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Iraq: Eight years and counting

As the U.S. enters the eighth year of combat in Iraq, there is a sign of relief. The military is pressing forward toward President Obama's deadline of Aug. 31, when two-thirds of our troops will be withdrawn. Up to 50,000 Marines and soldiers could remain another 16 months.

It's not the clean break that many of us had wished for. But a much-anticipated moment, never the less.

The success of recent Iraqi elections, held with a minimum of violence, is encouraging. But we still must worry about collateral damage from George W Bush's decision to lead us into an unprovoked invasion. We and the people of the Middle East will forever pay for his lies about weapons of mass destruction and Hussein's ties to terrorism.

The toll: more than 4,000 American and allied troops dead, countless Iraqi casualties, thousands of wounds (physical and mental), families torn apart. Enduring hate on both sides. A life of fear.

When Barack Obama announced his timeline, he said the plan is part of a regional approach that encompasses our relationship with Iran and the war in Afghanistan.

Let us pray that Aug. 31 will mark the beginning of a era of healing and peace in the entire Middle East.



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