Four years ago this week American forces and their coalition partners invaded Iraq and quickly deposed Saddam Hussein. Today, the country is torn by sectarian violence. Insurgents and militia groups continue to attack U.S. and Iraqi troops, as well as the civilian population. At the same time, many Americans are divided on whether U.S. troops should stay or leave the country. VOA's Sean Maroney reports on the divisive war and reaction to it by Americans.
Four years to the day that President Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq to begin, the president addressed the American people from the White House, asking for more patience.
"It can be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home,” President Bush said. “That may be satisfying in the short run, but I believe the consequences for American security would be devastating."
In the four years since "Operation: Shock and Awe," Iraq has struggled to find stability. Mounting attacks by insurgents and al Qaida terrorists, as well as suicide bombings, have strained the country and its people almost to a breaking point.
President Bush has pledged nearly 22,000 additional U.S. troops to secure Baghdad and Iraq's troubled al-Anbar Province. Nearly one-half have already been deployed.
With more than 3200 U.S. troops killed in Iraq so far, opinion polls show many Americans believe the war was a mistake and want the troops to come home within the next 12 months.
Recent protests in the United States and abroad have counted down the days leading up to the war's anniversary.
Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan addressed a crowd of thousands outside the Pentagon [near Washington D.C.] on Saturday. Sheehan's son was killed while serving in Iraq. She invoked the memory of another demonstration outside the U.S. military headquarters decades ago against the Vietnam War.
"Forty years ago, there was a march on the Pentagon,” Sheehan said. “And here we are, 40 years later, marching on the Pentagon in another illegal and immoral war. When is it going to stop?"
Other anti-war activists and some veterans also took the stage, calling on the Bush administration to change course.
"I will be brutally honest, it is insane to believe that more of the same will end it,” one Iraq war veteran said. “Our clever signs, our passionate speeches and our large crowds alone -- if that could end the war, we would not be here today."
Still other protesters demonstrated in favor of the U.S. policy in Iraq. For them, the anti-war protests are a move in the wrong direction. Jane Johnson has a son deployed in Afghanistan. She also had a 22-year-old son killed while serving in Baghdad.
"To me, they are basically spitting on my son's grave," Johnson said.
Juan Torres helped lead the anti-war protesters during Saturday's march in Washington. His son also died while deployed overseas. "I come from Argentina to this beautiful country for my American dream,” Torres said. “And my American dream is destroyed forever. My only son is dead now. This is why I came here. Because I don't want to see any more kids die."
The House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on an emergency war spending bill. Democrats control the House and want to set a deadline for the removal of troops from Iraq.
President Bush has promised to veto the bill. He says any timeline would break U.S. commitments to Iraqis.