Dec. 15 - U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta joins a low key flag ceremony in Baghdad, marking the end of the war in Iraq. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
A farewell to arms in Iraq. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta joined a low key flag ceremony in Baghdad, marking the end of the war in Iraq. Almost 4,500 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives in the war that began with a "Shock and Awe" campaign of missiles pounding Baghdad and descended into sectarian strife and a surge in U.S. troop numbers. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SECRETARY LEON PANETTA SAYING : "After a great deal of blood has been spilled by both Iraqis and Americans, the mission of an Iraq that could finally govern and secure itself, has become real. The Iraqi army and police have been rebuilt and they are capable of responding to threats. Violence levels are down, al Qaeda has been weakened, rule of law has been strengthened." The Iraq war draws to a close ending the most unpopular U.S. military venture since the Vietnam War. But service members are optimistic. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LIEUTENANT COLONEL ANGELA FUNARO, FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA, SAYING: "I have some mixed emotions, I feel good because I get to obviously go home to my family. I really do hope the best for the Iraqi people. This has been really hard, the last eight years, all the innocent men, women and children who have been lost in this terrible war. We had the best intentions and I hope that the Iraqis know that, from the bottom of my heart." Some Baghdad residents are looking forward to the future without U.S. forces. (SOUNDBITE)(Arabic) LOCAL RESIDENT, SATTAR AHMED, SAYING: "The country is built by its people and is protected by its people. We can not bring strangers to protect us. I do not think that strangers will protect the country. Therefore, with God we have an army and a police force and thanks God there is a progress in arming the army and the police and we will support our armed forces." The remaining 4,000 American troops will leave by the end of the year. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters.