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The end of the beginning for Iraq?

June 30th, 2009
03:46 PM ET

Today the world watched the first, full military parade since the Saddam Hussein years. Quite a day for the people of Iraq, six years after coalition forces surged into the country. I was in Kuwait in 2003 anchoring CNN’s coverage of the war. I’ll never forget commenting on those iconic images - the fall of Saddam’s statues in cities across the country; scenes that marked a new beginning and history in the making -– or so I thought.

But as U.S. forces hand over authority to the Iraqi government and withdraw from the country’s cities, I can’t help feeling slightly concerned about the future of the brittle state. Describing today as a "glorious page" in Iraq's history, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said: "Security will not be achieved completely without proper political environment and without a real national unity and reconciliation". That is a BIG ask.

So, I want to hear your thoughts on the connections to the story. What are the ramifications of this handover of power, not just for Iraq but for the region? What impact has the war in Iraq had on you? And what of the war many of the American forces will be moving on to take part in - the fight for hearts and minds in Afghanistan?

You can post your comments here, or email me: connecttheworld@cnn.com

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  1. bob d

    this leaves me a little nervous. i can only think of the mess afghanistan is in today, and how the US did not follow through on the reconstruction fully after the US helped the Afghans gain freedom from the USSR. This could potentially cost us much more in the future. Hopefully it will not, and hopefully Iraqis can come together and make peace.

    June 30, 2009 at 5:34 pm | Reply
  2. CJR

    In the history of the world, has there ever been a more warlike, blood thirsty, unreconcilable, ungovernable bunch of people than those in the Middle East?
    In the name of God... I kill all infidels! Give me a break.
    Hopefully , there will come a day when we no longer need their oil and we can turn our backs and let them all kill each other.

    June 30, 2009 at 5:42 pm | Reply
  3. Allen

    The US should have never been in Iraq in the first place. But they came to do a job – to force a dictatorship to its knees and to set up a democratic government to fairly represent democratic principles – equal rights and fair representation for all the ethnic and religous groups residing in Iraq. Surely that job is far from over. Now that the U.S. is giving up and leaving without completing the mission, the legacy of this war will be memories of wasted lives and destruction as well as a long lasting resentment towards the U.S. – not just in Iraq or Arab world.

    June 30, 2009 at 5:48 pm | Reply
  4. Stefan Hagberg

    Hi,

    I think the invasion 2003 was the only solution. Saddam did not want to cooperate or comply with decision taken by the international community. I think that there must be a limit, a no-no road block for governments that try to blackmail the international community and surpress their own people(torture, executions, gas etc).

    Preferably that force would have been administrated by UN.

    If USA and the coalition partners would not have invaded Saddam would have been in power today, sanctions lifted. The shias and the Kurds in the north would have been severly punished for their support for USA and the dictator Saddam would probably have handed over the power to his sons Uday and Qusay.

    USA and their partners in the coalition did many mistakes.No doubt.

    I worked in Iraq 2003-2006.

    I hope that the Iraqis take this opportunity to make a difference for themselves. That would i suceeded have great impactT in hte whole region. They will not have a second chance to be served the possibility of building a sustainable democracy if they blow this one. Nobody will pick up that bill a second time.

    I think it is 50/50 chance to succeed. atthe moment. The shia´s can not repeat Saddams mistakes. and surpress the sunni population . Iran must be told to keep their hands off. The Kurds must understand that they have to cooperate with Baghdad and Baghdad must learn from the past.

    Iraq lacks basic structures, strong enough to pave the road for a sustainable democracy that could protect the peopleof Iraq from misusage of power, corruption that are very much at hand today.

    We, the rest of the world can provide capacity building but there must be no doubt that if the Iraqi leadership does not want to learn what lessons has to be learn to reach the goal, they are on their own.

    It takes at least two to tango.

    June 30, 2009 at 6:14 pm | Reply
  5. David

    I was in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, I worked closely with hundreds of Iraq's and from this experience I can state factually: Iraqi's are NOT ready for self governance via democracy!

    The Iraqi's were ruled for over two decades with a heavy brutal hand, Saddam Hussein, and know no other form of government. They had no choice nor did they openly speak out about the regime that governed and manipulated their lives, for risk losing their lives.

    Secondly, the country is divided not only by Sunni versus Shiite factions but there are regional divides within each religious group. These factions change sides more than the normal driver changes lanes on the freeways! This is common knowledge for anyone who spent time in the country and dealt with Iraqi's on a daily basis.

    I am now in Afghanistan, and have been off and on since 2006. Sadly, the same holds true in Afghanistan, but only worse due to so many different ethnic groups and tribal affiliations within the country. There are also deeply held suspicions within Afghanistan about Pakistan and Iran, not may trust any of these boarder nations! And to be frank, no one should trust either country! Neither Iran nor Pakistan wishes to see a stable and successful Afghanistan. Both countries have regional influence in Afghanistan that further divides the country. Why? There is no real definitive answer but one would state by saying: religious affiliation, tribal, monetary, political power, etc. But the real reason may lay in the fact neither country, Iran or Pakistan, wants European nations or the US this close to their borders.

    The Coalition countries in Iraq and Afghanistan are pushing the envelope within extremist Muslim communities, indicating that radical Islam will not be tolerated. The primary groups, Al-Qaida and Taliban, are spreading their version of Islam throughout the region and have made tremendous in-roads into Africa. We are currently seeing proliferation of various faction of Al-Qaida into other regions as well, Southwestern and Southeastern Asia. Even Russia and their neighbors, the former Soviet states, have experienced the effects of these groups.

    Lastly, when the American and European communities hear the “real” truth, not the thirty second news flash of a bombing or “x” number of soldiers killed, they may begin to understand the intricate details of both countries. The “drive-by-media” has done more of a disservice to the public, reporting a bombing that killed “x” soldiers and not on the number of innocent by-standers that were brutally murdered is a tragedy, and a service to the terrorists! Another aspect that is so demoralizing is the fact that the media provides a platform for these terrorist groups to politicize their stance, this is unforgivable!

    American and the coalition countries need to understand that our presence in both countries will be required for YEARS if not decades, not months! Anyone who states otherwise is either misinformed or completely blind to facts or unwilling to admit to the facts!

    June 30, 2009 at 6:30 pm | Reply
  6. Akeel Al-Kawthar

    I think it is a good idea to hand over security for the cities to the Iraqis. Every nation will like to be free of occupation, even though the US help to free Iraq from Dictatorship. And as President Bush said as Iraqis start to stand up US forces will stand down and as President Obama said we will leave Iraq for Iraqis. It is very happy days for Iraqis to Govern themself. God bless America and the free world.

    Akeel

    June 30, 2009 at 8:19 pm | Reply
  7. Muthyavan.

    Now it is for the Iraq people to determine their future destiny in shaping the multi racial religious new democracy into a prosperous peaceful nation. Violence is the first enemy and it might continue for some more time, till the important fact of coexistence among all sections of the community is achieved. Soon Iraqi people will understand the needs for a permanent peace in developing the natural resources of their mother land.

    As for the Afghanistan it is more or less an international effort to bring a legitimate peoples rule free from the clutches of religious and the local drug manufacturing industry. The challenges NATO faces are partly hidden inside the Pakistan boarder areas, and it has come under heavy attack lately from the Pakistan Army itself. But the ancient long story is, that Afghanistan is like wild horse running on the difficult mountain Terran, with nobody will be able to control it.

    July 1, 2009 at 1:18 am | Reply
  8. Erik Haastrup

    Iraq is in the cooking pot, and once the American forces move out, who knows what creatures will come feasting. The problem is, if America doesn't move out, well, then we're back in the colonial times. One idea is to build a wall all the way around Iraq, but instead of building walls, shouldn't we be tearing them down?

    I'm not saying that we should all wear tight jeans, put flowers in our hair and go dancing with the Iraqi and Afghan population.

    Lets face it. The average day of the average citizen is horrible. Bullets and bombs, soldiers and shrapnel, hunger and hate are what has to be faced every day, all the day.

    Due to the years of war and violence in Iraq, it is one of the few non-African countries to have a drop in life expectancy. Iraqi life expectancy in 1990 for males and females from birth was 66.5, now the Population Reference Bureau reports that life expectancy for both sexes in Iraq has dropped to a mere 59.

    59?!?!

    In America it's 77.6
    In the EU (25) it's 76.8

    The problem lies in what to do. Shall America build roads, hospitals, houses, trains, and infrastructure to lessen the damage already done? The bill for the Iraq war is likely to top $3 trillion. And that's a conservative estimate.

    Three trillions dollars.

    I know what you're thinking. You're thinking " I wonder what i could buy for that"

    And what has it bought? A failed war abroad.

    One of the major problems, as you are no doubt aware, are the soldiers who are now returning to their home countries. What do you do with a force which has gotten used to life in a war-torn zone. The reflexes which helped them survive there, are exceedingly scary to innocent people. Waking up in the middle of the night looking for your gun is one the best ways to scare a lot of people.

    It seems to me that America has learnt little from its mistakes concerning returning veterans. America had the opportunity to conduct extensive tests on the soldiers returning from Vietnam, or just the soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan some years ago.

    Procrastination is the word of the day.

    The excuse which I heard yesterday was that Iraq was a totally different war, in a totally different setting, so the medical surveys which should have been conducted in Vietnam would have been useless when applied here.

    War is War.

    A grenade going off near your head in Vietnam is no different from a grenade going off near your head in Iraq. The setting is different, the navy corpsman is standing in a different place, the hospital is further away, but the damage is equivilent.

    And also largely ignored

    Who of us havent tried to get a ball in the head, by some mishap or other?

    Think that one through, replacing the ball with a grenade.

    There is nothing to be done in Iraq and Afghanistan that is without consequences. One action will spark a million reactions in a myriad of different people.

    Inaction is probably the worst though, because when people are angry at you for doing something, then you are at least doing something.

    Somthing must be done! But what? What on Earth can be done to save these countries? Take a pen and draw some borders, like the British did? I think not.

    America has had a lot of time to think

    I hope they can come with solution too.

    July 1, 2009 at 12:07 pm | Reply
  9. Yanyara

    Fight for minds and hearts, warring for pewace... remember what George Carlin said, it's like having sex to protect virginity. Americans , Brits and the other Westerners have no idea of knowing What clicks with and Iraqi r Afghan. They shouldn't be there today, they never should have ventured out there. They have to find their answers on their own, certainly without needling from the West. Damage done once again, they leave Afghanistan en masse! Im awaiting the day when people can stand up to all governments, their own and the needlers outside!

    July 1, 2009 at 7:26 pm | Reply

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