Last U.S. Troops Leave Iraq: How the Media Covered

Mario Tama

In the early hours of Dec. 18, the final American convoy crossed the border between Iraq and Kuwait, marking the end of the Iraq war.

The last of America's troops left Iraq and headed into neighboring Kuwait at daybreak Sunday Dec. 18, marking the end of the nearly nine-year Iraq war, which cost nearly 4,500 American lives.

The military dubbed the act it's finally "tactical road march," employing 110 heavily armored vehicles carrying approximately 500 soldiers across the border and officially out of combat. 

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Almost every news website covered the exit, many taking a retrospective reproach, and most, commenting on the war's "divisive" nature.  

 CNN led with a photo of a soldier giving the thumbs-up after safely reaching the border checkpoin.

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"A few minutes before 8 a.m., the metal gate behind the last MRAP closed," wrote the news source. "With it came to an end a deadly and divisive war that lasted almost nine years, its enormous cost calculated in blood and billions. Some rushed to touch the gate, forever a symbol now of an emotional, landmark day. Some cheered with the Army's ultimate expression of affirmation: 'Hooah!'"

The Associated Press wrote, "U.S. officials acknowledged the cost in blood and dollars was high, but tried to paint a picture of victory — for both the troops and the Iraqi people now free from tyranny and on a path for democracy. But gnawing questions remain: Will Iraqis be able to forge their new government amid the still stubborn sectarian clashes. And will Iraq be able to defend itself and remain independent in a region fraught with turmoil and still steeped in insurgent threats.

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Reuters separated their coverage into sections, first discussing the exit, before reporting on the history of the drawout, under the subhead "Going Home" and finally discussing what the exit means for Iraq's neighboring countries, Iran, Turkey and Syria. "U.S. and foreign companies are already helping OPEC member Iraq develop the vast potential of the world's fourth-largest oil reserves, but Iraq's economy needs investment in all sectors, from hospitals to infrastructure," says the news site.

"With the final headlong withdrawal this month of U.S. troops from IraqPresident Obama fulfilled a campaign promise to end the war. But was the nearly nine-year mission a success?," the" Los Angeles Times columnist  Doyle McManus wrote in an Op-Ed. "Iraq is still struggling even to ensure its own security. Its air force has no jet fighters, and U.S. officials say it would be unable to detect incoming aircraft in time to stop them. The Iraqi army is improving, but its ability to mount complex operations remains weak. The Iraqis still have a long way to go on intelligence, training and logistics."

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The Washington Post  featured a photo gallery of the exit, while highlighting the uncertainty surrounding the war-torn country. "The quiet exit of the last U.S. forces highlighted the danger and uncertainty that remains in Iraq, even as violence throughout the country has fallen to its lowest level since the 2003 invasion," said the Post.