US formally ends Iraq war with little fanfare

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Nearly nine years after American troops stormed across the Iraq border in a blaze of shock and awe, U.S. officials quietly ended the bloody and bitterly divisive conflict here Thursday, but the debate over whether it was worth the cost in money and lives is yet unanswered.While many of the speeches painted a picture of victory - for both the troops and the Iraqi people now set on a path for democracy - the gnawing questions remain: Will Iraqis be able to forge their new government amid the still stubborn sectarian clashes. And will Iraq be able to defend itself and remain independent in a region fraught with turmoil and still steeped in insurgent threats.Stark reminders of the fragile and often violent nature of the situation in Iraq engulfed the 45-minute ceremony. It was tucked into fortified corner of the airport, ringed with concrete blast walls. And on the chairs - nearly empty of Afghans - were tags that listed not only the name of the VIP assigned to the seat, but the bunker they should move to in case of an attack.The speeches touched on the success of the mission as well as its losses: Nearly 4,500 Americans and 100,000 Iraqis killed. Another 32,000 American and tens of thousands Iraqis wounded. And $800 billion from the U.S. Treasury.On the other side of the ledger, an Iraq free from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, inching forward toward democracy and vowing to be a good neighbor in the region.\To be sure the cost was high - in blood and treasure of the United States and also the Iraqi people

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