-- Brad Friedman
Tonight, it's been announced, the last U.S. "combat brigade" has left Iraq, some 7 years, 4 months and 29 days after they were sent there for specious and deadly reasons by the Administration of George W. Bush.
Coincidentally, it is just over 5 years to the day since 14 Marines from a base in the Cleveland, Ohio, suburb of Brook Park were killed by a roadside a bomb in Iraq. The incident, the deadliest bombing there at the time, when "just" 1,820 U.S. troops had died to date, led Bush to tell "the people of Brook Park" that he "hope[d] they also take comfort in the understanding that the sacrifice was made in a noble cause."
That statement brought one very courageous woman --- Cindy Sheehan, whose son had also been killed in Iraq --- down to Crawford, Texas, where Bush had been vacationing at his ranch, in hopes of asking him in person "what noble cause" her son, and those from Cleveland, and from so many other cities and towns around the U.S., had died for.
Sheehan faced down an extraordinary gathering of seething hatred on the blistering hot Central Texas prairie for several weeks in response, in hopes of getting an answer from her son's Commander-in-Chief to that simple question. (And yes, it was nothing short of seething hatred, which we saw first-hand as we covered the extraordinary moment on the ground for this blog and during more than 50 hours of live radio broadcasts, smack dab in the center of it all.) She was joined, in support, by dozens of other family members of the fallen, scores of U.S. Armed Service veterans and thousands of regular, patriotic U.S. citizens on that cow pasture near Bush's home.
5 years later, nearly to the day, after that extraordinary summer and extraordinary display of American courage, the last U.S. "combat troops," we're told, have left Iraq, leaving "just" 50,000 behind, theoretically for logistical and training purposes.
4,415 U.S. troops, including U.S. Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, never came home from Iraq. At least not alive. Tens of thousands more have had their lives forever shattered due to permanent physical and emotional injury. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis were also slaughtered and maimed in the bargain.
And tonight, after all of that time, we're still left wondering: What was that "noble cause"?
UPDATE 8/19/10: NYU's Nir Rosen tweets wryly: "american combat troops pull out of iraq. the remaining fifty thousand are armed only with sticks, fly swatters, pepper spray and nunchucks"
And we later followed with: "Last one out of Iraq, turn out the lights (as soon as they get electricity back)."
Video from MSNBC's exclusive coverage of the last U.S. "combat brigade" leaving Iraq and entering into Kuwaiit follows below...