It was a ceremony to mark the official end of the American military occupation of Iraq. But Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (photo) sounded more like the United States was moving in to stay when he spoke Wednesday in what the New York Times described as a heavily fortified courtyard at Baghdad Airport with helicopters hovering above.
“Let me be clear: Iraq will be tested in the days ahead — by terrorism, and by those who would seek to divide, by economic and social issues, by the demands of democracy itself,” Panetta said. “Challenges remain, but the U.S. will be there to stand by the Iraqi people as they navigate those challenges to build a stronger and more prosperous nation.”
The war has been declared finally over more than eight and a half years after President George W. Bush declared the end of American combat operations in Iraq, while standing under a banner proclaiming, “Mission Accomplished.” Yet as the Times report pointed out, “insurgents continue to attack American soldiers and militants with Al Qaeda still regularly carry out devastating attacks against civilians.”
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Photo of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: AP Images