. Hopefully, we can also do the same someday soon in Afghanistan.

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