Nine years later the Iraq War ended with a whimper yesterday. "After a lot of blood spilled by Iraqis and Americans, the mission of an Iraq that could govern and secure itself has become real," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said at a ceremony at Baghdad’s international airport yesterday. "To be sure, the cost was high—in blood and treasure for the United States, and for the Iraqi people. Those lives were not lost in vain."
Though troops were stipulated to leave by December 31, today's surprise ceremony effectively ended the war two weeks early at 1:15 p.m. Baghdad time (5:15 a.m. EST). "No words, no ceremony can provide full tribute to the sacrifices which have brought this day to pass," Panetta said. "I’m reminded of what President Lincoln said in Gettysburg, about a different war, in a different time. His words echo through the years as we pay tribute to the fallen in this war: 'The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.'"
Since the war started more than 1 million U.S. troops have served in Iraq. Of those, more than 32,226 have been wounded and 4,487 have been killed. Over that time the war cost the U.S. more than $800 billion dollars and left over 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead (exact numbers aren't something the Pentagon is rushing to give out). About 4,000 U.S. troops still remain in Iraq, their withdrawal expected to be complete by the end of the month, officials say.