A combination of Sept. 11 still being fresh on American minds, and Saddam Hussein's "madman of the Middle East" status made for a then-compelling argument to go to war, even if the claims about his weapons of mass destruction never panned out, according to Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
"It's fascinating to look back on the decision because I don't think you find too many enthusiastic proponents any more. A lot of people have decided it's easy to blame President Bush or those in his administration who were most enthusiastic, like Vice President Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld, but in fact, we had half the Democratic Senate caucus voting for the war,"
-- Michael O'Hanlon, Brookings Institution.
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Decorated Iraq War Vet
SSgt. Bellavia (ret'd) is the author of "House to House" a chronicle of the Battle for Fallujah. His valor there earned a SIlver Star, the Bronze Star, three Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals and the New York State Conspicuous Service Cross . He is a former candidate for Congress , a Fox News contributor, and an occasional host on WBEN.
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McCausland is a retired Colonel from the US Army and completed his active duty service in the United States Army in 2002 culminating his career as Dean of Academics, United States Army War College
How is the war seen, and how will it be remembered?
VIDEO: RE-LIVE THE WAR's OPENING DAYS | A Statement from Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel
<<< The Associated Press sent photographer Maya Alleruzo back to the scene of some of the war's most iconic moments, to collect glimpses of then and now
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Ten Years of Images From Iraq
|Ten years later, did the U.S. accomplish its objectives in Iraq?|
|( 35% )|
|( 65% )|
POLL: Ten years since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and most Americans now say the U.S. should have avoided that conflict. Many Americans do not think the U.S. was successful in achieving its objectives there.
Looking back, 54 percent of Americans think the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq, but 38 percent say taking military action against that country was the right thing to do.
Support for military engagement in Iraq was high after the initial invasion in the spring of 2003 (69 percent backed it), and it remained high through late that year when Saddam Hussein was captured. But in April 2004, in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and mounting U.S. casualties, support for U.S. involvement in Iraq dipped below 50 percent for the first time.
By early 2006, most Americans - 54 percent - said the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq; since then, a majority has continued to hold that view. The last U.S. troops left Iraq in December 2011.
Republicans and Democrats assess America's nearly nine-year involvement in Iraq differently: most Republicans (61 percent) say invading Iraq was the right thing to do, while Democrats (and independents) disagree.
Many Americans express skepticism about whether the mission in Iraq was successful. Four in ten think the U.S. succeeded in accomplishing its objectives, but more (50 percent) say it did not.
A majority - 56 percent - of Democrats don't think the U.S. successfully accomplished its goals in Iraq, and while most Republicans think invading Iraq was the right thing to do, they are divided (46-45 percent) on whether the U.S. ultimately succeeded there.
But after the vivid images of the U.S. military's "Shock and Awe" campaign, and the dramatic toppling of Saddam's statue in Baghdad's Firdos Square, a more complicated reality set in.
Iraqis gathered in the same square every day after that initial phase, demanding jobs. Electricity was in short supply. Sectarian frustrations boiled over.
And al Qaeda in Iraq seized an opportunity. O'Hanlon, who initially supported the invasion himself, blames poor U.S. planning for what came next.
"Notably, not being ready to stabilize a country that we invaded," he says. "The notion that you could essentially decapitate the government and then not be accountable or prepared for handling the aftermath violates International Relations 101."
While the U.S. fought a growing insurgency, it also battled for support on the international diplomatic stage.
"For most of us it turned out to be even harder than we might have guessed, and even more of a blight on American foreign policy than you could have imagined when you're thinking of overthrowing a genocidal maniac," says O'Hanlon. "It's sort of hard to imagine how that could have been seen by the rest of the world as a negative thing, but it largely was."
The last U.S. troops left Iraq in December 2011. The war left more than 4,000 Americans dead and 32,000 wounded. More than 100,000 Iraqis lost their lives, and the violence in Iraq continues today.
"There are some things that are very troubling," Gen. Lloyd Austin, who oversaw the withdrawal, recently conceded to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
But he also insisted that in the face of the threats, Iraq's domestic security forces are holding together and remain loyal to the civilian leadership, in spite of its problems.
"A lot of Iraq experts that I know who are following this very carefully are quite worried. They do really feel that this is a little more than the rough and tumble of a country trying to do democracy right," says O'Hanlon. But he doesn't think another civil war is going to break out.
"Iraqis have now been there, and they have been through hell," says O'Hanlon.
"Most of them will acknowledge that the role of an outside strong power (the U.S. military) was critical... and they're not going to get that again. We're not going back with 100 or 150,000 America G.I.s. So a decision to turn the low to medium-grade violence that continues to afflict Iraq into open civil war would be stupid." he says.
How Iraq's future will play out is anyone's guess, but for now, O'Hanlon believes passions in the U.S. are still too heated to rate the war's real success or failure.
"I do believe and hope that over time some of the angry edge about the debate will recede," he says.
"Obviously, Americans are angry about this. Those who lost loved ones have a right to be angry. The whole country has felt like this was a far more consequential decision than we were told at the time and that the preparations for this effort were minimal, compared to what should have been done.
"But you can also take a broader perspective, and say that what we were doing was going after one of the most brutal dictators of the late 20th century. And even though this is not necessarily a defense of the Bush administration's decision and not necessarily a defense that it was worth the cost, nonetheless it was not as badly intentioned as some people have wanted to argue."
-- CBS Radio News correspondent Cami McCormick covered the Iraq war from the front lines, and is now based in Washington D.C.
This week marks the ten year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. While that conflict has been brought to an end, we must never lose sight of the tremendous sacrifices our brave men and women in uniform made during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. Every one of the more than one million service members that deployed to Iraq, often for multiple tours of duty, deserves our highest praise and deepest debt of gratitude. They served with valor and met every challenge - from the streets of Fallujah and Sadr City to outposts in Ramadi and Mosul - always watching out for their brothers and sisters in arms.
The American people will always honor the sacrifices of the 4,475 U.S. service members who died in Iraq, and the more than 32,000 who came home wounded. Every man and woman who served in Iraq carries with them the scars of war. As we remember these quiet heroes this week we are also reminded of their families and their sacrifices, as we also honor and thank them.
Our reflections include the Iraqi people - the Iraqi soldiers and police officers who died alongside our own, the men and women who were caught in the crossfire, and those who still struggle today to secure and govern their nation. The Iraqi people will determine the future of Iraq and the United States will continue to support their efforts for a peaceful, secure, free, and prosperous nation.