Ramadi: Defense Secretary Robert Gates said
on Wednesday that while the war in Iraq is over, history will judge
whether the fight was worth it for the United States.
The Pentagon chief met with troops at Camp Ramadi just
a few hours after President Barack Obama declared an official
end to the US combat role in Iraq and told Americans it was
time to "turn the page."
Asked whether he believes combat is over, Gates
answered succinctly, "I believe it is."
He was less direct when asked whether the war was
worth it, saying that will depend in part on whether Iraq
emerges as a democratic anchor in the Middle East.
That judgment "really requires a historian`s
perspective," Gates said.
"I believe our men and women in uniform believe we
have accomplished something that makes the sacrifice, the
bloodshed, not to have been in vain," he said. "How it all
weighs in the balance remains to be seen."
Ramadi, home of one of the US military`s new advisory
brigades, is in the heart of Anbar province, the cradle of the
Sunni insurgency against the initial US occupation.
Gates said Anbar holds "a special and haunting
significance" for the US military. Several members of his
staff were wounded or saw their comrades killed in the
province during the worst years of the fighting.
The difference between that time and now was
illustrated by the questions soldiers asked the secretary.
Some of their top concerns included health care, retirement
and the state of combat pay now that the combat mission is