Exit from Iraq

October 21, 2011 1:25:59 PM PDT
It was a war that had little luster to begin with - and even that was lost fairly quickly.

There were so many who were skeptical of the U.S. invasion of Iraq - but there was the big unknown, the question of whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. There was little evidence that he did - just some "intelligence reports."

And what if they were right, many figured? How could the country take a chance?

There were also many who didn't buy it, and were against the invasion. Many of them were dismissed as un-American, as critics are often cubbyholed.

It didn't take long before the slick slogan of "shock and awe" wore off.

It quickly became apparent that there were no weapons of mass destruction, and the attempts to tie Saddam Hussein to the Sept. 11 terror attacks and Al Qaeda were outright untruths.

Americans felt they had been had. Opinion polls showed that clearly. From late 2004 through last January - a huge majority of Americans told Gallup that the war in Iraq was not worth fighting; 62 percent back then, 66 percent this year. Pretty steady opinions. And they made George W. Bush the least popular second-term President since World War II.

So don't look for any big confetti parades in Times Square, or any 3-inch-high newspaper headlines that "WAR IS OVER," now that Pres. Obama has made good on his campaign promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year. Troops that still number nearly 40,000.

Not really much to celebrate. The costs have been enormous - from nearly 4,500 Americans kills and 32,000 wounded, to $1 trillion in direct and indirect costs.

The exit isn't exactly picture perfect. Mr. Obama today failed to reach an agreement with the Iraqi Prime Minister to keep some American troops in-country to help train the Iraqi Army. But the negotiations aren't yet over, and there will be several thousand "contractors" remaining in Iraq for a while.

But the bottom line: This long and unpopular war is over.

One thing that emerged as a positive: Americans' response to the troops themselves is heartwarming. And the troops will need that. The injuries they've suffered in this war likely would have killed them in earlier wars. The medical response was better than ever, and so all those young victims of hidden Improvised Explosive Devices survived the attacks. The price is that thousands have returned with brain injuries that society isn't fully prepared to deal with.

Our colleague Bob Woodruff, hurt by an IED while on assignment, has become a strong advocate of improving care for wounded returning soldiers.

We'll have the latest tonight at 11 on the President's troop-withdrawal announcement, and what it means for U.S. foreign policy and for Iraq itself. (For instance, will the U.S. pull out open the door for more influence from Iran?)

Also at 11, we take a closer look at sign-of-the-times trend - pawning your valuables. But these are no longer your father's pawn shops. The new trend is pawning over the Internet. So what are the benefits, and what are the downsides? Eyewitness News reporter Lisa Colagrossi has our story.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Meteorologist Lee Goldberg with his weekend AccuWeather Forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa and me, tonight at 11, right after 20/20.


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