We cannot be sure what is going to happen next in Iraq. The U.S.-led invasion and the removal of dictator Saddam Hussein have given the Iraqi people a shot at real freedom -- certainly a better shot at liberty than any that they had under the unspeakable brutality of Saddam.
But there are still sporadic terrorist attacks in Iraq, and the full extent of the disturbing influence of nearby Iran remains to be seen.
So it will take some time before we know whether the formal end of the Iraq War on Thursday was another step on a path toward a peaceful, prosperous Iraq -- or a starting point for more bloodshed once the stabilizing presence of U.S. troops is fully withdrawn before the end of the year.
Nevertheless, whatever uncertainty the future holds, let us all pause to rejoice in the fact that our troops are, after almost nine years of war, honorably departing Iraq.
They have served well and courageously, in exceedingly difficult circumstances. They held up admirably during the toughest, bloodiest times of the Iraq War. And they ultimately proved Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wrong when he declared in 2007 that the war was lost.
The war was not lost. President George W. Bush had ordered a surge in U.S. troops, and violent attacks dropped dramatically as those troops swung into action.
As a result, today the Iraqi people hold their prospects for peace and freedom in their own hands. Roughly 4,500 American troops made the ultimate sacrifice and thousands more were wounded to provide that marvelous opportunity to the Iraqis.
We hope the people of Iraq make the most of that chance. But if they do not, it will not be the fault of U.S. troops.
We praise the bravery of our men and women in uniform, and we celebrate with them as they honorably withdraw from Iraq.