Marines lowered the American flag in Baghdad today, symbolically marking the end of the United State's military intervention in Iraq. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta oversaw the "retiring of the colors" before the remainder of U.S. forces decamped to Kuwait.
People will continue to argue about whether the job is actually done or whether Americans should have got out years ago (or never gone in at all) or if the lowering of the flag really means anything when 15,000 people will stay behind to man the largest U.S. embassy in the world. But for all but a handful of advisor-soldiers, the war truly is over — even if the fight for control of Iraq isn't.
More than 1.5 million U.S. soldiers have served in the country since combat began in March 2003, with around 4,500 of them losing their lives, out of more than 30,000 American casualties. More than 100,000 Iraqis were killed in the ensuing conflict, though exact totals are nearly impossible to calculate.