|More than 600,000 Iraqis are thought to have died since the US-led invasion [GALLO/GETTY]
The US withdrawal that took place in mid-December has been a long time coming. Under a Status of Forces agreement signed between the Bush administration and current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, all US forces were to be withdrawn from the country by December 31, 2011.
Despite the Obama administration attempting to keep troops in Iraq beyond this deadline, they were unable to do so because Prime Minister Maliki's government could not guarantee the soldiers legal immunity if they had remained.
The US has left Iraq shattered, a country which is led by a prime minister who was brought to power by the US occupation forces. After the January 2005 elections, the government that came into power had chosen Ibrahim al-Jaafari as its prime minister. When Jaafari refused to toe the US/UK line, then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her UK counterpart Jack Straw flew to Baghdad, and before their short trip ended, Jaafari was out and Maliki was in as prime minister.
The US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 was launched under the guise of disarming Saddam Hussein of his non-existent weapons of mass destruction, as well as to "liberate" the Iraqi people.
Both reasons given for the invasion have long since fallen flat - no WMDs ever existed, thus none were found, and "liberated" Iraq, after nearly nine years of US occupation, is worse for most Iraqis.
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According to one scientific study, published in the peer-reviewed Lancet medical journal in 2006, that tabulates Iraqi casualties, 655,000 Iraqis have died. Hundreds of thousands are sick and wounded, and at least three million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes, internally and externally.
Iraq's infrastructure, which was already suffering from the sanctions while under the rule of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, now provides less than 12 hours of electricity for the average Iraqi, and at most, one-third of Iraqis have access to clean drinking water. Estimates of overall unemployment now range between 25-55 per cent.
Iraq is a country wracked by spasms of violence and chaos, and most Iraqis who could afford to leave the country, have done it.
On the US side, the invasion and occupation has cost nearly 4,500 US soldiers their lives, with more than 70,000 wounded, physically and psychologically, many of whom return home to have to battle the Veteran's Administration for their benefits.
Source: Al Jazeera