President Obama's bold assertion that the US has now 'left Iraq' is about as accurate as George Bush's 'Mission Accomplished' speech back in 2003. As George Packer in the New Yorker points out:
The fifty thousand troops who will remain in Iraq until the end of next year will still be combat troops in everything but name, because they will be aiding one side in an active war zone. The proclaimed end of Operation Iraqi Freedom has little or nothing to do with the military and political situation in Iraq, which is why Iraqis were barely aware when the last U.S. combat brigade crossed into Kuwait a few days ago.
This is going to sound unbelievably cynical, but I think Obama grandstanding is designed to distract Americans from everything else that is going wrong (Afghanistan, the economy, Middle Eastern negotiations etc). Iraq has been left decimated by America's 7 year long experiment, and Americans are tired of hearing about it. It has been one giant cock up, and Obama wants to dissassociate himself with it. As Packer writes of Obama's speech:
He told us what we wanted to hear. August 31, 2010, will go down in history as the day Americans could start not thinking about the war without feeling guilty.
I don't think Obama believed a word of the speech his advisors wrote for him, and performed it the way a salesman makes a pitch about a product he has no interest in. America is still in Iraq, and will be in Iraq for many years to come. Along with hundreds of military bases, the country hosts the largest US embassy in the world, a sign that the Americans are there to stay. As long as Iraq remains a rich source of crude oil and Iran stays on the official enemies list, don't expect those 50,000 men to go anywhere soon.