Byline: Lord Owen
NO one wants to say to soldiers coming home from Iraq, having risked their lives since 2003, that their task has turned out to be a failure.
President Obama, as someone who had described it as a "dumb" war, did his best to describe the end in a positive way.
But it is very hard to call this a success after such a massive casualty toll. The worst loss of life by far was among Iraqi civilians.
British troops came out some time ago before the task was really finished and US troops had to replace them, a rather sad ending to Tony Blair's speech when at the Labour Party Conference he promised the American people: "We were with you at the first, we will stay with you to the last."
It was probably inevitable that Britain withdrew, given our military were overextended with the Afghanistan commitment as well. But it was not our finest hour.
Saddam Hussein was toppled, found, tried and then hanged by his own people. A substantial gain in terms of human rights.
We are unlikely to see another dictator nor will it become a religious government like Iran.
The negatives are, however, immense. Iran, who were ready to sue for peace in negotiations with America over nuclear weapons in May 2003, when they thought the invasion would be successful, have gained from the Iraq insurgency and are left as the most powerful country in the region.
In Iraq, the Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is keen to re-establish independence. He demanded the US withdrawal and made it clear he was glad to see the back of their forces.
He will be no automatic supporter of US or British policy, nor should he be if he is to create a new identity for his country.
One could have hoped that the Kurdish people in the north would have achieved a stable resolution of their long-standing dispute with the rest of the country. But in truth, there is an uneasy standoff and the all-important question of who gets what oil revenues and the extent of their independence appears no nearer a solution. …