From a concrete courtyard in Baghdad's international airport, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared the official end of the U.S. war in Iraq today. And while the final troops won't be out of country until later this month, the occasion doesn't mean the end of war in Iraq: The struggle for control of the country will no doubt continue, largely beyond Washington's ability to control. But it does mark a milestone in the U.S. relationship with Iraq, where over one million Americans served, tens of thousands were injured, and 4,487 died.
Tracking the war has also occupied American journalism for the past nine years, at extraordinary cost -- both physical and financial. The war has claimed the lives of 145 journalists, including U.S. journalists such as The Atlantic's Michael Kelly, NBC News's David Bloom, and freelancer Steven Vincent. But it was also the sheer cost of protecting reporters and moving about the country that drove many media organizations out of the country: At the peak of the war, for example, the New York Times bureau in Baghdad cost an estimated $3 million a year to maintain and featured 45 armed guards, three armored cars, and a blast wall.
As the last U.S. soldiers depart, here are five articles that -- against all odds -- told the story of the Iraq war.
A Tale of Two Baghdads: One sunny day in June 2003, just two months after President George W. Bush had delivered what became known as his "Mission Accomplished" speech, The Washington Post's Anthony Shadid and Tom Ricks joined a U.S. patrol as it moved through a Baghdad neighborhood. Ricks marched with the soldiers, while Shadid followed behind -- talking to the Iraqis who the patrol had passed by. What emerged was one of the first inklings that the U.S. forces would not be greeted as the liberators they evidently perceived themselves to be.
""Everybody likes us," a U.S. soldier told Ricks, assessing that the neighborhood was 95 percent friendly.
"We're against the occupation, we refuse the occupation -- not 100 percent, but 1,000 percent," an Iraqi watching the patrol told Shadid. "They're walking over my heart. I feel like they're crushing my heart."
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